Planning and Goal Setting: How to Move From Vision to Reality

Planning and Goal Setting is the 10th Core Coaching Competency explored in our Decoding the Coaching Genome course. The course is accredited with 21 CCEU by the ICF, find out more and sign up here.

When moving from vision to reality the first thing that both client and coach notice is the gap between the client’s vision and the client’s reality. Planning and goal setting are most effective when addressing this gap. When the gap is too big, a client can feel overwhelmed and give up their vision. If the gap is minimal, the client may lose interest in their vision because it doesn’t provide enough of a stretch to be interesting. Either way, the gap between vision and reality is as important as the vision itself.

Visions and Actions

People are constantly visioning whether they realize it or not. It’s is part of what it means to be human. The ability to vision is marvellous yet it can also get out of hand. Because it is so easy to vision, some clients are very happy to remain in the visioning state without ever making their vision become reality. Other clients may take actions that don’t succeed in progress toward their goals because they have resisted committing to a vision. In both cases, the coach must guide the client through the visioning process while co-creating motivation to make it real.

Visions tend to be static while reality is ever changing. Decisions have to be made during the entire process of making the vision real. The job of the coach in this part of the work is to partner with the client to make decisions that enable the client to live his or her new reality now.

From Vision to Decision

To do this, the coach must help the client reprogram old habits that no longer serve the client. The coach must also evoke the essence of the vision rather than only focusing on the concrete steps needed to move forward. Thus, the coach is consistently helping the client re-create his or her present as if they had already made the change. From a phenomenological point of view, this grounds the changes into a state of being rather than merely changing one’s behaviour.

Creating Change

Change usually evokes some form of resistance even if that change is highly desired by either individuals or systems. In order to deal with this resistance, the coach must maintain focus on the vision and the client’s behaviour. The coach needs to create a workable form of accountability with the client so that the client can move forward with their goals. Of course, the coach needs to maintain a safe and courageous space to encourage the client to risk new behaviours and decisions. Perhaps most importantly, the coach needs to remain unattached.

Remaining Unattached

An unattached coach means that the coach does not personalize the actions or results of the client. It also means that the coach does not project their needs and desires for success onto the client. Often this is the time when coaches give up their neutrality and start offering advice. The client needs and deserves a clean and infinite mental and emotional space from which to create their plan and actions.


This article has focused primarily on the “being” of helping clients to plan and set goals in regard to their vision. There are other actions that are equally helpful such as consolidating all of the information that the client has gathered, creating a plan with results that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and have a target date. The coach also helps the client make plan adjustments as necessary due to changes in the situation; helps client identify and access helpful resources for learning. Finally, the coach identifies and targets early successes that are important to the client.

When all of these actions just mentioned occur in the space of the planning in the gap, success is assured. Both “being” and actions are necessary to achieve success in any venture.


About the Author:

Judith has been following her calling for the past 33 years, originally as a licensed psychotherapist and then for the past 20 years as Co-Active Coach. After training her, CTI (The Coaches Training Institute) invited Judith to become a faculty member in 1996. She received her Master Certified Coach certificate through the International Coach Federation in 1999. Judith currently is a Senior Faculty member at CTI as well the principal of her own international coaching practice.

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