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Achieving Change by Creating Well Formed Outcomes

17th Jan, 2012

How do we best set goals/well-formed outcomes to enable change to happen in our personal and business lives?

Research has shown that well-formed outcomes are best created by asking a series of questions that clarify the goal. The basic questions are “What do you want?” and “How will you know when you have got it?”.


What do you want?

Asking “What do you want?” takes advantage of the fact that we operate most effectively when we have a goal or objective of some sort to focus on. So…

1) Ask yourself “What do I want?” and pay attention to your answer.

Is your answer stated in the positive (eg to get fit and healthy, to double your income, to start a new business etc) or in the negative (eg to quit smoking, lose weight, stop spending so much etc)?

We have difficulty processing negatives eg the command “Don’t think of fish” is difficult to obey, isn’t it?

You get what you focus on, so if your goal is stated in the positive, you’re making it easier for yourself.

Also check that your answer can be achieved by yourself, it is your outcome and you need to be solely responsible for its success. So..

2) Ensure you state your goal positively and that it can be achieved by you. Write it down.

3) Specify the present situation – where are you currently?

How will you know when you’ve got it?

Be careful what you ask for! Maybe you’d like to be rich? When we’ve asked students in the past how they would know that they were rich replies such as “I’d have more money” come back. So we offer them “more money” in the form of a coin and ask if that means they are rich! “More money” is not specific enough evidence for the achievement of the goal.

It is important that you go into very specific detail of what you would see, hear and feel when you achieve your goal. For example, being rich may involve seeing a specific sum on your bank statement on a specific date and hearing the sound of the sea from your yacht in a particular place.

Remember to include as much detail as possible and check that it sits comfortably with you as a person in terms of your values and beliefs. For example, being rich may not be so much fun without your family and friends or without good health.

Remember to also check for unwanted wider external consequences of you achieving this outcome. For example does your get rich scheme hurt others or the environment? So…

4) Ask yourself “How will I know when I’ve got it?” What will you see, hear and feel as you are achieving your goal?

5) What very specific details will let you know that you are getting what you want and in what context? Write them down. The more sensory detail the better and check that it sits comfortably with your beliefs and that you have considered the wider implications of you achieving your goal.

6) Identify the resources that you need to achieve your goal – what do you already have and what do you need to acquire?

7) Commit to taking your first step towards your goal.

Imagine your future success

Once you have clear evidence (ie how you’ll know when you’ve achieved your goal), you can engage your unconscious resources more fully by imagining your future success. Stand up and ensure you’ve got enough space to move safely, then…

Imagine you are going to step into that time in the future when you already have what you want. Then, literally take a step and imagine you can see what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear and feel what you’ll feel when you are achieving your goal.

Some people are sceptical of this last step and that is natural. We would just encourage you to have a go as it does work. You have probably heard of successful sportsmen and women using this visualisation technique to help them achieve their goals by imagining winning a gold medal, scoring a winning penalty or holing that decisive putt etc.


So, to recap:

To set goals/outcomes that will be achieved:

1. Use “What do you want?” to elicit goals.

2. Ensure your goal is stated positively and can be achieved by yourself.
Write it down.

3. Specify the present situation.

4. Use “How will you know when you’ve got it?” to elicit evidence.

5. Ensure you have very detailed answers for “What will you see, hear
and feel?” and the context.
     Write them down.
     Check that your goal sits comfortably with your beliefs
     Check the wider implications of you reaching your goal.

6. Identify the resources you need to achieve your goal
– what do you already have and what do you need to acquire?

7. Commit to taking your first step towards your goal.

8. Step into your imagined future achievement.