Six Steps to Setting Achievable Goals

Step 1: What Do You Want?

Setting goals is something we all do, especially in business. Now, the reality is that only a small percentage of us actually go ahead and achieve them.

However, although there are plenty of models out there for setting outcomes, there’s one you probably haven’t heard of yet (or you may if you’re NLP-trained): the ‘Well-Formed Outcome’

One of the advantages is that it is as simple as it sounds yet extremely powerful and realistic. Developed by Dr. John Grinder, a professor of linguistics and co-creator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, the ‘Well-Formed Outcome’ takes into consideration a series of steps when setting achievable goals or outcomes:

What do you want?

Pretty straight-forward, right? Think again…

In my own experience, a very large percentage of the people I’ve coached consistently talk about what they don’t want.

Which is a good starting point, except most of them don’t go beyond ‘not wanting’ on to establishing what they actually want. For example, how many times have you found yourself saying something like:

‘I don’t want to be broke.’

‘I don’t want to lose my job.’

Have you ever tried saying instead?

‘I want to be wealthy.’

‘I want to keep, get promoted, or be the best at my job.’

Can you see the difference? Say it out loud; pay attention to how different you feel when saying the latter.

Now you’re starting to put your attention on the things that matter rather than the ones you don’t want. Don’t kick yourself; we’ve all done it in the past! But now it’s time for a change.

Here’s something for you to think about today:

Have you ever bought yourself a new car or shirt and then suddenly found it everywhere you looked? If you give your attention to the things you want, you’ll see them everywhere; if you give your attention to the things you don’t want, you’ll find them everywhere too.

Step 2: Have Clear Intentions

Now that you know what you want rather than what you don’t want, let’s look at step two: considering intentions and consequences.

Many of us set goals or outcomes without really knowing what we really want them for or even considering the consequences of achieving them. I’ll explain:

Have you ever wanted something badly and then, when you got it, realised that it was not what you thought you wanted?

If you said yes, read on.

Knowing what you want things for (i.e., having clear intentions) will prevent this from happening in the future. By knowing what your goal is really fulfilling you will be able to assess your outcomes more holistically and give you more options. It will also help you foresee some other consequences that will result from achieving that goal that you might not even have considered.

So the way it works is very simple:

  1. First, you set your goal by asking yourself a simple question: ‘what do I want?’
  2. Then, you consider the intention that this goal will be fulfilling, i.e ‘what do I want this for?’
  3. Thirdly, you consider what consequences (good and bad) will derive from achieving your goal.
  4. And lastly, do these consequences meet your needs?

It is very simple, yet extremely powerful.

For example, imagine how useful this would be when deciding on what career path to follow.

Say you want to work in a particular industry because you want to earn a lot of money. So you go ahead and start following that path. However, after some time, you realise that what you wanted was not the money (goal) but the freedom (need or intention) that money would bring you. However, now that you have started working in that particular area, you are earning great money, although the hours are so long that you don’t have any freedom or even time to spend that money (unmatching consequences).

So you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation because the consequences of your goals do not match your intentions. However, had you known your intentions, you would’ve changed your goal until you found one that would bring you consequences that matched your intention.

I’ve seen this happen hundreds of times with friends, family, and colleagues at work, and I can’t help but think to myself: how much easier it would have been to just run through those four steps before making such an important decision.

Step 3: How Will You Know You Got It?

Having a clear idea of what you will accept as evidence for achieving your goal is of utmost importance. Think about it, you wouldn’t accept a bicycle in return for buying a car, would you?

It sounds simple, and it is, but most people forget to do it.

For example, if you’re looking for ‘wealth’, how will you know when you find it?

Is there a specific sum of money you will see in your bank account, or maybe wealth means something else to you? It could be having millions in your bank account, or it could be having a family, or some people even measure wealth in knowledge.

What is important here is that you define what evidence you will accept.

Ask yourself, How will I know when I have achieved my outcome?

Let’s say that your outcome is to get promoted at work. What will you accept as evidence for your promotion?

Here are a few examples, but feel free to add your own:

You’ll receive a written notification and see your name on it

You’ll hear your promotion announced out loud at the company’s morning meeting.

Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve is key to reaching your goal. Make it as real as you can inside your mind, so you can recreate it outside of it.

Step 4: Be Ecological

I’m not talking about saving the whales here. This one refers to personal ecology. I’ll explain:

None of us live in isolation from the world, so most likely you have formed a number of relationships with different people or groups of people. Think about your family or groups of friends, for example. These are systems in which we play a role, and our actions will have an effect on the other members of that system. Therefore, these systems have to be handled with ecology.

Being aware of how our actions can impact those systems is an integral part of setting our outcomes

By being aware, I mean exactly that: knowing that your actions will impact the system in one way or another. Whether it is for your benefit or not is up to you to assess.

Bare in mind that in achieving a goal, there will be costs involved, not only economically but also in time, energy, and any other way you can think of.

The question here is: are the cost and consequences of achieving this outcome acceptable to you?

For example, if I want to take a course on professional development to help me improve my chances of getting a promotion, it would be useful to be aware of how doing this course will impact areas such as my social life, my family, my ‘workload,’me time’ and any others you can think of.

Once you’re aware of how those areas might be affected, the next question is: am I willing to accept the costs and the consequences of me achieving the outcome?

If yes, go ahead and do it. If no, it doesn’t mean abandoning the ship… All you need to do is some more exploration to be able to create some options.

Ecology is often overlooked, and this can result in negative consequences that you otherwise could’ve avoided.

Step 5: Take Inventory

Life, like business, is about maximising the use of resources, but in order to do this, you must first be aware of what resources you have and which ones you’re still trying to find.

So at this stage, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

What resources do I already have in order to achieve my outcome? And what resources, if any, do I still need to find in order to achieve my outcome?

Once you have identified these two, think of how you’re going to find the ones you need and how you’re going to leverage the ones you already have.

These can be people, time, money, beliefs, values, and any other thing you can think of. What matters is that you’re aware of the ones you have and make yourself accountable for the ones you’re still to get. By making yourself accountable for acquiring the resources you need, you’ll switch your attention to working out a way of finding them. It is important that at this stage you ask yourself the ‘right’ questions. For example, let’s say you’ve started building a business and are looking for ways to attract customers.

By asking questions like ‘why is people not coming to me?, ‘why is the competition getting more customers?’, ‘why is life so hard?’ You’re not likely to engage in a creative process.

Try instead something like ‘how do I attract new customers?’, ‘how do I earn my customers’ loyalty?’, ‘how can I satisfy my customers needs in a unique way?’, ‘how can I offer them value?’ and the list goes on.

You get the gist, right? There’s a massive difference between the questions you ask yourself. After all, your mind will give you an answer to the questions you ask… Whether you like the answer or not.

So, go ahead and start asking the ‘right’ questions, and you’ll get the ‘right’ answers. In other words, put your attention on what you want and you’ll find it everywhere; put your attention on what you don’t want, and you’ll find that everywhere too.

However, keep in mind that resources will vary from one situation to the next. What’s useful in one situation is not necessarily useful in some others.

Finally, the importance of taking inventory must not be underestimated, as it will give you a clear picture of where you stand in regards to your goal or target.

Step 6: Congruency Check

Now that you’ve gone through the previous 5 steps and have gathered more relevant information about your objective and purpose, as well as how it will affect you and those around you, it’s time to ask yourself one more question:

Do I still want it? Is it still worth pursuing?

By now, you would have most probably made a few changes to your map, so the purpose of this question is to make sure you’re still congruent about what you want.

So, if the answer is yes, go ahead and do it. If the answer is no, don’t panic; just go ahead and review the areas we explored before and change whatever you need to until you’re happy your outcome meets your new criteria.

Now go out there and try them out. Sit down with a piece of paper and think of something you want and go through the list step by step (if you haven’t been doing it so far)—or do it inside your head. What matters is that you actually put it to the test and see the results for yourself. You now have some of the tools necessary to set effective goals and get exceptional results.

  1. What do I want? As opposed to what I don’t want.
  2. What do I want this for? And do the consequences of me getting it match the purpose of me wanting the outcome? “If the consequences match your intention, you have an outcome worth pursuing,” says Jules Collingwood, one of the co-founders of INSPIRITIVE.
  3. How will I know when I have achieved this outcome?
  4. Are the cost and consequences of achieving this outcome acceptable to you and others?
  5. Do I have all the resources that I need? Am I missing any? If so, how do I get them?
  6. Knowing all this, do I still want it? Is it still worth pursuing?

So that’s it for today. Now go out there and take your next step towards Exceptional Effectiveness, by trying this model the next time you’re making a decision. Start small first and see it for yourself. It will change your life, just like it changed mine.

Remember, this is practical advice, not just another theory, so do go out and try it, and let me know how you went!

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