Using Well-Formed Outcomes in Goal Setting

Building a Picture of Your Objective, and Achieving It!

Using Well-Formed Outcomes in Goal Setting - Building a Picture of Your Objective, and Achieving It!

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Visualize the path you'll take to achieve your goals.

Many of us set goals at the beginning of a new year, at our annual performance reviews, or when something major happens, and we want to assess where we are and where we want to go. Yet sometimes, even with the best of intentions, we grind to a halt with these goals. Before we realize it, weeks and months have gone by – and we still haven't achieved the results we wanted.

So, how can you give yourself the best chance of successfully achieving your goals and your dreams? One way to do this is to create a "Well-Formed Outcome" that motivates you to move forward. By building a complete picture of that goal, and creating a strong internal representation of it, you can make the difference that speeds you to success.

The Well-Formed Outcomes structure is based on NeuroLinguistic
Programming
(NLP) principles, and it was modeled from studies of successful people. It involves asking a set of questions that identify and clarify your intentions, actions, and thoughts, so that you can define your goal in a "well-formed" way.

How to Use the Tool

Follow these steps to achieve your goals faster.

Step 1 – Define Your Outcome

Explore what you want to achieve and clarify your goal using the SMART formula and a PURE perspective.

SMART, seen below, is based on Edwin Locke’s goal-setting theory. SMART stands for:

Specific

Be specific about the outcome you want:

  • What, exactly, do you want to achieve?
  • Where do you want to be at the end of the process or journey?
  • Where, and with whom, do you want to achieve it?
  • Where, and with whom, do you not want to achieve it?
Measurable
  • How will you know when you've achieved your goal?
  • What evidence will you have? How will you measure your progress?
  • What will you see, hear, and feel when you achieve your outcome?
Attainable
  • Check to see if your goal is realistic. Do you have a good chance of achieving it?
  • Do you have, or can you access, the resources needed to achieve your goal?
Relevant Is your goal in line with your priorities, objectives, and values?
Time-bound By when, precisely, do you want to have achieved the goal?

Now that you've defined your goal using the SMART formula, take another look at your outcome from a PURE perspective, and rewrite it as necessary. (The PURE formula was developed by Roger Terry and is outlined below.)

Positive Put your goal into words as if you've already achieved it, and make it a positive statement. Don't say that you don't want something or that you can't do something. Ask yourself what you want instead or what would happen if you could do something.
Under your control Make sure that you can control all of the steps in the process. As an example, a good goal is "Run the marathon in under 4 hours", while a poor goal is "Be in the top 1500 runners to cross the finish line." After all, you have no control over how many people enter the race, and how other people perform on the day.
Right size Is your goal the right size for yourself or your organization? If you always achieve your goals, then make this one more difficult. If you don't often achieve your goals, consider making this one a little easier.
Ecological
  • How will your outcome impact others, positively or negatively?
  • Will this outcome have any unintended consequences, either negative or positive? (See our article on Impact Analysis to explore this in detail.)

Step 2 – Check Your Current State

We sometimes don't achieve our desired outcomes because something within us holds us back, and sometimes we may not even be aware of what that is. So, until you ask yourself the right questions, you may not know that you need to change your attitude or your approach.

Here are some questions to help you uncover any hidden blocks:

  • What do you get if you don't achieve your outcome? Are there any physical, emotional or psychological "pay-offs" that you get if you fail to achieve your goals?
  • Do you need to give up or change anything to move toward your outcome?
  • Are there any practical limitations – for example, lack of time or resource – that may hold you back?
  • Are there any other circumstances that might block your progress?

Once you become aware of these things, are there any actions you could take to eliminate or minimize these blocks? Then, allow yourself to move on, and focus your mind on moving forward.

Step 3 – Create a Strong Internal Representation

Your mind cannot always tell the difference between what's real and what's imagined. So, if you create a strong internal representation of the sights, sounds, and feelings you'll experience when you achieve your goal, you can help yourself move toward that goal.

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Imagine that you're creating a movie of yourself during and after you've achieved your goal. Ask yourself the following questions to help create this movie.

  • Sight – What do you see? Create a mental "movie" of yourself achieving your goal, running from start to end. Make sure that this is as vivid and accurate as possible.
  • Sound – What do you hear? What will you say to yourself? What will others say to you? Incorporate this into your mental movie.
  • Feelings – What do you feel? What are the physical sensations of being there, and what positive emotions are you experiencing? Add these too.

Step 4 – Create a Well-Formed Outcome

Once you have your outcome, ask yourself these questions to explore and connect with your goal further:

  • How will you know when you've achieved your outcome? What are your measures of success or benchmarks for achievement? (This picks up and develops the SMART goals you set in step 2.)
  • What resources do you need to achieve your outcome? Are other people involved? How do they need to contribute?
  • What will happen when you achieve your goal? How will it benefit you? Identify at least three benefits of achieving your goal.
  • How will achieving your outcome affect other areas of your life?
  • What will happen if you do not achieve your goal?
  • What will not happen if you achieve your goal?
  • What will not happen if you do not achieve your goal?

Step 5 – Integrate Your Outcome

Now enrich the movie you created in step 3 with the additional details you gleaned from step 4.

Imagine the place, the people, and the sights and sounds and feelings you will experience. In your mind, walk, talk, and behave as if you are there now.

After you experience your movie, return your attention to the present time, and start taking the actions now that will move you forward.

See our articles on Treasure Mapping and Visualization for more on how mental rehearsal techniques can help you achieve your goals.

A Well-Formed Outcomes Example

Step 1 – Define Your Outcome

It is now a year on, and I've become more confident and comfortable in my role as training manager with XYZ Company. I inspire a team of 10, and we all enjoy one another's successes in delivering new courses to new clients who give us very positive feedback (on average, "highly satisfactory" ratings).

When I achieve my goal, I will have developed my management and leadership skills, and I will have spent at least one hour each week learning and applying new skills. I will have met each individual team member on a biweekly basis to stay up-to-date on each person's projects and to provide guidance and motivation.

Looking at this with the PURE formula, this is stated positively, it's under my control (I will advise the team of their biweekly meetings with me), it's the right size (this is a new role for me, and I'm happy to continue to lead the team without any major new initiatives or changes), and it's ecological (we will all benefit from working within a motivated and inspired team).

Step 2 – Check Your Current State

If I don't achieve this outcome, I will still perform adequately and it will be easier to let things simply continue as they are because everyone knows what they're doing. However, the team may not achieve the average "highly satisfactory" rating from clients. The general feeling might not be inspired, energized, or motivated.

I need to create time for developing my own leadership and management skills, and time for meeting with each member of my team on an individual basis.

There are no other circumstances that might block my progress.

Step 3 – Create a Strong Internal Representation

  • What will I see? A lively, energetic office.
  • What will I hear? Laughter; and people having fun, yet working hard.
  • What will I feel? Satisfaction that I can make a difference to my team and our clients.

Step 4 – Create a Well-Formed Outcome

Q: How will you know when you've achieved your outcome? What are your measures of success or benchmarks for achievement?
A: I will know I've achieved the outcome when we're delivering results, the feedback from clients is "highly satisfactory," and team members are beating their performance targets.

Q: What resources do you need to achieve your outcome? Are other people involved? How do they need to contribute?
A: Necessary resources include time to study and to get to know team members on a more personal level.

Q: What will happen when you achieve your goal? How will it benefit you? Identify at least three benefits of achieving your goal.
A: I stand a good chance of receiving a bonus for meeting targets. I will be pleased that clients have developed their skills as a result of our courses, and this will give my work more meaning. By being a better manager, my team members will be more loyal to me, so we'll have lower staff turnover – and that's good for me because training new staff takes up a lot of time that I would rather spend developing new courses.

Q: What will happen if you do not achieve your goal?
A: We could lose our grant from the government skills development authority.

Key Points

To help you achieve your goals – and your dreams – start by writing a SMART goal. Check that your goal is PURE by making sure it's positive, under your control, right-sized and ecological; and check your current state by ensuring that you've eliminated any internal barriers that might stop you from achieving that goal.

Then use mental imagery to create a strong internal representation of what you will see, hear, and feel when you achieve your goal. Then ask further questions to ensure that your goal is well formed.

All of this helps you develop a strong, powerful, motivating and compelling goal, and makes it one that you'll work hard to achieve.