Secrets of Setting and Achieving Outcomes:
Everyone seems to be talking about New Year’s Resolutions and goal-setting this time of year. For most people the idea of resolutions turns out to be little more than a ‘wish list’ that tends to go by the wayside as constraints of daily living intervene. My NLP Coaching clients often tell me they have set resolutions that did not stick. I’ve heard people claim they just don’t have time to write goals. I’ve even noticed some people have a visceral negative reaction to the term ‘goal setting.’ It may be that they are lazy or they believe that goal setting is a waste of time. They may have been disappointed at past failures and don’t want to try again.
Lots of people have resistance to setting goals. However, in my study of highly successful people, those who have goals and in particular those who create written goals tend to be the most successful. Highly successful people also tend to be people who are successful in a number of life-domains, so we want to model well-balanced people. To model successful behavior, a good question to be asking is: “How can I transform the resolution wish-list process into a methodology that will drive me to achieve my outcomes regardless of external circumstances?”
Why To Set Outcomes
So why set goals? And, why write them? There is a famous story about MBA’s from Yale University who were surveyed for who had written goals in the 1930’s or 1950’s, depending on which story you heard. The 3% of students with written goals were found to be making 10 times more money than all the other students added together 10 years later. In the story, those who had goals but did not write them were slightly more successful than the majority of students who had no goals, but nowhere near as successful as those with written goals.
The Yale story may very well be a trainers’ myth, but it is a great story and makes the point. Although I could not find a reference online for the Yale survey study actually being conducted, there are plenty of other more recently published studies that support the principle that having written goals is a common trait of successful people. It is likely that writing your outcomes creates a deeper level of encoding. Here are several clues from an NLP coaching perspective to making your goal setting/outcome writing more successful.
Set Your Goals as Outcomes
NLP practitioners tend to have a bias against the word ‘goal’ in favor of the word ‘outcome.’ The idea is that we are already conditioned to treat goals as something a person can achieve or will fail to achieve. Since NLP practitioners tend to believe the NLP Presupposition that ‘There’s no such thing as failure; only feedback!’ You are going to get an outcome whether it’s the one you expected or not. The word ‘OUTCOME’ is therefore a better linguistic choice. In addition, people often give up before they get to the desired outcome because they lose sight of the goal. You just have to be willing to do what’s necessary and adjust your approach until you do get your ‘outcome.’
Language Creates Reality
A basic premise of NLP is that word-choice can make a difference in behavior. Language programs our behavior. If, as Louise Hay suggests in her books, a person with negative mind talk can manifest physical ‘dis-ease,’ like the man who kept saying ‘It’s a pain in the neck’ who developed a chronic neck pain condition. Medical doctor, Deepak Chopra suggest that the immune system may be eavesdropping on our mind talk. While negative language can cause undesirable impact; positive language can create positive impact. When you change your language, your behavior will follow.
Different Words Elicit Different States
Think about it this way. Each of us has a different set of pictures, sounds, and feelings attached to words we use. Tp illustrate, I had a client who came to me for coaching on study skills. When I mentioned the word ‘study’ she would cringe. She had an almost painful looking visceral response. Her nose crinkled, her brow furrowed, and she hunched her shoulders slightly forward. We had to find better language.
We used an experience from her karate classes and asked her to come up with a word for the moment she learned something important to her. She word she thought of was ‘practice.’ We anchored (associated her) to the word. She had a wonderfully positive response to the new linguistic choice, ‘practice.’ Her practice (study) got her an A- the next day on an exam for a class she was in danger of flunking. So, when you write your outcomes, you want to find language that will motivate you to succeed. After all; state creates ability.
Stated In the Positive; Not the Negative
A basic guideline of successful outcome formation is to ‘state it in the positive.’ Say what you want, not what you don’t want. People tend to get what they focus on. When you tell a child ‘don’t spill the milk,’ it goes right over. The child has to represent the milk spilling to ‘not’ spill it. The man who keeps describing a situation as ‘ripping his guts out’ will likely develop some digestive issues. It is as if the unconscious mind does not process the negative. Eliminate the negatives and what you focus on and your get what you actually want to create.
Eliminate Wimp Words and Comparatives
‘Wimp words’ are words that do not evoke action. They include ‘try’ to, ‘hope’ to, ‘want’ to, ‘maybe’, etc. Trying is obviously different than doing. ‘Try’ does not make anything happen. ‘Hope to’ and “want to’ are not happening now. They is future based; not present oriented language. Change wimp words to action-oriented, present-based language. Short, declarative sentences that call you to immediate and decisive action right now tend to be good choices for outcome setting.
Comparatives are qualifiers and quantifiers used in language that can take power away from your outcome statements. Words like ‘more, better, and enough’ are quantifiers. ‘Might, could, and maybe’ are qualifiers. Either do what you say you want or don’t do it. Eliminate the uncertainty. Some people quantify with the words like, “If I can,” instead of “When I do” for example.
Stand in the Completed Future
State it as if you are standing in a completed future and speaking from already having achieved your outcome. And speak it with conviction, whether you are speaking to others or just talking to yourself inside your head. Pay attention the quality of the tonality you use in your mind talk. Are you using a questioning or timid voice tone or are you using a confident tone. If you hear yourself being wimpy, shift your tonality.
Strategy for Writing Outcomes
So, here’s my strategy for helping people write well-defined and compelling outcomes that will lead to decisive action. Imagine you have already completed the outcome you say you want. And allow yourself to fully experience the completed state. Pick a specific moment in the future and associate to that moment. Make sure you are in the future moment experiencing the state just the way you want it. Remember to pay attention to the quality of the tonality you use in your mind talk. From this future, you can work backward in time to figure out how you got the completed outcome. You will be creating benchmarks as you are working backward from the future toward the present.
The Secret Is Being in State
Perhaps the biggest problem with the way most people write goals is that from the perspective of being in the present moment, people are too aware of immediate constraints and too close to the past. It’s easy to look at present circumstances and bring up all the past reasons why things cannot be realized. The person can’t easily imagine any other future distinct from the ‘way its’ always been.’ In addition, fears can create a belief that circumstances are too big to overcome. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are; it’s what you do about it that counts. Be in a powerful state if you want to succeed. Stepping into the future far enough and most people experience freedom from unempowered states. The NLP perspective is that ‘ability is state related.’ Choose to be in a state that is conducive to taking action. What if it were just easy and natural to take action toward your outcomes, now?
Write When You Are Fully Associated
I want my coaching clients imagining fully from the completed future. I have them pick a specific future moment and be in that moment. I have them take time to fully associate. The time to write is not until he or she is able to see specifically where they are in this future moment; at the park, in an office, or at home, and they are able to notice the colors, movements, who else is there, and hear the associated sounds and voices, and feel the quality of air on the face, and experiencing the internal emotion of the state
Then, I have them begin to notice what has already been manifested in this environment. I instruct them to remember to include the balancing of life domains in the areas of financial and/or business reality, and include outcomes with regard to relationship, friends, family, social life, entertainment, education, health/fitness/exercise, and spiritual life.
Put Yourself Back in State
In the event your mind wanders or mind talk goes to reasons why not, notice that you are out of state. I instruct my clients to take a deep breath, shake themselves, stand up and sit down again if necessary and put themselves back into the completed outcome state. Start writing again and write until the list is substantial. Write with no reasons why not and just being in the outcome state. You should go out into future 10 or 20 years for life outcomes. In workshops, I may have people go only as far into the future as 5 or sometimes only 3 years. In each case I have people work backwards at specific time increments. These create benchmarks. In one my workshops, I have people go from 20 years to 10 years, back to 5, 3, 1, 6 months, 3 months, and finally to 1 month time increments. The entire process usually takes about 60 to 90 minutes maximum in a workshop setting. You will want to really discipline yourself if you are working on your own.
I suggest spending about 10 minutes each writing at the 20 and 10 year time increments, then 6-8 minutes at 5 and 3 years, and then shortening time limit to about 5 minutes at each increment as you are closer to present. Some items will show up on your list at various time increments and other things will appear only once and be completed by the next increment. It’s a good ides to get a timer or watch to create time limits. If possible, you can have someone else keep the time for you. I suggest not taking any breaks as state is critical and you don’t want to risk breaking the state you have created. Take a deep breath and go back to it as necessary. Play gentle, soothing music in the background if it helps you to focus. Stay in state until…
Once the outcomes are written from each time increment, stop and get up and only after some time has passed come back and take a look at what you’ve written. At that time, you can write with whom and what other resources will be necessary to achieve your outcomes. Then put your list of outcomes away for a few days. Let yourself sleep on it and allow your outcome list to bounce around in your mind. Forget about them for a while. It’s better not to think too much about your outcome list once completed.
Every month or so, you can come back to your outcomes and look over your list. Is there something you want to add or flesh out more completely? You can keep your outcome list present and dynamic with periodic checks. Tweak the list as it makes sense, but don’t spend a lot of time stressing over the items on your list. Relax and trust yourself that your unconscious mind is doing what is necessary to bring your outcomes into reality.
Even if you don’t go over you outcomes every month, you’ll be able to check back in 6 months or a year or a few years and you’ll be amazed at what you have achieved, and how fast your outcomes have manifested. Lots of people have told me they were surprised at how much of the list was completed and sooner than expected when they checked back after some time had passed.