Well-formed outcomes: How to set successful goals.

A new year offers us the chance to evaluate what we would like to achieve for the year. This could include anything from health, wealth, personal development, sporting achievements to improved relationships.

Research shows that 70% of problems can be resolved by setting well-formed outcomes. Bearing in mind though, that goal setting is not always about resolving problems, sometimes it's about optimising or maintaining what we already have!

Well-formed outcomes must address these 7 points:

  • Sensory specific: Where and when do you want to achieve your goals? What date do you intend to have this outcome by? Visualise stepping into your body at that time, what feelings, sights, sounds, experiences can you use to measure that you have achieved your goal? Be specific.
  • Positive language: The goal should be stated with a positive, rather than negative focus. Otherwise, the focus is on what you don't want, not what you want. For example, if you were wanting to reach a goal weight it is better to say, "I want to reach X kg", not "I want to lose X kg".
  • Ecology: Understanding the implications of your goals can help motivate you to achieve them by thinking long-term and bigger picture. Ask yourself questions such as "what will I gain from this outcome?" or "what will I lose by achieving this?". "What situations is it not ok to have/do this?".
  • Choices: "How can this outcome increase my life choices?". This question opens up your idea of the world and future opportunities and possibilities.
  • Achievability: Who do you know that has achieved this goal before? And if there is no one, ask yourself "what evidence do I have that this possible?", and then "what do I personally need to do to achieve this?".
  • First step: Get things rolling. "What is the first small step I can take to reach my goal in the next 24 hours?".
  • Your resources: Identify what resources you already have available to achieve this, and what previous experiences of success, even if unrelated, you have had. This already places yourself in a successful state to achieve your goals.

Adapted from Richard Bolstad's NLP practitioner manual.