Outcome Specification

Among the most widely recognized (and utilized) NLP techniques is Outcome Specification. Getting clear regarding our goals is one of those things we talk about a lot because the unconscious mind is a very sensitive instrument. Sending it a message that is in even the slightest way mixed can easily sidetrack our stated efforts.

Worse, many people don’t know what we want in the first place, “sampling” life, without committing to any particular path or desired outcome. Additionally, many times we state our goals for OTHERS, believing that will in some way serve us better. The problem with this is that we only control ourselves. For that reason, creating a goal for ourselves makes sense. Creating a goal for someone else would be pointless as we have no such control over their actions.

Let’s look at the process for creating an excellent goal.

First, identify your goal, and state it in positive terms. Simply put, state what it is you desire. Stating what you DON’T want is counterproductive because of what we just said about mixed messages to our unconscious mind. That is, the mind cannot process a negative because in order to negate the item, we first must imagine it in positive terms. This often has the effect of making us pursue exactly what we just said we do not want. A classic example of this is “Don’t think of a pink elephant.” What did you just do? You did in fact picture a pink elephant, but since the instructions were to NOT, you then had to “erase” the pink elephant. If a pink elephant was not what you wanted, it would make more sense to not direct the mind to first picture it.

Here’s an everyday example, both the correct and incorrect way of doing this.

Incorrect: “I hope we’re not late to the event.”
Correct: “I hope we’re on time to the event.”

Once we engage our unconscious in the process of “being late”, it strives to fulfill that for us. After all, if we didn’t want it, why focus on it, right? So when we’re late, we become frustrated, saying to ourselves, “I thought I was clear! I DIDN’T want to be late—and here we are, late!”

On the other hand, the second example focuses our unconscious on being punctual, and works to support us in that goal.

Once we’ve stated the goal in positive terms, so the unconscious is clear on its direction, we must ensure that the goal is in fact within our control. A goal for ourselves, not others!

This is an example of the correct and incorrect approach to this element.

Incorrect: “I want my wife to be more patient with me”
Correct: “I want to strengthen my marriage’s resources, so I can inspire my wife by showing her more patience and love, even when things are stressful.”

Next, the goal should be appropriately sized. This refers to the fact that we may have a pretty large goal that is unlikely to happen overnight. We might instead choose to cut it up into smaller pieces that we believe are more achievable. This is not merely a practical consideration, but it also refers back to the point about not sending mixed messages to the unconscious mind. If we make a goal “become a millionaire” and we are in major debt with limited education and resources, our unconscious mind is clear on these points. It may simply not believe you if you tell it you are about to become a millionaire, particularly if your intended time frame is short. While you (and your unconscious) may not believe the millionaire goal by next month, you may very well see the possibility of shaving off a portion of your debt. But if your unconscious mind doesn’t believe the likelihood of achieving the stated goal in the time allotted, it’s unlikely you will have its support in pursuing that goal. And if your unconscious isn’t with you, that goal is not likely to come to fruition.

Next, you must discern how you will know when you’ve achieved the goal. What will be the evidence of success or indication that you must adjust your approach? If the criteria are too vague, you may never notice that in fact you’re already successful.

The next step is deciding where or in what situation the goal will be relevant. Additionally, where might it be irrelevant? This also pertains to focus as most goals are contextual or situationally relevant. Something like “getting a yacht” may be relevant on sunny days when your friends want to enjoy some recreation, or you and your spouse want to just go out on the water and enjoy the sunset. But during the workday, as you face the challenges and opportunities of your work, that yacht may be meaningless. Understanding the focus helps to maintain the clarity of your intention as your unconscious won’t become tripped up on the fact that the yacht won’t help your kids with their grades and assume that the yacht is inappropriate as a goal.

After this, we ask ourselves honestly what stops us from going after this goal right now, with our full commitment. Identify any sitatuions, behaviors, attitudes, traits you believe prevent you from total commitment to achieving the goal. This is not to solve them yet, only to become aware of them. We are drawing out anything the unconscious mind may point to, saying, “Oh yeah? What about THAT?”

Then identify what resources you already have that may help you to achieve the goal. This is kind of an inventory, where we “take stock” of just how many potentially helpful resources we already have that could contribute to our achieving the goal.

Next, having considered what resources we do have, which ADDITIONAL resources do you need to achieve Perhaps our goal is to be a better husband to our wife, and we determine that we need some outside help in developing the skills to do this.

The next step is to do an ecology check. Meaning, we’d ask ourselves “Is there any risk associated with achieving this goal?” Is there any aspect of your life where achieving this goal could introduce a challenge? For instance. If you want to be a better husband, as mentioned above, what if many of your close friendships are founded upon the “Can’t-live-with-‘em…” philosophy and “being a good husband” would alienate your close friends? I would suggest that those would be friends worth losing, but this isn’t MY goal. The person who has the goal must make that decision. If your goal is to be a millionaire, are many of your closest relationships with people who eternally struggle with money? (If so, I would suggest that I may see at least a contributing factor to your problem!) If you suddenly were a millionaire, would those people not feel the same about you? And the ecology check doesn’t mean that you must maintain the status quo. Part of your growth may be to let go of some relationships that hinder your progress in life. This may help you to “clean house” and maintain relationships that are themselves ecological with your goal.

Next, and almost there…! Determine what are the daily actions you must take to achieve this goal? AND…What step can you take TODAY? This is important because the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Once your unconscious recognizes that there is a path to achievement and the goal fits well with the life you want to live, it’s happy to drive you forward to take that first step. Then the second. Then the…

The very last step…whew! But isn’t this fun, knowing that you can have or create anything? The last step is to consider everything we’ve discussed so far and to ask yourself honestly: “Is achieving this goal worth the effort?” If you will have to make a sacrifice or put in some work, maybe even change some things about yourself, will achieving that goal justify all of that?

If you hear “yes” in your mind, you’re already going! If it was “no”, you may want to investigate what your unconscious felt was too much effort. If the goal is compelling enough, the mind will generally find a way to justify pursuing it.

Now that we know what to do, and you can see the steps summarized on the board, let’s do a demonstration. Who would like to do an Outcome Specification process—to get truly clear on what you want and how to get it!

Then I walk a volunteer through this process, ensuring that everyone calibrates the physiological shifts he experiences. What we want is to ensure that an audience “believes” him and though they can’t know his internal process, they can see the outward signs that something significant has occurred and that he’s happy about it.

Copyright © 2013 Chris Gingolph

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