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What Do You REALLY Want? 9 Steps to Achieving Better Outcomes

July 8, 2010

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where -” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat

Working with seminar participants and coaching clients, we often find this question – what do you really want? –  can be the hardest to answer.

It’s not uncommon for people to respond to that question by describing what they don’t want. That’s fine; sometimes we help to refine what we want by being clear on what we don’t want.

The problem with this common approach is that it keeps us in the “problem state.” The problem state is essentially the place we want to get away from, and as such, it carries with it all the emotional, physiological and mental “stuff” that burdens us.

This post is about how we approach, plan and pursue what it is we REALLY do want.  Apart from getting at the kind of details and specificity that can make a big difference in our course of action – this process is also about how you use your energy to get there. 

Doing this process, also helps to reveal more about how your mindset actually works – especially in pursuit of moving towards what you want.   Essentially, we are either moving towards something or moving away from it.

Even the words you use to describe your experience have a moving towards or moving away quality to them. Your beliefs, values, attitudes, assumptions, expectations and feelings make up your mindset.

Moving away thinking “I don’t want to work so far from my home any more,” has a past orientation. It places your mindset in the “I don’t want to be here or do this” mode – not a very resourceful state. The emotions typically associated with moving away thinking – impatience, frustration, annoyance, resignation can keep us anchored in apathy and procrastination.

On the other hand, moving towards thinking can have a completely different energetic feel.  We start thinking new, fresh, opportunity, possibility feelings – optimism, enthusiasm, curiosity and confidence to name a few.

Asking yourself the question what is it that I really want – gets you closer to deeper levels of motivation – your emotions and your needs. Behind everything we do – is a need. The more we know and understand the needs that drive us – the better able we are to satisfy them

Beyond Goal Setting

Planning and goal setting can be positive things to do (they can also set us up in a trap of self-sabotage). The question is how we do it.

One reason so many of our goals don’t come to fruition is because we have stated them far too ambiguously at the onset.  Another reason is that we don’t plan the incremental steps necessary to take actions in doable behaviors. We bite off – far more – than we can chew.

To achieve our goals and realize our outcomes, we need to harness and mobilize our resources – internal and external – to succeed.

We’ve used versions of the following model personally and with thousands of clients working on a range of issues.  The process of this model evolves throughout the series of steps, accumulating knowledge and experience as a result.  But you can also use many of the steps individually to highlight a particular area you may want to develop.

For example – Step #2 – How Much Control or Influence Do I Have? – is a powerful stand-alone question, applicable to many situations.  It is also common for people to go through this process and discover that they must refine Step #1. This is a good thing. The more specificity you bring to Step #1 – the better the process works.

Too many of us stay stuck in unproductive circumstances, relationships and emotional patterns because we do not have a clear assessment of our actual or real control in a situation.

Many of the conflicts (internal and external) that people have, especially in the workplace, are mired in the erroneous belief that through will or wit they can change events and people around them to suit their outcomes.

The 9 Step Outcome Model  

You can apply this process to anything you would like to change, develop or achieve. Keep in mind – it is a process, not a magic formula.  Like all change or developmental processes, it takes time, patience and consistency.  We find it really helps to write your responses.

  1. State your desired outcome in positive and specific language.  Use “I” statements.  (If you use statements like “I don’t want to be alone,” your mind will first form an image (usually your least desired) of – being alone. Avoid using should, won’t, can’t, not, must, etc, words.)
  2. How much control or influence do I have in achieving my outcome? (How dependent am I on other’s actions to achieve my outcome? What are my beliefs about what I think I control and what I do not?)
  3. What needs would be satisfied by achieving this outcome? (Most of us are not experienced in identifying and working with our needs, yet needs are the main drivers of our motivations. Getting more familiar with your needs is really important and will support  you in this process)
  4. Start identifying bite-size steps and stages in this process beginning with the first step you’ll take and when you will take it. (The “bite” size has to be small enough to be doable yet big enough to be compelling)
  5. State in sensory-specific words:  When, where and with who (if appropriate) do I want to achieve my outcome? (Learning to use your visual, auditory and kinesthetic senses is an important part of this process.  Many of us are not in touch (a good example of kinesthetic language) with our sensory experiences in ways that directly relate to our feelings (and intuition).  We also have olfactory (our oldest and first developed sense) and gustatory senses, but most of us don’t use them as our “primary” channels.
  6. What will I have to see, hear and feel to let me know that I have achieved my outcome? (This is your “evidence” question. Also, it strengthens your imagery skills and requires you to visualize (and or hear/feel) a realized outcome in a positive future state.  To be most effective, infuse your descriptions and imagery with emotion. 
  7. What resources do I have or need to help me achieve my outcome? (These resources are both internal (persistence, patience) and external (a supportive co-worker). Load up your description with as many resources as you can think of. This step helps you to learn to recognize and allocate your assets with greater ease. )
  8. What might be the outcome of getting your outcome? Everything we do has implications.  (Though you can’t foresee what they all might be, this question helps you to imagine how achieving your desired outcome will fit within the larger context of your life. Will it mesh with your values?  How will others be affected?)
  9. What might stop me from achieving my outcome?  (Some people think this step should be at the beginning of the process. If that works for you, put it there.  Our experience is that it is an excellent end point. There may be real external factors that can impede your progress and it is valuable to factor that into the equation.  Most of the time, we find that the biggest obstacles we face in achieving our outcomes come from within. That inner critic, an unexamined or unsupportive belief, emotional habits, etc are the primarily blockers to explore.)

Identifying, planning and implementing the behavioral (mental and emotional) steps to achieving our goals is referred to in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) as a well-formed outcome.  When you engage this process you will begin to experience multiple benefits as a result:  

  • You’ll begin to see, hear and feel things with much more clarity and detail
  • Your attention will become more focused and responsive to your conscious control
  • You’ll be more aware of the language you use to describe your experience and express yourself
  • You will begin to create a more active channel to your intuition, activating it with more frequency and trusting it as a source of guidance (think of it as your internal GPS)

So – what are you waiting for?  Grab a pen (writing longhand accesses different channels of info in your brain than typing) and get started.  Let’s see what was that first question?  What is it that you REALLY want?

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, subscribe, share, like and tweet this article. It’s appreciated.

Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants

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