How to Help Your Clients Set Clear and Achievable Goals

An intrinsic part of coaching has to do with helping your client set clear goals for what they want in their career and in their life. The more specific you can help your clients be in setting their goals, the better the chances they will have in achieving them.


Keep in mind that all of your future goals and dreams are not only a reflection of your subconscious thinking, they’re also influenced by your Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is the part of your brain serving as a filter between your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. Because of this biological function, whatever you are thinking about or focusing upon will seep down into your subconscious mind, only to reappear at a future time…


For example, have you ever set a goal to buy a certain car, and shortly thereafter, you see cars everywhere like the one you wanted? That is how the RAS works. Whenever you set a goal, it plays a key role in encouraging your subconscious mind to bring forth your desired results – which is why it is so important to set clear and well-formed goals.


In NLP there are four conditions for setting a well-formed goal:


1. Describe your goal in positive terms – Be certain to indicate what you do want, as opposed to what you don’t want. Rather than setting a goal to not be nervous during a job interview, you can set a goal for being calm and confident. Keeping the goal positive will make it easier for your unconscious mind to sort for feelings of calmness and confidence. If you set a goal to not be nervous, then you will have to unconsciously sort for being nervous first.


2. Ask, “Is achieving this goal under your control, and can it be initiated by you?” – Setting a goal for your boss to quit being a jerk is not a well-formed goal because you can’t control what your boss does. The only thing you can control is your own behavior and attitude towards your boss. So instead, you could set a goal to be more assertive around your boss, or to simply ignore his behavior.


3. Define and determine the sensory-based evidence for achieving your goal – You can do this by asking the following three questions:


“How will you know when you have achieved your goal?”


“What images, feelings and sounds will you experience when you achieve your goal?”


“If you were to run a movie of you achieving your goal, what would it look like?”


Keep in mind that the more specific you can be with these questions, the easier it will be for your client to get clear on the specific steps they need to take in achieving their goal.


4. Be ecological. Think about your goal, and define any possible downsides to achieving it – You do this by asking, “Who else might be affected when you achieve your goal?”


For example, one of my clients set a goal to become a successful Motivational Speaker who traveled the country. He knew that he could easily achieve his goal because he was already a talented speaker. However, after setting his goal, he thought about its ecology and quickly realized that achieving his goal would have a negative impact on his two small children because of all the travel involved.


He immediately decided not to do it because his children were more important to him than traveling around the country. Instead, he set a newer goal to start a training business in the city that he lived in, and to start writing books and creating videos. Within in a short time, his training company became wildly successful, and he was able to still go at home at night and be with his children!


Below is a comprehensive list of questions that you can take yourself and your clients through for setting clear and achievable goals. Enjoy!



1. What specifically do you want, what is the desired outcome? Make sure that the client’s goal is stated in the positive.


2. How will you know when you’ve achieved what you want? What evidence will you have? How will you measure your progress? What will you see, hear, and feel when you achieve your outcome?


3. When, where and with whom, do you want to achieve your goal?


4. What stops you from having your desired outcome already? Identify and explore any negative feelings, thoughts, beliefs or circumstances that seem to get in the way of you achieving your goal.


5. What resources will you need to help you create what you want? Determine what resources you already have that will help you (knowledge, people, time, money, psycho-physiological states such as confidence and so on). Consider additional resources you’ll need to move forward.


6. Check Ecology – How will your outcome impact others, positively or negatively? Will this outcome have any unintended consequences, either negative or positive?


7. What specific steps will you need to take to achieve your goal – what is your plan? Identify manageable steps to help achieve your result, consider multiple options to get where you want to go, and determine the FIRST step you’ll take.


8. Future Pace the goal – Create a strong internal representation of you having already achieved your goal which includes using the following primary senses such as your:


Vision – What do you see? Create a mental “movie” of yourself achieving your goal, running it from start to end. Make sure that the movie is as vivid and accurate as possible.


Hearing – What do you hear? What will you be saying to yourself? What will others be saying to you? Incorporate this into your mental movie.


Feelings – What do you feel? What are the physical sensations of having achieved your goal, and what positive emotions are you experiencing?


I hope you get a chance to take yourself or your clients through the above list of questions so you can create more of the life that you want, and become the best version of yourself!


Kristine Hallbom is an internationally recognized NLP trainer, author and professional coach. She is the co-founder of the NLP Coaching Institute and the co-creator of the WealthyMind™ Program, which has been taught to live audiences in over 20 countries and has helped thousands of people create more of what they want in their lives.


She is also the co-author of the book, Powerful Questions and Techniques for Coaches and Therapists, and has published numerous articles on wealth consciousness, NLP Coaching and systems thinking for a variety of psychology journals and magazines.


Kris can be reached through her website at:

© 2020 Kristine Hallbom

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