How to create desired outcomes in 7 easy steps

Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the creators of NLP defined a well-formed outcome in (1979) Frogs into Princes as follows:

“A Well-formed outcome is a term originating in Neuro-Linguistic Programming for an outcome one wishes to achieve, that meets certain conditions designed to avoid unintended costs or consequences and resistance to achieving the goal resulting from internal conflicting feelings or thoughts about the outcome. Thus, a high-quality outcome is more than a vague wish or goal. It is an objective or goal that is integrated with all aspects of one’s life (morals, ethics, relationships, finances, health, body, etc.) and has a process of accomplishment that respects and supports the current desirable circumstances in one’s life.


A high-quality outcome is (in a sense) consistent with forward-thinking action as well, or alternatively have been clearly and well enough defined to be prima facie free of common “muddy thinking”. By applying all of the well-formedness conditions to a goal or outcome, and adjusting the outcome specifications accordingly in the process, you create a Well-formed outcome.”

Do you have health and wellbeing goals?

  • Lose weight or maintain weight
  • Have more energy and feel alert all-day
  • Eat healthier and choose fresh and wholesome foods
  • Exercise more
  • Cut back on sugar or alcohol
  • Take time for self-care and looking after yourself
  • Feel supple and easy in your body

Would you like a process of creating goals that work?  A process that focuses on the desired outcomes? It’s all in the planning and thought process before taking the first step. It’s about addressing potential challenges and forming new habits.

Here are the steps:

  1. State the outcome in specific and positive terms
  2. Outcomes need to be within your control
  3. Include all five senses
  4. Access resources
  5. Hidden positive benefits
  6. Check the ecology
  7. Define the first step

1. State the outcome in specific and positive terms

It sounds obvious to set and state outcomes in positive terms however, we’ve seen lots of goals that focus on the things to avoid or stop doing.

Goals need to focus on what we want or desire hence the reason for creating desired outcomes.

As a coach, we often hear and see outcomes that describe aspects or things people actually want to avoid or we’ll see vague or woolly goals. I want to be slim or I want to lose weight or I want to be fitter.

Here are some examples of outcomes stated in the negative terms:

  • I don’t want to put on weight.
  • I don’t want to get lethargic.
  • I want to feel less energetic.
  • I don’t want to worry about the future.
  • I want to avoid junk foods…
  • I don’t want to be on my own…
  • I want to protect myself against illness and disease

All the above will result in our mind focusing on the negative aspects we want to move away from. Some of the above goals aren’t even within our control. You’ll spend more time thinking about all the things you want to avoid as the voice in your head keeps on repeating this outcome.

Why is this? It’s called the Reticular Activating System.

“The reticular activating system (RAS) is a network of neurons located in the brain stem that project anteriorly to the hypothalamus to mediate behaviour, as well as both posteriorly to the thalamus and directly to the cortex for activation of awake, desynchronized cortical EEG patterns”

So, remember when you are setting the outcome to focus on the positive results. The results you want more of.

  • I want to maintain my current weight or I want to lose 1 stone in weight.
  • I want to feel energetic
  • I will select fresh and wholesome foods
  • I will take control of all the aspects of health that are within my control by making the healthy choice (daily exercising, eating good nutritious fresh and wholesome foods, make time for self-care, relaxing and meditating etc.)

With big outcomes, you’ll need to break it down into steps however, beware of the outcomes that are too small as they may not be as satisfying when you reach them.

2. Outcomes need to be within your control

If your outcome relies on other people to do something or not do something then it’s not within your control.

Most of us are probably feeling there are lots of things out of our control at the moment. There are always factors beyond our control, the weather, the economy, mother nature and what other people do and think.

If your outcome relies on bigger aspects like the state of the economy, which political party is in power, the weather then you are making it really easy to have a bad day, week, month, or year!

  • I want my family to arrange more get-togethers or parties or days out
  • It would be nice if my friends to encourage and support my goals
  • I would like my partner to stop eating junk food too

Of course, some of your friends and hopefully your partner will support and encourage you to achieve your goals. However, you don’t have control over how others behave or their actions or how they feel or what they think.

Instead set actions you can take 100% responsibility:

  • I’m going to walk 10,000 steps every day
  • I am going to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day
  • I’m going to select fresh and whole foods
  • I will select and fill my shopping basket up with fresh and colourful vegetables

It’s empowering when you know you have control over the choices you make, you have control over your emotions and your general state. You choose on a daily basis whether you are going to be positive and happy or see the world or universe is working with you or against.

3. Include all your senses

If possible, you want to paint a colourful vision of your desired outcome. The only way to do this effectively is to use all of your senses. See what you see, hear what you hear and feel what you feel.

  • Visual – seeing
  • Auditory – hearing
  • Kinaesthetic – feeling and touch
  • Olfactory – the smell
  • Gustatory – taste

Imagine what it will look and feel like when you achieve your desired outcome. Make your vision as clear as possible. Attempt to describe your outcome once it’s achieved using all the senses above. See what you see, hear what you hear, feel how you feel!

4. Access Resources

You’ll be surprised how many resources you have to support your goals however, you need to consciously review what’s available to you.

What are the resources?

  • They might be internal resources such as commitment, determination, persistence, skills, knowledge and competencies etc.
  • They could be external resources such as money, time to study or train, contacts or equipment.

5. Hidden positive benefits

When we set outcomes, we are often changing one set of behaviours for new behaviours.

The reason we often don’t obtain our goals is that our current behaviour (or state) provides benefits that may be lost if we accomplish what we set out to do.

For example, if one of your goals is planning a weight loss programme or completing the Couch to 5K, then there could be positive benefits attached to your current behaviour – watching TV, an extra hour in bed, more time to spend with the family (rather than out running or to the gym) or socialising and eating and drinking out etc.

It’s a ‘positive by-product’ of your current state or behaviour. And, it’s a really good idea to be aware of these positive aspects to negative behaviour or state.

• Identify, address and acknowledge these potential hidden positive benefits.

You can then potentially factor these into your well-formed desired outcome. Or they may no longer be of benefit and you are happy to let it go. Which is a great discovery however, if you hadn’t done this exercise you wouldn’t know. And, this is one of the biggest failures of setting goals in isolation.

6. Check the Ecology

With any course of action, it’s ethical to check the ecology of the system or process.

Ecology refers to the consequences for the system (course of action) as a whole. Who will be impacted by the process, change of behaviour or the outcome?

Here are some questions to ask when you are checking the ecology:

• What will happen if you achieve this outcome?
• What won’t happen if you achieve this outcome?
• What will happen if you don’t achieve this outcome?
• What won’t happen if you don’t achieve this outcome?

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of achieving your outcomes.

It can also be beneficial to write up 5 to 10 reasons for setting well informed desired outcomes and the consequences of not achieving your outcomes. See the example below.

Reasons for losing weight or getting fitter:

1. More energy
2. Increased confidence
3. Positive self-esteem
4. Reduced illness (remember the outcome that you read every day and focus on achieving is always set in the positive).

Consequences of not achieving the outcomes:

1. Weight may increase
2. Increased risk of health complications (Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure etc.)
3. Short of breath and not able to be as active
4. Lack of confidence and low self-esteem.

7. Define the first step

Turning an outcome into reality requires action. Let’s make it really clear, wishful thinking alone will not move you forward. Small and consistent steps in the right direction are better than no steps at all.

Every day you have an opportunity to take positive actions towards your goal and achieve those desired outcomes.

This is the final part of creating a well-formed desired outcome but a really important part of the process. Again, be specific about what this first step looks like and make a commitment. Write up your desired outcome and read every day