Let’s say you’re coaching someone in the area of spiritual formation. So far he’s had no intentional connection times with God at all. When he visualizes setting aside time to be with God, he’s thinking two hours a day of reflection on scripture. Many times people try to get everything fixed all at once. It’s like saying, “I’m going to run a marathon tomorrow,” when maybe going for a brisk walk for half an hour a day might be good starting point. The problem with overly ambitious goals is that it sets people up for failure. They get discouraged and begin thinking, “I can’t meet my goals. Why even try?”

If you want to set up your clients for success, help them set small, manageable, incremental goals. When they are able to accomplish those goals, they can build on that success to move forward with more traction. Instead of a thorough spring cleaning, encourage them to try 15 minutes a day of cleaning. If they succeed, they can build confidence and grow from there. Better to have small wins than big losses.

“Baby steps” is an apt description for this type of growth. Think of a baby learning to walk. The adults aren’t expecting the baby to start running right away. They are providing a positive, supportive environment to help them take even stumbling, off-balance steps. Failure and falling down are expected. Why not give our clients—and ourselves—that same grace to work up from baby steps to bigger steps?