Life Goals, 6 Master Coach tips for coaching goal setting.

Knowing how to coach goals is essential to any professional coach. Here are 6 expert tips to make sure that you are coaching goals at professional standards.

Keep in mind, that not every client will use the word goal, so look out for other words — see tip number 1. Also, learn what to do if the person you are coaching doesn’t know their goals – see tip number 2.

If you face the challenge of someone having too many goals, and being unfocused — see tip number 3. It’s also important that goals are not vague and unclear, to coach this challenge see tip number 4.

A big issue that many coaches face, is when their clients are focused on an unrealistic goal, for help on coaching this scenario see tip number 5.

And finally, what do you do once you’ve established a goal? To find out read tip number 6.

Knowing how to coach goals is a critical part of professional coaching.

So let’s jump in with our 6 tips.
how to coach life goals

TIP #1: Don’t use the word goal!

First — don’t use the word, life goal.

Not everyone enjoys the word or relates to the word goal.

Amateur coaches will say things like, “What is your life goal?” And strictly speaking, there is nothing wrong with this question. But a master coach goes one step further with goal coaching.

A master coach would have a more organic open conversation, and perhaps ask this instead, “What is your vision for the future?” Or, “Where do you want to be ultimately?”

Remember that the word “you” means so much more. It means aspirations, dreams, vision, ideal future and that means very simply — what we ultimately want.

So remember when coaching goals, to not stick rigidly to the word goal. Understand that what you are doing is trying to work out, what your client ultimately is striving for. Excavate that.

Then make sure that you use your client’s goal words, rather than the word goal.

Here are some examples:

WRONG WAY (Amateur coach way) – Here is how not to coach life goals.

COACH: “What is your goal?”
CLIENT: “I want to self-publish a book.”
COACH: “Why is this goal important?”

RIGHT WAY (Master Coach Way) – Here is how to coach life goals.

COACH: “What is your dream for the future?”
CLIENT: “I want to self-publish a book.”
COACH: “Why is it important for you to self-publish a book?”

Create inspiring goal statements
Notice how the first way to coach goals doesn’t honour the words of the client. Whereas the second way, incorporates the client’s words. This is called backtracking and it is an important coaching skill.

TIP #2: What if someone doesn’t know their goals?

One of the most important things we can do as coaches is to help people to clarify and excavate their most important goals.

A conversation about what someone really wants, can bring to life their most cherished dreams.

Some clients will already be clear on their long term and short term goals. Others won’t have a clue — having never spent time thinking about what they really want for their future.

If you are faced with a client that doesn’t know what their goals are here is a suggestion. The ideal coaching process for this situation is to use a life wheel.

A coaching life wheel is a circle divided into pies. Each pie represents an aspect of our client’s life.

For example:

  • health,
  • relationships,
  • finances,
  • spirituality,
  • career,
  • family,
  • personal development etc.

So draw a circle, and ask your client to name the various aspects of their life that are important to them. It’s better to get your client to name the aspects of their life that they want to fill in on their life wheel, rather than you decide for them.

As coaches, we want to partner with our clients and not teach them. We want to empower them to empower themselves — that’s why it’s important to let your client lead in this way.

Learn how to use coaching wheels

Once your client names several aspects of their life, you could list them on the side of the circle. For practical purposes, try to get an even number of pies, so that it is easier to draw them into the life wheel. Therefore you could end up with four, six, eight, twelve etc.

Another thing that I suggest you do before drawing these into the life wheel, is to ask your client to prioritize their list. For example with a coaching question like, “Which of these is possibly your priority right now?” You don’t have to do this it’s an optional extra.

Then draw up the life wheel, creating the pies and labelling them all with the topics — the areas of your client’s life.

Now we are going to measure these areas of your client’s life.

What we are measuring, is their level of satisfaction in each area. This is done by asking a coaching question like, “On a scale of 1 to 10, if 10 is very satisfied and 0 is not satisfied, how satisfied are you with this area of your life?”

Let them measure each area of life, and fill in a number per pie. It’s also a great idea to shade in each pie visually, so that they have a picture of their life wheel.

Once you have completed your client’s life wheel — ask them open ended empowering questions as follows:

  • “As you look at your life wheel, what occurs to you?”
  • “Where do you want each of these areas of your life, to be in six months to a year’s time?” — This establishes measures for their life goals.
  • “Which of these areas of life do you want to work on in our coaching session?” — This establishes the goal that you want to focus on in your session.

By using a life wheel, you can establish measures and goals for every area of your client’s life.

You can also help them to prioritize and to choose a goal that they want to work on with you as a coach.

Life wheels are a favourite amongst my coaching students. I hope that you enjoy using life wheels to help others to establish their most important goals.


TIP #3: What if they have too many goals?

The late Stephen Covey was known to have said “Only land one plane at the time.” If we have too many goals we are trying to land too many planes at the same time. This is unproductive and a recipe for disaster. As coaches, it’s our job to help our clients to focus on and to achieve their goals. That’s why, we need to know how to reframe multiple goals to singular goals.

Reframing is a coaching method it is also an NLP method.

Learn how to reframe multiple to singular
Very simply, ask your client to rank which of their goals they want to prioritize, so that you can choose which one to focus on first.you A question like, “Which of these is your priority right now?” This is more than adequate to establish the priority goal.

TIP #4: What if the goal is vague and unclear?

It’s also really important to make sure that our clients are not vague and unclear about their goals and dreams. Can you imagine if somebody just says, “I want to be successful.” or “I want to be happy.” – these are not clear.

How will we know when we are successful? How will we know when we are happy?

These two coaching questions would help to make the goal more specific. Picture an archery target. It’s no good aiming to hit a target that you cannot easily see. Aiming for vague and unclear goals has the same challenge.
Learn how to reframe unclear to clear
As coaches, we use a coaching method called “evidence procedure” in order to clarify and get details about the goals that we are aiming for. To use evidence procedure to help your client with their vague and unclear goals, simply ask any of these questions, or something similar:
  • How will you know that you have arrived at your destination?
  • How would you know you have achieved your goal? Please remember to insert the client’s words instead of using the word goal.
  • What will prove to you, that you have achieved this?
What we looking for here are details, specifics and descriptions. Make sure that you excavate your client’s goals so that they don’t remain vague and difficult to achieve.

TIP #5: What if the goal is unrealistic?

It’s not up to us to determine whether our clients have what it takes to achieve their goals. But there are certain aspirations that are always outside of our realm of power. When we are not sure about whether someone’s goal is realistic or not, it’s up to us to gently explore this, but without breaking rapport or insulting our clients.
Never openly challenge your client about whether they have what it takes to achieve their goals, or whether their goal is realistic or not.
Rather use reframing methods, where you make use of open questions to gently explore this. And to direct your client’s attention to where they do have power – the power to make changes, the power to implement, the power to choose.
Learn how to reframe powerless to power

Here are some reframing questions to help your client to establish realistic goals.

  • Around this topic, what is within your power to achieve?
  • What choices do you have about this?
  • What can you realistically do to achieve this?
Never say to a client, “Is this realistic?” Or “Can you actually achieve this?” — Notice that both these questions are closed questions. That’s why as coaches we avoid using closed questions, they are harsh and can break rapport.

TIP #6: Once you’ve established the goal, what’s next?

After you’ve spent a few minutes clarifying and excavating your client’s goal, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get coaching them to make steps towards achieving their goal. Some coaching styles always move into action planning at this point. This is entry level coaching and not professional or master level coaching. I strongly recommend that you don’t only create action plans as a default for coaching goals. This is why our 3 Step Coach Method holds back coaching action plans until the second step. It’s premature to dive into practical planning until the full Step 1, which I call contracting, is completed. Read more about ILS 3 Step Coach Method here to understand why I say this.

Also remember, that not everyone needs or wants an action plan.

Sometimes they need to do some inner work first, overcoming inner obstacles like fear or procrastination. Other times they might need to make some important decisions before they get into planning. Make sure that you first explore, what the client feels would be the best approach to move forward. Here is a question that you might ask to stop the exploratory process. What could we do in this coaching session to help you to make a step towards achieving your goal? (Remember to not use the word “goal”, but to use your client’s words instead). This is called a contracting question. All our InnerLifeSkills Coaches learn many ways to contract the coaching session.


  • Remember not to use the word goal, but rather use your client’s words for the dream, objective or long term aspiration.
  • Use a life wheel to help someone to establish their goals, if they are unsure about what goals to focus on, or if they don’t even know what their goals are.
  • Use reframing methods, to make sure that the goal is clear rather than vague, singular rather than multiple, realistic rather than unrealistic.

Recommended Next Steps...

I recommend the following next steps for you. Consider reading these posts to learn more and consider enrolling in ILS Coach 101 online class. How to Life Coach Groups. 3 Critical Coaching Skills.