• Posted: November 2008
  • By: Michael Carroll

NLP, getting what you want in life

One of the keys for success is being clear about what you want

NLP began its life when John Grinder and Richard Bandler modelled the behavioral and language patterns of three people who were geniuses at helping people create change in their lives.  In some circles, NLP is known at the science of success. This is because with NLP you can model human excellence and the NLP tools created from the early modelling projects enable you to work through challenges and accelerate goal achievement. In this article, I will talk about how you can use NLP tools to focus your mind, sharpen your language and set clear and precise goals. By following the easy to apply tools and strategies in this article you have formula for personal success.

Focus on what you want
One of the keys for success in life is being clear about what you want and focus your attention on that outcome. I always find it fascinating to listen people describe their personal goals.  I hear people saying “I don’t want to be fat”, “I don’t want to be poor”, “I don’t want to be unhealthy” and so on. In all of these statements,  the attention is on what is not wanted.

To deal with negation, the mind firstly has to put attention on or create a representation of what is not wanted and then mentally cross it out. If the language of negation is continually used, the images, sounds, and feelings associated with what is not wanted will keep popping up and can become a self fulfilling prophecy. You may have come across the saying- “you get what you do focus on”  This seems to apply when you set your goal in the negative. People who don’t want to be poor often are, people who don’t want to be fat, often are. They are unwittingly talking themselves into failure.
That’s not so say, you can never say what it is you don’t want, in fact it’s quite useful to establish what is not acceptable to you in your life. Once you are clear about what is unacceptable, draw mental line and then fix your attention fully on what it you want.

The language of choice
If you want to create more in your life, it’s useful to use language of choice. The language you use is an internal messenger for your brain. There is a linguistic category in the NLP Meta Model called ‘modal operators’. These are words that indicate the boundaries of choice a person perceives in their life. Modal operators can be grouped into two categories, language of necessity and language of possibility. There are different levels of necessity and possibility.

The language of necessity
I have to, ought to, should, need to, got to, must

The words above imply a lack of choice. “I have to set this goal,” “I ought to get out of bed”, “I need to go to work”

The language of possibility
Want to, can, will, going to, desire, choose to

These words above inspire choice, “I want to set this goal”; “I will get out of bed”, “I chose to go to go to work.”

Non committal language
the following terms are wish washy and fall in between necessity and possibility

Might, may, wish, If only

These words above are non committal;  “I might set this goal”, “I may get out of bed”, “I wish I had a different job” “If only I could do XX”

Are you the choice maker in your life doing things because you want to? Or are you operating through necessity, doing things because you have to? If the latter, I would suggest change what you are doing or change your attitude to what you are doing. Are you dreamer, wishing things could be different, not committing to anything but living in hope that luck may help you? Notice the distinctions in the following

1. “I wish I could have a new job”
2. “I want a new job”
3. “I will have a new job on XXXX date”

The first statement is a pipe dream, the second is a desire or even the beginning of a goal, the third a personal commitment. The NLP attitude is one of being clear what you want, and doing what it takes to make a reality. In the next paragraph

Knowing your outcome
The NLP process for setting goals is called ‘outcome setting’. There is a format for setting outcomes with in built steps to ensure the outcome is clear and you are congruent with what you are setting out to achieve. NLP Practitioners and coaches use the format when working with their clients. If you think of an outcome, something you would like to achieve, and work through the following steps.

Setting an outcome
How about setting an outcome using the questions below, based on the well formed outcome conditions above. Maybe you can think of your outcome for learning NLP.

1. What specifically do you want?
  Stated in the positive

2. When, where and with who do you want it?
  Timed and contextualised

3. Where are you now?
  Present situation specified

4. What will you be seeing, hearing and feeling when you get it?
Make mental image of you achieving your outcome, tune into the sounds. Get a sense you can step into the image and feel the feelings of success. Then step back and review the image. Put a date on it. 

5. What will you be able to do after you get it?
Future state

6. Who is this for?
Self initiated and self maintained

7. What resources and states are needed?
Have you ever done anything like this before?  If so, tap into the state
Do you know any one who has? If so, how do they do it?
Act as if you have it already or on your way to having it which ever is most appropriate.

8. Ecology check
How does this outcome impact the wider areas of your life.
What will happen if you get it?
What won’t happen if you get it?
What will happen if you do not get it?
What won’t happen if you do not get it?

Having completed the above steps, your goal, in your minds eye will be clearer or in some cases the questions above may have created some doubt. If there is doubt, it means you have to do some preliminary work for you to be congruent with the goal or maybe the goal is not for you. If you feel really positive about your goal, fully commit to it, visualise yourself achieving it and act as if it will be yours on the date you set for achievement.

In this article I have given you some tips and ideas about how to make your goals your reality. In summary focus your attention on what you want, use strong language of choice when describing your goals and set your outcomes using the steps in the article. In NLP there are lots of different tools and ideas that will help you with your personal success. For a deeper understanding of how NLP can work for you, take a look at the NLP Academy website www.nlpacademy.co.uk, you will find a range of courses and introductory sessions, as well articles and video material that can only help you live your personal dream.

About The Author

Michael Carroll is the founder and course director of the NLP Academy and co-founder with John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair of the International Trainers Academy of NLP. He is the only NLP Master Trainer in the world certified by John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair and he works closely with them in developing and delivering high quality NLP training.



  • The quality of training was outstanding, the depth of human understanding was awe inspiring, and to meet and learn from Carmen Bostic St Clair and the co-creator of NLP John Grinder was utterly mesmerising.

    John Phelan
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