The well-formed outcomes pattern is a major organizing pattern for NLP techniques overall. It goes beyond “setting goals”. The metaphor of a goal suggests a destination and a conscious process.
Outcomes set a direction. I may have an outcome to have an independent and happy child. I may not ever reach this as a “goal”, but as an outcome, it organizes my choices of interactions with my child every day without conscious thought.
Well formed outcomes are stated in positive terms.
It is often difficult to know what we actually want. Bad experiences can loom so large all we can think of is what we don’t want. Negative commands can influence in unintended ways.
Self-initiated and maintained.
Well formed outcomes must be what you want rather than what other people want to be congruent and motivating. An outcome that involves pleasing other people is very difficult to maintain. It is also indirect.
For instance, losing weight because your husband wants you to. You think it’s for him but really, it’s to keep his interest. Other people’s outcomes often trigger an unconscious rebellious response resulting in internal conflict. Giving up smoking for someone else particularly creates rebellion because it often underlies this behavior originally.
Successful outcomes involve things over which we have control. We do not have control over what other people think say or do.”I want Mary to be polite to me” is not well formed. “I want to stay centered and respond assertively when Mary is rude or, I want to behave in a way that invites a polite response from Mary” is well-formed.
For what purpose do you want this outcome?
So why do you want the outcome? We can sometimes confuse ends with means and sabotage our real outcome.
When my daughter was young, I had an outcome to own a house. Interest rates were high and we both made big sacrifices for this outcome. My real outcome was for my daughter to feel secure in a stable home environment. The house was the means not the end and the sacrifices created less security.
If the outcome is originally for someone else, what do you personally want to gain? You want to keep his interest so you can have a strong partnership. That is what you need to focus on. Hint – placating pleasing or groveling is rarely sexy and not good for equal partnerships.
Well formed outcomes are sensory based.
What will you see, hear and feel when you achieve the outcome? Act as if you already have the outcome for the moment and associate into the experience of having it. This gives your brain a great deal of concrete information. We need to represent our outcomes as processes.
State it in see, hear, and feel terms. What does it mean to you? For instance, I can restate, “I want to be confident at work” as “I am making eye contact, I feel centered and seek opportunities to network. I hear myself speaking in a rich slow-paced voice and listening carefully to the other person.”
Well formed outcomes are sequenced and bite-sized.
Outcomes can be overwhelming big chunks such as writing a book or buying a house. Framing in big chunks can make us feel impotent – it seems like such a lot of time, effort and sacrifice to do what it takes to make it happen. Taking small actions every day builds momentum and increases motivation.
Being able to make a movie of what you will do in present time sets up a template. Mental rehearsal is an effective way to get things done.
What resources do you need?
Sometimes we don’t get our outcomes because we don’t have the resources we need. We jump ahead of ourselves without considering if we are in a position to go for it right now.
What are the important sub goals we need to obtain first? Do you require outside help?
I want to write a book and need access to a computer. I want to get a job and need childcare arrangements. Sometimes these can become excuses. I can’t get X because I don’t have Y.
Often the resources are available and can be organized, particularly personal resources. What empowering states and beliefs would help you achieve your outcome easily and quickly? For instance, I want to write two articles today. Useful resources are focus, flow, and enthusiasm. I might gain these by breaking the task into small pieces, mental rehearsal, being clear about my purpose, and remembering a focused state.
In what contexts do you want the outcome?
When, where and with whom do you want this outcome? Well formed outcomes are situation specific. Failing to set a boundary can result in over generalization.
It may not be useful to focus, relax or get up early every day in every circumstance. You may need to yell at the kids if they are in danger. Marking a specific context for a particular behavior anchors the response.
What is your evidence for fulfillment?
Specific measurable sensory outcomes have more power to directionalize our minds. How will you know when you have achieved the outcome? Everyone’s evidence will be different. My evidence for a productive day is not going to be the same as yours.
People often have outcomes like “I want to be successful in business” What does success mean? How can I measure this outcome? By the number of awards received? In financial terms? Promotions in a certain time?
Outcomes represented in vague nominalized terms give us vague directions. What does a solid relationship look like? What does confidence look like? What does assertiveness mean? How will I know when I have it?
Well formed outcomes are compelling.
Compelling goals are more motivating.
Have you ever watched a movie that was so slow, dull and dreary you couldn’t be bothered? How can you represent your outcomes so they propel you? What do you personally find motivating? Brighten up the colors, amp up the soundtrack, make the pace faster and hear the excitement in people’s voices.
Is it more motivating to see yourself in the movie (dissociated) or be as if you were actually there (associated)? Being there in the state can sometimes create indifference because in our imagination we already have what we want. See also Association Dissociation Submodality
Well formed outcomes are ecological.
We can’t separate our outcomes from the rest of our lives. We have other priorities and important values. Our outcomes may affect other people. Does it fit with who we are as a person, how we see ourselves?
It is important that outcomes add to our choices rather than take them away. In what ways might this outcome not be good for us? Are there any contexts where having this outcome would not work?
Example of the process
Some good tips in this video, not quite the same process, but nice distinctions