In this final part of this 4-part series of posts we look at the problem of focussing on the past when trying to transition to the future. We have previously looked at values and beliefs, procrastination and the false perception of limited choice. In this post we’ll look at ways of developing a future-orientated outcome and path to that future.
The very early developers of NLP focused on finding out why some people were more successful than others. It became clear that a key difference was the way successful people think about their goals and the outcomes they wanted to achieve in their lives. This evolved in to a concept called ‘Well-Formed Outcomes’ and recognised that some people had an ability to create goals that were innately compelling and self-motivating. This is of course critical to any life transition and we suggest that if you don’t know where you want to get to then you definitely won’t get there. This is a way of thinking that you will find invaluable when considering any change or transition.
Many people tend to focus on what they don’t want rather than what they want to happen. This is for two simple reasons:
1 – They tend to focus on what they don’t want and consequently keep getting it so that is where their focus remains.
2 – They don’t have a compelling enough alternative to what they already have.
The first step in transition is to work out what you want to have, i.e., what you want to move towards, rather than what you want to move away from. As soon as you focus on that your unconscious mind starts to focus in a different way. It starts to move you towards the desired future and notice the many ways that you could move steadily towards the new you.
To understand the concept of the Well-Formed Outcome it’s worth trying it out in practice. Think about an outcome you want in the future and ask yourself the following questions:
What do you want? (Stated in the Positive)
If what you want is stated in the negative, e.g. “I want to be less terrified when presenting”, then ask the supplementary question, “What would that be like?” to get to a positive statement. e.g. “I would enjoy presenting confidently.” So now your goal might become, “I want to be an increasingly confident presenter, able to communicate effectively to my team and clients”. That’s a little more motivating isn’t it?
Can you start and maintain it?
If what you want is for someone else to change, for example, “I want my partner to appreciate me more”, progress depends on the other person. In this case, to make the want your own, it could be expressed something like: “I want to communicate better with my partner so we have a better understanding of how to appreciate each other”. Remember that the only thing we can really change is ourselves but we can influence others through the changes we make. Make sure your outcome is under your control and make sure it’s actually yours.
How will you know that you have it?
Eddie Izzard in a recent BBC profile recalled after a particular early experience of a public failure that:
“You’ve got to believe you can be a stand-up before you can be a stand-up. You have to believe you can act before you can be an actor. You have to believe you can be an astronaut before you can be an astronaut. You’ve got to believe. You’ve got to imagine yourself in that situation.”
Eddie Izzard is a fine example of someone who overcame many obstacles to become the success he is today by keeping the image and future experience of that future success in his mind. It is what successful people do and it is what keeps successful people on track and motivated.
So what will be life be like when you have achieved your goal? What will you be seeing when you’ve got it? What will you be hearing when you’ve got it? What will I hear you saying when you’ve got it? What will you be feeling when you’ve got it?
If you can really see, hear and feel the outcome inside yourself, it starts to become more real.
When, where and with whom do you want it?
You might not want your outcome in every context. For example you might want to be more assertive but not all the time otherwise that might rub some people up the wrong way. Be clear about when and where you want something so you can be sure that you will have your outcome when most appropriate.
Is it worth the cost to you?
When you set your outcome, check that it relates to your current sense of self or the person you want to become. The closer it relates to your identity and sense of purpose, the more the outcome will attract you and motivate you. It’s not all about time and money. Make sure it fits not just what you are capable of but what you want to become.
What might I lose if I achieve my outcome or what do I get out of my present behaviour that I want to preserve?
One of the major reasons we often do not get what we want is that we fear the loss of what we already have. Where we are now is something that feels comfortable and familiar to us even if it gets in the way of our long-term goals. It is known and understood. Changing things can present uncertainties that we can feel less comfortable with. What do you want to keep whilst still reaching your long-term goal? For more on the reasons why we often get in our own way when trying to make a change see the post: Breaking habits, keeping the benefits.
For more on the concept of Well-Formed Outcomes see the next post: What’s more important, the Goal or How you Get There?
If you find that you have repeated unwanted behaviour or habits that get in the way of transition you might find the following post helpful: Breaking habits, keeping the benefits.
And if you’re finding yourself really stuck then you might want to take a look at ‘How people really change‘.
That’s it for this series on transition. We hope you’ve found it useful. For the other parts of the series see:
- Transition – Part 1: Following someone else’s agenda
- Transition – Part 2: Procrastination
- Transition – Part 3: The Perception of Limited Choice
Find out more about making effective transitions in life on our popular NLP Diploma programme.
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