How to Create Compelling Goals and Outcomes

Setting goals and objectives is a practice that has been around for some time. We've all heard of SMART goals which were first introduced in 1981, but do they really work? Why do objectives fail to motivate in so many instances?

The answer is simple - they are not compelling for the individual. For goals to work, they need to be more than Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely... they need to be attractive to the person trying to achieve them. High achievers and really successful people don't ponder over whether their goals are SMART... they believe in them even when others think they are unbelievable.

Setting Compelling Outcomes

Invariably we often find ourselves setting goals that reflect what others want, not what we as individuals want. This is not only true of the objectives given to us by our employers, which are driven by what the company wants or needs, but can be true within our personal lives as well. Family and peer pressure often drive the goals we set ourselves, as does the fear of what we don't want to lose. Consequently, we often fail to really understand or believe in the goal, setting ourselves up for failure before we even start. Compelling outcomes work at all levels, in large organisations, small businesses and for individual goal setting. Whether it is achieving a personal goal such as losing weight or starting your own business, without a compelling outcome your chance of success is severely limited.

So what's the difference between a SMART outcome and a compelling one? A compelling outcome needs to appeal psychologically and emotionally to the recipient and must be robust enough to remain in place even during times of continuous change.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the creators of Neuro Linguistic Programming, studied and modelled numerous individuals who were known as high achievers and excellent in their chosen field. From their work they identified nine key steps to achieving a compelling outcome.

You're only nine steps away from making your goals real and achievable – read more to find out what these simple but effective steps are.

Nine key steps to making your goals really happen!

(1) State the outcome as a positive.

The brain is peculiar in that it doesn't recognise negatives. If someone tells you not to think of a pink rabbit, what is the first thing you do? Think of a pink rabbit in some shape or form! In order for the brain to process this command it must first think of what a pink rabbit actually is, either from memory or imagination. The same is applied to goals when you set them in the negative, i.e. what you don't want rather than what you do want. These can also be descried as 'away from' goals. Examples of negative or away from goals would be:

  • I want to lose weight.
  • I don't want to be fat.
  • I don't want to work for someone else anymore.

All of the above would first of all make the brain think about what the subject of the goal is, i.e., weight, fat, working for someone else. In doing so you will then subconsciously develop the physiology and psychology of how that makes you feel.

To be successful a goal needs to be stated in the positive and reflect something you want to move towards. Examples of this would be;

  • I will eat a healthy diet.
  • I will get myself fitter.
  • I will develop my business idea and become my own boss.

Successful sports people are programmed to think this way. When a top golfer steps up to take that final vital putt he thinks only of the ball going in to the hole... he doesn't think about it not missing the hole!

What we think is what we get!

(2) Set the context of the goal.

It is vital that you put some context around your desired goal.

Where do you want this outcome to happen? How broad the 'where' is depends on the actual goal. It could be in geographical terms i.e. within 50 miles of your home town, or may be very specific, i.e. it has to happen at the forthcoming annual company conference.

When do you want this to happen? Putting a timeline around your goal as to when you require the desired outcome will increase your focus and assist in the planning processes. With whom do you want to achieve this outcome? Be sure to identify who else will be involved in the achievement of your outcome. Whether it is friends, family, employees, as yet unknown clients or customers, decide who they are and make sure you understand what you might need from them.

Without the where, when and with whom, you will never fully know what you are doing!

(3) Consider what your higher or second level intention is.

Goals are often set at the first level intention, e.g. I will follow a low fat healthy diet. This is 'what' you want to do, but for every goal you set there is always a higher or second level intention - the 'why' you want to do it. In this example it may be to feel fitter, or to fit in to a specific dress. This can often be referred to as the goal beyond the goal.

Unfortunately, we often fail to acknowledge what our higher intention is and thereby run the risk that our first and second level intention may in fact be in conflict with each other. When this is the case we often end up being split in to 'parts'. For example, you may set yourself the goal of starting up your own business, but if the higher intention is to spend more time with your family, you will have to plan and set your outcomes carefully to make sure that the two parts are met. If running your own business means lots of meetings and travel away from home, then you will be in conflict with your higher intention, which quite probably is your real desire and non-achievement of this will result in dissatisfaction and ultimately failure.

Always ask yourself – why do I want this goal, what do I really want to happen by achieving this?

(4) Establish what the evidence of achievement will be.

We interact every day with the world around us through our 5 senses; visual, auditory, kinaesthetic (feelings), taste and smell. To really associate with our goal or outcome we need to be able to link it back to our nervous system via the senses. When you are thinking about your desired outcome or goal, always ask yourself:

When I achieve my outcome.....
What will I see?
What will I hear?
What will I feel?
What will I smell?
What will I taste?

The unconscious brain does not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined therefore, if you can use your imagination to see, hear, feel and if relevant taste and smell the achievement of your outcome, then you are already on your way to succeeding.

Act like you have it and you are more likely to get it!

(5) Check if the achievement of the outcome is within your control

When setting the outcome or goal make sure it is stated in a way that will allow most of the control to sit with you. If there is a high dependency on others contributing to your outcome success is less likely and may involve more effort and even stress. If dependency on others is unavoidable, think about how you can reduce this or what you need to do to make sure they complete their input in the required time.

Avoid the stress of waiting for others – keep it self- maintained where possible!

(6) Assess the cost of achieving the outcome.

For every action there is always a cost and not just the monetary impact. There may be a 'cost' in terms of other opportunities you can't chose instead, or the 'cost' of no longer being able to do something you currently do. It is therefore important that when you set your goal or outcome you assess all the 'costs' involved and determine that the benefit is reasonable enough to outweigh the cost impact. For example, leaving your current employment to set up your own business will mean a lot of time spent working on your own. If working in a team is something you value you would need to consider if this cost outweighs the benefit of being self-employed. If you are concerned it will not, think of ways you can overcome this.

Always ask yourself –what are the costs of my goal and am I willing to pay this cost?

(7) Determine what benefit there might be of staying in your present state.

The fact that you have not achieved your goal or outcome already, may reflect the fact that your present state is meeting some need or benefit, one which you may not have consciously recognised. Always stop to consider what needs are being met by staying in the current state and determine if these needs can be met in another way. For example, having a regular full time job may be meeting your need to always feel financially secure. Working for yourself may reduce this security. If this was the case you would need to determine if losing this security is something you could do without and if not, determine if there is a way round it.

Ask yourself – why have I not already achieved my desired outcome?

(8) Identify the first step

Before any outcome or goal can be successful you have to take that first step. Make sure you identify what that first step is and what you have to do to achieve it. Plan how and when and get it in the diary! Commit to powerful action - don't procrastinate and put off what you can do today.

A goal without a plan is a dream! A plan without a goal is a nightmare!

(9) Assess the impact of moving towards your goal or outcome.

Achieving your goal or outcome is unlikely to happen in isolation with no impact on other parts of your life and the systems you follow and live by. Make sure you consider what these might be and assess the impact. What effect do you want your goal or outcome to have on the systems within which you operate? Will they allow you to contribute positively to these systems?

Finally, check your outcomes with the kind of person you are or want to become. If they don't fit find ones that do!

For more information on how to set compelling outcomes contact us.