Goals are the expression of our ambition and aspiration. Since we automatically set goals when we desire a certain outcome, it follows that goals are a powerful source of motivation. However, it is not always easy to achieve our goals successfully.
So, what is the critical ingredient that guarantees successful goal-achievement? How can we stop our goals from breaking down?
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a successful therapeutic model for rapid and effective behavior change. Goals are thus a fundamental feature of all NLP techniques, strategies, and interventions. In NLP terms: the conditions that surround goal setting have to be “well formed” to achieve an effective, ecological result.
First, let’s examine the meaning of ecology. The Law of Requisite Variety (systems theory) and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution deal with “ecology.” These theories suggest that the element of a system that is most flexible and able to adapt is the one that will survive and successfully evolve. In NLP terms: “personal ecology” refers to the harmony of all of the elements that make up the system within and around an individual. When we set goals, or the intention to make behavior changes, we often fail to consider the “ecological” impact of those changes with respect to the various systems of which we are members. These can include our family and social groups, the workplace, the environment, and political, economic, and organizational systems. Subconsciously, we may pursue a goal half-heartedly because we know the outcome may upset someone else.
To make sure that your goal is ecologically sound and well formed, start the process by answering the following questions truthfully, and then follow the guidelines below:
- Do you really want the outcome?
- Do you know how to get it?
- Are you prepared to give yourself a chance to get it?
- Do you believe that the desired outcome is possible?
State Your Goal In Positive Terms
It is not practically or logically possible to reach the negation of an experience. It is more constructive to design strategies that operate toward a positive outcome, rather than away from a negative one. An example would be:
- Incorrect: “I do not want to be so anxious anymore.”
- Correct: “I want to be more relaxed and confident.”
Test Your Goal In Sensory Experience
You have to be able to perceive and evaluate progress towards your goal as you attempt to achieve it. A sensory description of your goal gives you an explicit reference to evaluate ongoing progress and the end result to know whether you are successful. An example would be to create a mental image of the desired outcome, following the guidelines below:
- What do you see?
- What do you hear?
- What do you feel?
- What thoughts are you saying to yourself?
- What emotions are you experiencing?
- Where do you feel it in your body?
- How do others respond to you?
The Desired Outcome Has To Be Initiated And Maintained By You
One of the major goals of NLP is to put the client in control of the process of achieving the outcome. Bear in mind that flexibility of behavior is an important aspect of success. An example would be if you wanted your boss to consider you for a promotion:
- What would you do to get your boss to acknowledge your expectation?
- What resources do you have to persuade your boss that you are eligible for a promotion?
- What resources to you have to successfully handle the demands of the new job, should you get the promotion?
Preserve The Positive Intention Of Your Present State
When the positive intention of the behavior that needs to change is not explicitly accounted for in the desired outcome, people will often find substitute behaviors that may become just as problematic as the original behavior. For instance: the positive intention of fear may be self-protection, in which case you may want to thank your ‘fear part’ for protecting you and assure it of your safety, instead of ‘banning’ that emotion altogether. Also, be sure to define what you stand to lose, as well as gain, from the achievement of your goal.
Define The Context Within Which The Outcome Is Appropriate
If you state your outcome in the form of an “absolute” or “universal quantifier,” (all, always, everyone, everyday, etc.) you imply that the outcome is wanted in all contexts and under all circumstances. Be aware of the appropriateness of the desired outcome to specific times, persons, places, and activities, since the behavior you would like to change might be more appropriate in some situations than the desired behavior.
Take care to never eliminate responses or behavior, or simply substitute one behavior for another. Rather, follow the typical NLP practice of always increasing your behavior choices. This helps to ensure that the choices available to you are the best ones.
Best of luck with your goal-setting!
|Published in The Healing Springs Journal, Issue #18, February-March/05. The Healing Springs Journal is an independent publication committed to printing articles regarding the wellness of body, mind, spirit, and environment. The Healing Springs is distributed in the New York Capital District, Saranac Lake and everywhere in between.|