What if you fail?

A client presenting himself highly motivated is not enough for me. I often ask my clients the following question: “What happens when you don’t reach this goal?”. The reaction to this question has a big impact on how the coaching plan gets constructed.

After asking this question I gage the response of the client, do I see emotions or not? If the idea of failing does not elicit an emotional response there are more than one explanations: – Somebody’s priorities don’t lie on that particular goal, so motivation might drop when actual priorities play up (this is something to be accounted for in goal planning). – The initial goal is not the actual result they are after, but the situation or rewards from achieving that goal is what they are after.

If I see an emotional response I’m always interested in those underlying emotions. If somebody has a strong internal drive to do something without any clear reason (passion/fun) it often means that long term motivation is possible. A possible caveat is that we might need to control this strong internal drive not to neglect other aspects of life.

It is also possible that a client doesn’t experience “great pleasure” doing the activity, but they find the goal important because it conforms to their morals and beliefs, or they see the benefit of attaining the goal. Long term motivation in these types of clients is often also possible, but they might need better planning and help with prioritizing the goal over daily distractions.

If a client’s reaction is fueled by self-disgust or shame it raises red flags. This is not only because it has been shown to only illicit short term motivation (<6 months) but also lower (mental) wellbeing. If somebody is only there for achieving external reward of avoiding punishment it is needed to see if it’s able to find more personal reasons for the client to achieve the goal (finding purpose).

In short, a client being motivated is not enough. The reasoning behind somebody’s (a)motivation can predict the longevity of the motivation, the chances for successful change and possible negative health and wellbeing outcomes.