The Happy Energy of Goal Setting

Goal setting is the foundation of life coaching - so how can we improve the way we set goals, the way we achieve goals, and how we work with clients?

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

The Happy Energy of Goal Setting

In this episode, Lumia co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss how (and why!) goal setting can make you happier, period! They talk grit, determination, a bit from the teachings of Caroline Miller, discuss brightly colored Crocs, what Noelle and Matt Damon have in common, and the best question you can ask yourself to break free of self-judgment and failure. Let's go!

Episode Transcript

Noelle: Good morning John Kim. I’m well, I’m glad to be speaking to you on this fine day.

John: You know, I was just thinking, you have an awesome last name. I never say your last name, I always just say Noelle. But when I say Cordeaux, it sounds like expensive mustard — it sounds fancy. A lot fancier than Kim.

Noelle: I woke up this morning and I was like, “I really hope somebody compares me to expensive mustard.”

John: Well you know those great [inaudible] commercials, where they’re like rolling in that Rolls-Royce and that window comes down and they’re like —

Noelle: “Do you have any great Cordeaux?”

John: Yeah. That’s just fancy. I’m more like Oscar’s Yellow Mustard on a hot dog, you’re the fancy —

Noelle: Oh boy.

John: You’re welcome. Alright. So guys, Noelle has lots of expertise in positive psychology. It seems like we’re gonna hit it from that angle.

Noelle: Yeah. The reason why this is on my mind is I’ve been fortunate enough to train with one of the positive psychology greats of our time — her name is Caroline Miller. She was my professor and then she was my coach. And she just had a book come out, so I’ve been think a lot about her work involving grit and goal setting. I’ve been thinking about it because of our company, we’re a coaching company. And the necessary ingredient for a coaching partnership is goals and grit. So I thought today we could talk about something that is very little correlated in everybody’s minds but the importance of goal setting — for happiness.

John: Yeah, I love it. I think it’s so important — both as someone who coaches but also for people who want to be coached.

Noelle: Oh 100%. And just, you know, for everyday life. When you think of goal setting, that kind of has a negative connotation like, “Ugh, I have to set a goal.”

John: “I gotta climb that mountain.”

Noelle: Yeah. And when it’s done properly, it actually has the opposite effect of inspiring you to live more of an authentic life.

John: Yeah. And you know, it just reminds me — so as I was waiting for you to come on, I was just doing my little Instagram stories. I just woke up and I was thinking — when we wake up, we have two mindsets. One is either you wake up and the first thing you think about is — “Okay, what do I need to do?” — your to do list. In this case, we’re using the word goal setting. And I noticed that when I do that, the first thing that enters is, “But what if I don’t finish it?” And then you’re suddenly in a lower frequency — you dread, worry, and you’re like “Ugh.” — and the day instantly feels heavy.

Noelle: Yeah.

John: The other mindset would be to wake up, and this sounds a little hokey, but it’s — “Today could be the day I change my life.” And not in that, today your life’s gonna change. But you could plant a seed, you could think differently, you could have a revelation, you could meet someone. But something about today is going to change your path. And if you start thinking that way, I know it’s a practice, the day becomes wide and you start pulling from something that I think is really powerful — and that’s curiosity. So it’s now the good what ifs instead of the bad what ifs.

Noelle: Oh yeah, I completely agree. There is magic in every day and at any given time, there are infinite possibilities.

John: And you know what, I think that the choice to believe and I think most people don’t believe that. I think most people think that is Santa Claus.

Noelle: I think so too. My big thing is — feelings aren’t facts. Right? So this concept that “I’m stuck in life. My life is predetermined ahead of me.” — that’s a feeling, that’s not a fact. The facts are that, life and nature and the world around us are 100% random and chaotic. And given that, just from a logic perspective, you have to allow room for infinite possibility.

John: Well, without that, what is life? You know, it’s a f*****g desert. Yeah. And I think also, not just rolling over to everything — relationship, you have to believe that there is magic.

Noelle: You do. You have to believe that there is magic and you have to get yourself into a frame of reference that says, “I can — through small, measurable, specific, and intentional steps — change anything I want about my life.”

John: Yeah, absolutely. I love it. Thank you. And you know what, I love doing these in the morning. By the way guys, I’m on the West Coast, Noelle’s on the East. So for me, we do these — it’s 8 in the morning, first thing in the morning. For Noelle, it’s a little bit later. But I love having this conversation with you because it resets me and it reminds me. And I’m saying this because if you’re a life coach, you’re also not perfect. So this kind of information is great for you on a personal level.

Noelle: Oh, yeah. And for me, this is like the close to my week. You know how f*****g chaotic our weeks are. This is like the best way to close it to focus on the why of it all — to focus on the science, the people, the tribe.

John: And you know what the best part of this is — even though we’re talking about content, it’s using that as a vehicle for me and you to connect.

Noelle: Oh, yeah. Totally. My brother from another mother.

John: Yeah. Alright big sis, what are we talking about? Let’s do this.

Noelle: So this is a fact, not a feeling. Goal setting can make you a happier person. And there’s a method to it, and there’s ingredients to it. Because goal setting, if it’s done improperly, can make you unhappy. But when you set up goal setting from a positive psychology perspective, which is based on science — evidence-based practices that we know, work — you will experience a measurably different level of happiness and satisfaction in your life. So I mentioned Caroline Miller earlier — what we’re about to talk about is based on her work. It comes from her book, Creating Your Best Life, which is something that I use as a coach with my clients — it’s a really good tool. And Caroline says that the specific ingredients that have to go into creating goals — I’m gonna give them to you and then we’re gonna take them one by one and break them down, alright. So it has to be measurable and specific. Your goals have to be appropriately challenging. They have to be value-driven. They have to be able to inspire flow. And the most important thing is that they have to be your goals. They have to authentically come from you — they can’t be goals that you’ve borrowed or have been forced upon you by your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your mom, your dad, your partner, your boss, that weird dude who sits next to you in the cubicle who has an opinion on f*****g everything. Right? They have to come from you. So what do you think about that? I just tossed a lot of info at you.

John: I think that’s great. What’s interesting is — value-driven, which people don’t think about, inspiring flow. And I love this idea that it has to come from you because many of us — our goals are things that we have created that are based on other people’s goals for us. Like our parents, you just said the weird dude in the cubicle, your boyfriend, your girlfriend. And I think it happens slowly where we wake up and we realize, “Holy s**t, this isn’t even my goal. It’s not something that lines up with my truth today.”

Noelle: Oh yeah. And it goes through every single facet of life. Let’s take the most important one first — that your goal has to come from the self. And I want to lay this out across a bunch of different spectrums. I mean, we can just start with concepts of body. Right? How many messages have we all received about what we’re supposed to look like.

John: Oh I can relate to that. Absolutely.

Noelle: Seriously.

John: You know, from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed, it’s always around us. Whether it’s magazines, especially also with social media now — Instagram — everyone with their abs and all these kinds of stuff and doing handstands and just crazy s**t. It’s so hard to ignore that stuff.

Noelle: So hard to ignore that stuff. I mean, I have curly hair — my hair is curly. I have had partners who have said at one point or another, “Oh I really like your hair straight.” And I’m like, “Wha—? Well that’s like two hours worth of f*****g work that I’m not willing to put in. But thank you for your opinion.” And it goes back to that, it goes back to concepts of body.

John: How did you get there? ‘Cause you weren’t always there. I’m sure at one point — early on, that really affected you and I’m sure at one point you did spend two hours trying to straighten your hair for someone else.

Noelle: 100%. So I’m pretty open with everybody — I have a pretty deep history of eating disorders and depression. And for me, breaking out of the unrealistic expectations surrounding concepts of body — that had to do with what we’re gonna talk about in a little bit — but it had to do with the fact that I wasn’t challenging myself appropriately. And those two things might not sound like they connect. But I had really internalized all these messages about what women are supposed to look like — super skinny, long straight hair. And I was that for a really long time, and I focused a lot of my thought and energy on it. I went through a divorce, I went through a series of bad relationships, I went through a period of my life that was really dark. And I, instead, started using my brain. Instead of trying to be skinny, I started using my brain to do challenging things. It was like, “Holy s**t, I spent all of this time thinking that I was depressed and not capable. But in reality, I actually just wasn’t challenging myself.”

John: Smart’s the new skinny, Noelle.

Noelle: Seriously.

John: Yeah. And can I share something with the hair ‘cause I can relate to it, you know. So my hair is straight, being Asian. We always want things that we can’t have and I wanted curly — not curly though, I wanted wavy hair. I wanted your hair, actually. So it got to the point where I ended up getting a perm. I call it a body wave, but I was dating this girl who’s a hairdresser. And I remember waking up, thinking, “What the f**k am I doing? I just got a perm.” I looked like a little Lego dude and I was like, “What am I doing?” And it was all because of not something that I wanted, but wanting something that is outside of self — society, advertising, and all that stuff.

Noelle: Oh, yeah. I don’t know about you, but I find that when I chase flow states, whether that’s physical (from a workout perspective) or intellectual (from my job or the research that I engage in), my body and my hair doesn’t really matter because I’m doing the hard work that I actually do care about. Flow states get you out of your head and into your soul

John: Yeah, I’m all about that. I think that’s the nectar of life that we don’t chase is our flow states.

Noelle: Yeah. So, well let’s talk about how we get into flow states, especially from a goal setting perspective. It really comes back to your values, your personal values. And personal values —  I think when we say the word “value” in modern society, it tends to have a moralistic attachment to it and that’s not true. Your values run a broad spectrum from the flavors that you like, to the colors that you like, to the music that you like, to the pop culture you associate with, to your values surrounding how you treat others, how you like to be treated, what you think about the world, life, politics, food, the environment, religion, it goes — it’s endless.

John: Yeah, I like the definition. ‘Cause you know, I simplify everything — whatever is valuable to you [and your feelings?]

Noelle: Well, let’s dissect that a little bit because that can get tricky. It depends on why something is valuable to you. It’s easy to get into groupthink and to believe that something is valuable.

John: Oh, interesting. Right. Which isn’t, yeah.

Noelle:  Because others think it’s cool or because your mom or your dad said, “This is valuable and that’s how you were raised.”

John: So almost like a false value.

Noelle: It’s a false value. Internal values are really specific things. Going through the process of stepping back and asking yourself the question, “Do I like this for me?” or “Do I like this for someone else?” If you’ve been living for others for a really long time, it can feel really upsetting at first to go through this process and to realize, “Oh wow, I might not even know myself.” and then to feel fear about what it would be like if you did actually start living for yourself. I’m a pretty goofy person. I like to have dance parties with my dog. My dog just kinda looks at me but I dance. And that’s for me. Anybody who might be looking into my apartment windows at that time would think I’m freaking crazy, but I do it for me. I also like to wear brightly-colored neon Crocs. They make me happy.

John: Oh, man. I did not know that about you Nel. I’m contemplating everything.

Noelle: Oh yeah. So when we roll around L.A. together, guess what I’m gonna wear John. You’re gonna love it.

John: Yeah, and you’re gonna be walking on the other side of the street too.

Noelle: See, this is exactly what I’m talking about. And getting to the point where I give zero f***s about your feelings, about my Crocs, is what it’s all about.

John: Oh that’s so hurtful. But it’s also what makes you shine, and I get that.

Noelle: Yeah. I mean, why do I care what you think about what’s on my feet?

John: Well you know what’s interesting is it’s not that I care. It’s more of me making a judgment because I care what other people are gonna think of me standing with someone with fluorescent shoes or whatever, Crocs.

Noelle: Like little do they all know how f*****g awesome I am and how much fun it is to hang out with me.

John: Yeah. Oh I love it.

Noelle: Right? [inaudible phrase] It’s the spirit of personal enjoyment, and it’s just anything else. It’s like riding a bike — the more you begin to engage in authentic living, the easier it becomes and the better it feels, and you get almost giddy. Because it’s like this secret, right — like, I like neon Crocs. And you know, it horrifies my husband and any number of friends — they’re just like, “Oh god, Noelle. What the f**k do you have on today?” And I’m like, “But I’m happy, motherf*****s. I’m happy.”

John: Noelle, I’m gonna give you one of the best compliments anyone could ever receive. You ready?

Noelle: Yes.

John: Okay. So not only is your hair beautiful — but there’s this idea that do people hold up. And what I mean by that is — So just real quick, I know that I’m kind of going off topic, but it is a podcast. I met Matt Damon once, back in the day. We hung out for like eight hours in the back of this vintage trailer when I was in club restaurant days. And I realized in that — ‘cause I thought he was a celebrity, I felt like, “Oh my god, he’s gonna be arrogant, whatever.” And he was like the sweetest, nicest — he was like a guy that you grew up with. I mean, that’s how he treated you. And I thought, “Man, this guy really holds up. He is who he says he is.” Guys, Noelle holds up — she talks about positive psychology, she talks about all this stuff, and now we’re talking about the Crocs and everything. In real life, I gotta say, you hold up. You’re not different on a podcast or on a Facebook Live than you are in person.

Noelle: Awwe, thank you. That’s an awesome compliment.

John: Yeah, I think so.

Noelle: That’s an awesome compliment. I feel the same way about you. We talk about — you and I, we’re all over the place meeting people. It’s almost so comforting to be in the midst of our tribe members who we’re getting to know and then with you who’ve I’ve known for years and years and years and years and it’s just like that deep comfort of authenticity I think.

John: Yeah. I think we have to check each other on that, and as we grow and become successful and all those kinds of stuff — to always make sure that’s a value to us is we hold up as people.

Noelle: Absolutely. And a commitment to showing the authentic side of life. It’s so easy to curate images. Look, if I straightened my hair, and I put on heels, a fancy dress or whatever, I could blend-in in L.A., no problem. But, I would much prefer to be in neon Crocs and a hippie skirt and some random surfer t-shirt with curly hair, just like actually being comfortable, sipping on a sweet beer and watching the sunset.

John: Right. Cause that’s — well, that’s you being authentic. That’s you being you.

Noelle: And that’s me taking the experience instead of the projection.

John: You know what, talking about flow states, I think you have a higher chance of going into the flow state with the Crocs, and the wavy hair, and the sipping the drink. Because you are more you if you are making yourself contrive — it’s gonna block getting into flow state, ‘cause you are going to be in your head and self-conscious.

Noelle: Yeah. And a lot of the way it works is that when you drop down to your values and you follow your values, in goal setting, that’s what will give you the state of flow. That’s really how it works. So you do the hard work to figure out who you are, what your values are. And then from there, you craft this future vision of like, “Okay, if I’m really adhering to my values and building a life that I want based on what I love, what is that life look like?” So if you’re taking the values that you hold — if you took every single one of your core values and attach goals to them and accomplish these goals, what would your life look like five years from now?

John: Dude, I hate it when you ask me the hard questions this early morning.

Noelle: That’s not a hard question.

John: I’ll tell you what, it’s a lot of what I’m doing now. Placing weight on running with this flag that we’re both running with. I’m trying to help people and reach people, and help teach people or coach people, or train people to help other people. That stuff really lines up with my values. It’s very different than ten years ago when I was running a restaurant bar and I was chasing shiny things, and I cared more about what people perceived of me — I made sure I was in a fancy car, surrounded by beautiful people. And none of that really matters ‘cause that’s not who I am today.

Noelle: Yeah, absolutely. Go, keep going.

John: So back in the day, it would be very hard for me to chase flow states. When you’re talking about Crocs and sipping on the things, John Kim is basically — my favorite shoes are warm boots. Like motorcycle boots, jeans, t-shirts — on my motorcycle, and I hit flow every day. ‘Cause it’s just me, it’s who I am, it’s what I love. And then coffee shops, sessions, writing, all these kinds of stuff.

Noelle: Yeah. So the miracle question is — what would you be doing if you knew you couldn’t fail, right? And for me, it’s been really cool recently because the answer is this — if I knew I couldn’t fail, I would be building this business with coaches and tribe members, running events and retreats, and teaching everybody about positive psychology, and having places where we can connect and music, and just genuine freakin’ friendships, and enjoying life with others. I think that’s what it’s all about. The fact that I’ve been able to set my life up like that, where those are actually my goals right now. Well f**k, that’s pretty f*****g cool.

John: Yeah, and it’s also organic fire. So it lines up with who you are — you’re traction in accomplishing those goals, I think, is a lot higher than chasing after something that is not you. It doesn’t line up with who you are.

Noelle: Yeah. But let’s talk about the other side of that. The other side of that is that you have to give up things. And you have to go against the grain. And you have to do things that other people will give you s**t for.

John: Well that’s the grit piece, no?

Noelle: That’s the grit piece. Grit has two parts. Number one, having a little sign that you carry around that says, “No f***s given.” And number two, it’s acknowledging that hard things are hard. And that every day, you have to get up and look at your North Star and say, “I’m gonna keep working because these are my values, this is my flow state, this is what I believe, and this is the vision that I want to create.” If you don’t have your goals aligned with your values, it’s impossible to wake up in the morning and do hard things. It’s just — it’s impossible.

John: Yeah, 100%. I agree with you.

Noelle: Yeah.

John: That’s really interesting. And I think that you have to not give yourself a choice.

Noelle: You have to not give yourself a choice. And you have to realize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

John: Right, of course.

Noelle: Well let’s talk a little bit about one of the other tenets of goal setting, for happiness, which is — your goals have to be measurable and specific. This is the cornerstone of coaching partnerships. This is what it looks like when you work with a coach — is you guys set a goal, that is measurable and specific. Because you have to be able to measure progress in order to know you’re getting somewhere, number one. And it has to be specific because one of the big reasons that people get stuck and lost is that they’re trying to do too many different things or walk multiple paths at the same time — and that doesn’t work either.

John: Right.

Noelle: You remember last year when I was working a full-time job, doing my PhD, and trying to work on SHFT. And that was stupid.

John: Just spreading yourself too thin.

Noelle: It was horrible, it was absolutely horrible. And you know, If I’m being honest, I love studying sexuality. I love my PhD — I love my PhD program. But, I think that I was attached to that goal because of the letters. Because I was raised in a family that put a really high priority on academic achievement, and the letters meant something. And that [inaudible] come from me. I remember, I had a conversation with my dad recently and he was kind of giving me s**t. He said, “You know, it’s important for you to go back to school. It’s important for you to get those letters behind your name.” And I said, “Daddy, I have letters. They’re called C-E-O.”

John: Oh s**t. Nice, I love that.

Noelle: Right? But it’s true. I had to make the choice to stop working on my PhD in order to become the CEO of SHFT and run this damn business — you can’t do both.

John: You know what I love about the Internet, and everything — social media and all this, those letters are less important. I think because of influencers, because of people, because of the wall being torn down and now people can distribute and have a voice. Because of that, we care less about the letters after our name and more about who you are.

Noelle: Yeah. It’s all about the experience. As a coach, no one’s ever asked me about my credentials. They always wanted to know, “How did you get through your divorce?”, “How did you beat depression?”, “How did you beat [eating disorders?]”

John: Yeah, so it’s about you and your story and how you go into things. I’ve been doing this a decade, no one has ever asked me, “Can I see your license?” or “Where did you get your life coachings?”, like nothing, ever.

Noelle: 100%. I think that bleeds really nicely into the next point about goal setting for happiness is your goal has to be appropriately challenging.

John: Yeah.

Noelle: I mentioned earlier that I spent a lot of time thinking that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough ‘cause I was depressed and I was doing things for others and I was living a false life. And that wasn’t the case, I was just actually not challenging myself. And once I started attaching to value and started working towards something that was greater than me, I realized that I wasn’t depressed at all. I was actually just bored.

John: Hmm interesting.

Noelle: Yeah. So when you’re thinking about goal setting and you’re thinking about challenge — and this where grit comes in too. If you’re not stressed on some level, you’re doing it wrong. And that’s important because I think we’ve been spoon-fed these notions of happiness where you wake up everyday and life is rainbows and unicorns. I love rainbows and unicorns just like everybody else. But hard things are hard and you have to anticipate and engage in some level of anxiety and stress in order to accomplish hard things and that’s where the challenge comes in.

John: Right and it’s good stress, it’s healthy stress.

Noelle: Yeah. And then you have to make sure that you’re not doing something that’s too challenging. So like, I would be a terrible astronaut. I don’t like small spaces and I can’t [inaudible].

John: I can’t even imagine.

Noelle: Right?

John: Yeah. I’m claustrophobic and I’m afraid of heights.

Noelle: Yeah. Neither one of us should be astronauts.

John: Yeah. Zero desire too. I don’t — to me that’s like prison. That’s like punishing someone for doing something wrong, is we’re gonna send you to the moon.

Noelle: Awwwe, now I know how to get you to do your work John, [threats of the moon?] Awesome. And it’s kind of like — as you’re rolling along with all of this and you’re trying to figure out like, “Alright, so why is this valuable?” It’s about five years from now. It’s about your future self. Even if you’re listening to this and you’re identifying with what John and I have both said about our pasts about living for others, about focusing on material goods, and physique. It’s never too late to start living for yourself.

John: I love that. You know what’s really challenging for me is what you just said that it’s about five years from now — because just being an Ares, I’m so impatient and I want things today. And I forget that the [news built?].

Noelle: Well yeah. Time is gonna pass anyway. And you have a choice — either you can sit there, spinning your wheels trying to serve too many possible future selves at once, living for others, focusing on things that just makes you feel s****y. Or you can look inward and say, “This is my life and I’m the only one who actually is in charge of it. If I had to strip away everyone around me and all of a sudden I didn’t have anybody in my life who really knew me that was judging me, what would I do? What would I do with my time? What do I want it to look like?”

John: I like the power in that question and maybe we should end with that. Guys, if you’re listening, think about what she just asked — those questions. Don’t answer it right away but let it soak in and ask yourself, “What would you do?”

Noelle: What would you do? If there was zero judgement and you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

John: Yeah and I guess the next question is, “What’s stopping you from doing that?”

Noelle: Fear?

John: Yeah. A lot of things — fear, judgment, and faulty beliefs systems, distortions and all that, perspective.

Noelle: I want to switch it around a little bit. Instead of asking, “What’s stopping you from doing it?”, my question would be, “What’s the first thing that you’re gonna do?”

John: Oh, guys, ladies and gentlemen, the art of questioning by Noelle Cordeaux. So that was a great example of coaching where you could use the power of questioning to get momentum with your clients. Nice. That was great.

Noelle: Is your smoke alarm going off John?

John: Uh no, do you hear something?

Noelle: I hear beeping.

John: That’s my stomach.

Noelle: Okay.

John: Which is a sign. It’s time to go guys. Noelle, again, thank you for the great dialogue and reminder. Guys, if you haven’t subscribed yet, subscribe and we will be in your ear. We do this every friday and we get it out as soon as possible. So whether you’re a coach, you’re someone that just wants a better life, or maybe you just wanna hang out with us.

Noelle: Yeah.

John: Shoot to s**t.

Noelle: Yeah.

John: Alright, thanks Noelle. Have a great Friday.

Noelle: Thanks, you too.

John: Alright, be well guys.

Noelle: Take care.

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