NLP Outcomes a Formula for Success

February 15, 2010

The real secret of getting what you want

Many years ago when I worked in the financial services field, a wise man said to me, “there are two types of people, those who set goals and those who don’t”.  He added “the people who don’t set goals end up working for those who do”. This man was a very successful entrepreneur who had always has excellent sound bites for me. Another great saying he had was “by failing to plan you are planning to fail”. I thought about his quotes and to me they made sense.  So I set what I now know to be an outcome for owning my own business and now 25 years on have achieved hundreds if not thousands of goals through that early outcome.  So what is the difference between a goal and an outcome?

In some ways a goal and an outcome are similar and in other ways they are different. A goal is very specific, measurable in the sense it can be touched and is generally linear. An outcome is higher level, multi dimensional and usually includes multiple small goals. In terms of creating change in your life an outcome can be something that is not necessarily tangible in the sense it can be touched i.e. you could have an outcome to be ‘smoke free’ or ultra fit, the evidence criteria for the outcome is what is measured. The evidence criteria may consist of many goals.  One of the many contributions NLP made to the world of personal development is utilisation of outcome criteria, see below.


1. Stated in positive terms
2. Initiated and maintained by self
3. Specific sensory based description of outcome, steps and evidence
4. More than one way to get the outcome
5. First step is specific and achievable
6. Increases choice
7. Is ecological


Stated in positive terms: focussing on what is wanted is often a major shift in thinking. Many people focus on what is not wanted. They don’t want to be fat; they don’t want to poor and so on. There is a personal development saying that “you get what you focus on” Why invest time and energy dwelling on what you don’t want? Create an outcome and put your attention on achieving it.

Initiated and maintained by self: To be successful, it is important to hold the reigns of your own personal achievement. The outcomes you set are for you and controlled by you.  Nobody else is responsible for the success or lack of it. Create outcomes where you are the instigator of the process and the catalyst at each leverage point in the outcome.

Specific sensory based description of outcome, steps and evidence: Multiple description (Visual, auditory and kinaesthetic representations) is a key element of NLP. In outcome setting it is important to have a strong VAK representation of the outcome end result. The evidence procedure is ”“ what will be happening when you achieve your goal. If you are sensitive to your unconscious signals, you can test the end result representation for congruency. In everyday language this means does it feel like you can actually achieve this.  If there is doubt, work on the doubt.

More than one way to get the outcome: once you have a strong set of congruent representations for the outcome, think of multiple ways for achieving it. Use multiple description (VAK) for each different choice and place no value judgment on the different ways you can achieve your goal, just be highly creative. If you are sensitive to your unconscious signal, it will provide you with feedback on the different choices you are considering. Between unconscious and conscious mediation pick one or two choices that seem to work best. However, always be open to new choices whilst on the journey of getting the goal.

First step is specific and achievable: this is the key for taking action. You want to initiate the first step ASAP. By achieving the first step you are on the way to achieving the outcome.

Increases choice: the increase of choice is key element of NLP.  A fundamental premise of NLP coaching is creating more choice.  A counter example is where a hypnotist would install a revulsion for a certain type of food and in doing so assist a client to reach a weight goal. However, this intervention has removed a choice for the client. In NLP, if part of an outcome is changing a behaviour that no longer supports you, the behaviour you are seeking to change remains one of many choices. In NLP we do not take away the choice of any behaviour we give our clients the resources to make new positive choices.

Is ecological: In NLP, ecology means how the parts relate to the whole system. In outcome setting the question is how does achieving this outcome impact the integrity of the system? When an outcome is viewed with the whole system in mind, it may be established that the consequences of the outcome are negative. In this case you would adapt the outcome so in terms of the whole system the consequences are positive. If in the outcome is deemed ecological you then attribute the appropriate level of energy at making the outcome happen

The above process is quite extensive, but if something is worth having it’s worth thinking through properly. Each step supports the whole goal. Take one step away or even dilute it and the whole outcome process is weakened. I like to think big picture when working on an outcome. This means your outcome is not static. A question I ask myself is ‘what will achieving this outcome enable me to do?’  This question should get you thinking at a big picture level. You are thus connecting the concrete description of your outcome and first steps ”“ with the big picture of your life. This type of thinking merges pragmatic doing with visionary thinking.

In New Code NLP we utilise what is known as third position. A clean third position is seeing and evaluating ones performance from the perspective of an observer.  To create a third position just get a sense you can step out of your body and see a clear image with sound track of yourself in the context of the outcome. There is a set of questions in NLP that utilise a language pattern called modal operators of possibility to test congruency of a goal. These questions seem to work very well when asked from third position. The questions are below; you can test your commitment to the outcome.  When describing the outcome reference yourself as him/her or by your name, that means you are using third person language. The questions below will further test the ecology of the goal. Remember to use sensory specific language.

What will happen if he/she doesn’t get it?

What will happen if he/she does get it?

What won’t happen if he/she doesn’t get it?

What won’t happen if he/she does get it?

Did the questions bring anything else to your attention that you need to pay attention to? Or are you ready to go and fully committed.

We already know successful people set goals and outcomes, but are successful people simply lucky at achieving their goals?  It may appear as if they are lucky as people and situations find them, but I don’t think it comes down to luck. I think by setting a well formed outcome you increase your so called luck potential. The different stages of the outcome create a filter in your mind. Your attention will be drawn to things that will support you achieving your outcome. There is also the law of attraction at play; you will attract to you what you need to make your goal a reality.

To summarise, successful people regardless of their NLP experience set outcomes. The NLP outcome setting process helps make an outcome more concrete as well as testing the congruency behind an outcome.  A well trained NLP coach works with client to help them define their outcome in a congruent manner. The use of third (observer) position is useful in exploring the congruency and ecology of an outcome.  When you set outcomes, you tend to get lucky and attract to you what you need to make the outcome a reality.  So what are you waiting for, set yourself an exciting outcome and enjoy achieving it.

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