Creating Compelling Goals:

How to Get What You Want

by Paul Jacobs & Dee Shipman

“What do you want” is one of the most basic questions you can ask yourself. It may even be the ultimate question. Everything you do has a purpose, whether you are aware of it or not. Being clear about what you want in the short term, then making it real, is the key to taking control of your life.

Many people mistake tasks for outcomes. Tasks are what you do to achieve outcomes. You may or may not enjoy them. When you know they are getting what you want you can bring more energy to them and enjoy them more. An outcome is what you want, something positive you move towards, not what you don't want - something you move away from. Journeys must have a destination. “Anywhere other than here” is not a useful direction. You could finish worse off than at present.

In his excellent book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Steven Covey introduced the concept of “Begin With The End In Mind”. That is, begin with a clear understanding of what you wish to create. Visualise your mission, and ultimate goals. Our experience of modelling people who achieve things is that they actually “act as if” they have already achieved the goal, and then see how they got there from looking back from the future to the now.

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming ) is the study of the structure of subjective experience, and modelling excellence. In other words, everything we do has first been thought of; all thinking has a structure. Therefore this structure can be changed, or taught to someone else. Find out how someone does what they do well, and map their structure, their strategy, across to yourself.

  1. "What do you want?"
  2. "How will you know when you’ve got it?"
  3. “How did you achieve it?”

1. What do you want?

"What do you want?" is probably the most well-known ‘NLP question’. It takes advantage of the fact that we are ‘goal-seeking’ ie. we operate most effectively when we have a goal or objective of some sort to aim for, so…

You can’t do a don’t. Is your answer stated in the positive (eg. to get fit & healthy, to double your income, to start a new business etc.) or in the negative (eg. to quit smoking, lose weight, stop spending so much etc.)? Negatives aren’t processed by the mind in the same way that they are verbally (eg. The command "Don’t think of a purple kangaroo" is difficult to obey.) You get what you focus on, so if your goal is stated in the negative, that’s what you’ll get!

If you constantly and regularly focus your attention on a particular thing, you tend to get more of it in your life. If you look for problems, you will find plenty of them. If you spend a lot of time in contemplation of your own failures, you will always have plenty to occupy your thoughts. Current research shows we have some 60,000-90,000 thoughts a day. Attributing blame for some past disaster is rarely useful.

NLP has a practical technique of outcome thinking in terms of a solution frame, rather than a problem frame which is a practical, robust tool you can use to lever yourself out of the rut of problem-centred thinking. Instead of "What's wrong?", you start from a different point by asking "What is it I really want?"

"Begin with the end in mind"

2. How will you know when you’ve got it?

Paul once had a client whose goal was to become rich. He says “I asked him how he’d know when he was rich and he said he’d have more money. So I tossed a pound coin to him and said "Congratulations, you’re rich." ‘More money’ did not turn out to be specific enough evidence for him having achieved his goal, so we went into the detail of what he would see, hear and feel when he was rich. This gave his mind a detailed representation of what success was for this particular goal.

So, with regard to your goal… What will you see, hear and feel as you are achieving your goal? What specific details will let you know that you are getting what you want? The more sensory detail you include, the more information you will give to your mind, your unconscious, about what to aim for.

3. How did you achieve it? Act AS IF

Once you have clear evidence (ie. how you’ll know when you’ve achieved your goal), you can engage your unconscious resources more fully by getting your body more involved. Stand up and ensure you’ve got enough space to move safely, then…

Imagine you are going to step in to that time in the future when you already have what you want, then literally take a step & imagine you can see what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear & feel what you’ll feel when you are achieving your goal.

Now step into the future. Act AS IF you already have achieved your goal and look back to past and notice how you got here. Notice how easily you can call on your creative unconscious mind to establish how you got here by assuming you already have achieved your goal.

Mind and body are a single system. Mind and body are a single system, and people often find that the process of stepping into a future achievement has a profound effect, allowing us to experience learnings and insights which may not previously have been consciously available. Often, the people most sceptical of this approach have the most powerful experiences, so if you are dubious about whether this will work for you, great – do it anyway and see what happens!


1. Use "What do you want?" with yourself & others to elicit goals. If goals are stated negatively, re-state them in the positive. Ask what do you want instead?

2. Use "How will you know when you’ve got it?" to elicit evidence. Ensure you have answers for "What will you see, hear and feel?"

3. Step into your imagined future achievement to get further insights and notice how you got there.

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius power and magic in it" – Goethe

Paul & Dee will be delighted to answer your specific questions. Please contact us. Details on our NLP training courses, 1-to-1 Life Coaching, Brown-Bag workshops etc, are all available on our website.

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