Using NLP To Get More of What You Want
Perhaps the most important element in NLP is the outcome principle.
Sometimes the importance of this principle is more obvious when you look at it in a negative formation: “If you don’t know what you want, you’ll likely never get it – and how would you know if you did?” versus knowing what you do want – which is the key to satisfaction, and the starting place in NLP.
In other words, if you don’t have an outcome for what you are doing, whatever you are doing is not NLP – so don’t expect anything wonderful.
And a valid outcome can be as simple as discovering or learning or satisfying your curiosity. For instance, when you are first learning about something new, discovering what it can do for you is a perfectly legitimate and highly appropriate place to start.
So before you use the following process to clarify and motivate you in other important areas, you may want to experiment and practice just using the outcome “finding out what NLP can do for me.”
Then you’ll be practiced and prepared to easily enjoy the results you’ll get using it in other areas of your life!
21 Knowing What You Want
(excepted from “Heart of the Mind” by Connirae and Steve Andreas)
The previous chapters in this book are filled with examples of people who were able to get more of what they wanted with NLP. Knowing what you want is equally important.
Even more important is being sure that you want something that is worth having, so that you are satisfied when you actually get it. You may find it very useful to go through the series of questions below to assist yourself in developing personal goals or “outcomes” that are worth having, and that will fit with the person you want to be.
Step 1. Select a Goal.
First, ask yourself, What do I want? Pick one goal or desire. If you think of several goals, are they alike in some way? For example, if you want to be able to motivate yourself to clean your house, to get your reports done on time, and to finish some task, these all relate to being motivated If you think of several goals that aren’t alike, pick any one of them to begin.
NLP has discovered that the way you think about your goal makes a big difference. You can think of the same goal in a way that makes it easy to achieve, or in a way that makes it almost impossible. The next questions are to make sure you are thinking of your goal in ways that will make its
Checkpoint A. Make sure your goal is stated in terms of what you DO want, not what you don’t want For example, if my goal is “I want my child to quit whining,” or “I want to stop feeling bad when my plans fall through,” or “I don’t want to eat so much between meals,” I am thinking of what I don’t want.
You can easily turn this into what you do want instead “I want my child to ask for what he wants in a pleasant tone of voice.” “When my plans fall through, I want to feel challenged-as if I have an opportunity. “I want to eat only vegetables between meals, and to eat a full, balanced meal three times a day.”
When people think about what they don’t want, or what they want to avoid, they often produce that in their lives, because that is where their minds are focused. Changing your thinking to what you do want is a simple shift that can make a tremendous difference.
Checkpoint B. Make sure your goal is stated in a way that you can get it yourself, no matter what other people do. If your goals require other people to make changes, even if those changes would be a good idea, it places you in a more vulnerable and helpless position. You won’t be able to get what you want unless you can get other people to shift their behavior. While we all want things from other people, it’s important that we are able to get our primary goals ourselves, no matter what other people do.
This may sound impossible at first, so let’s go through several examples. It can make tremendous difference in experiencing our own abilities and strength. Let’s say my goal is “I want my husband to quit criticizing me.” Since this requires my husband to change, it is not something within my control. Having this as a major goal puts me in a vulnerable position.
“What can I do/have/experience that will give me what I want, no matter what my husband does?” Perhaps I want to have a sense of my own worth even when my husband criticizes me. Perhaps I want to feel resourceful when my husband criticizes me, and to be able to sort out what parts of his criticism I agree with and what parts I disagree with. (See chapter 6) This puts me in a more powerful position, because I can get what I want even if my husband continues to criticize me.
Now let’s take another example. Let’s say my problem is, “My girlfriend broke up with me and I want her back.” Since I don’t have control over whether she comes back, I can ask myself “What would having her back do for me?” Perhaps my relationship with her was the best I’ve ever had. She brought out my sense of humor, I liked having the warm connection to another person, and I felt more worthwhile.
Now I have a list of goals that are under my own control. I can find other ways to develop my sense of humor. I can get better at developing warm connections with people in my life, and I can find ways to feel worthwhile. I can do all of these things whether my girlfriend comes back or not.
Step 2. Know the Evidence for Your Goal.
`How will you know when you have achieved your goal?” Some people have no way of knowing if they’ve reached their goals. This means they never get to feel satisfied by achieving something. In addition, they don’t have ways to measure whether their day-to-day behavior is taking them closer or farther away from their goal. For example, my goal might be, “I want to be more successful.” If I don’t have any evidence for what “successful” means, I may work at being successful all my life and even achieve a great deal, without ever feeling any fulfillment. You can define success as getting someone to smile, getting a job, or anything else specific.
Checkpoint. Does the evidence relate closely to the goal? Make sure your evidence provides you with good, realistic feedback about whether you are reaching your goal. Let’s say my goal is to be an effective teacher, and my evidence for effectiveness is that I feel good at the end of the day. Feeling good at the end of the day is nice, but doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with being an effective teacher. Better evidence is that I can observe the students in my class doing much better at a variety of tasks than they did when they started.
Let’s take another example. Let’s say my goal is to be an effective parent, and I feel that I am a good parent when my children tell me I am doing a good job. Again, this is far from the best evidence for me to use. If I want my children to tell me I’m great, I am likely to be too lenient as a parent, and not take charge in ways that would be better for my children in the long run. Again, better evidence is to watch and listen for their progress and development.
Step 3. Select Where, When, and With Whom You Want Your Goal.
It’s very important to think about when you do and don’t want your goal. For example, if your goal is “to feel confident,” do you want to feel confident all the time? Do you want to feel confident about flying an airplane if you’ve had no flight training? You probably don’t want to feel confident about walking a tightrope 100 feet above the ground unless you can actually do it. Where, when, and with whom do you want to feel
confident? Perhaps you want to feel confident only when you have the skills and training to make confidence appropriate. When you don’t already have skills, you may want a different feeling, such as “caution,” “curiosity,” or “knowing I can use my mistakes to improve my skill.”
It will be much easier for you to achieve your goal if you are very careful about deciding where and when it is appropriate. When a person tries to feel confident without having any skills, they usually don’t succeed.
Checkpoint. Be specific. “What will you see, hear, or feel that will let you know it is time to have your goal?” For example, “When I see my husband doing X, I want to feel compassionate.”
Step 4. Check for Obstacles.
“What stops you from already having your desired goal?” Perhaps nothing stops you. If so, you can go on right to Step 5. However, sometimes another goal conflicts with the goal you want to achieve. When this is true, it is important to find a way to reach both goals. Usually two goals that seem in conflict can actually support each other. If not, they can usually be scheduled so they don’t conflict. See chapters 8 and 13 for methods that can help you resolve conflict.
Step 5. Find Existing Resources.
“What resources do you already have that will assist you in reaching your goal?” If your goal is to feel a sense of self-worth, knowing when you already feel that way can give you a lot of information about how to achieve it. If your goal is to be able to speak in public, what parts of that goal can you already do? You can probably already speak, stand up, and look out at the audience, etc. Realizing how much you can already do provides a positive sense of accomplishment and a solid basis for learning the additional skills you need.
Step 6. Additional Resources.
“What other resources or skills do you need in order to reach your goal?” Knowing what parts you can already do makes it easier to zero in on the parts that you need to learn. Perhaps you need to access a feeling of confidence when you’re being observed speaking in public. Perhaps you need a way to keep track of an outline of what you plan to do, or ways to respond to the audience more warmly.
Step 7. Make a Plan.
“How are you going to get to your goal?” “What will be your firststep?” Some simple goals can be achieved immediately, but more often it will take a number of steps, and some time, to achieve them.
Checkpoint A. Make sure the first step is specific and achievable. If your goal is “I want to weigh 125 pounds,” ask yourself, “What will be my first step toward accomplishing this? What can I do now that will take me in that direction, and what feedback will let me know I am moving toward my goal?” We call this “chunking down.” If your goal seems overwhelming, “chunking down” to a first step can make it manageable or even easy.
Checkpoint B. You may have found that just going through this selfquestioning process has helped you zero in on exactly what you need to do to reach a worthwhile goal for yourself. Part of your plan may be utilizing some of the methods in this book to assist you in reaching your goal. However, if you have gone through all the previous steps, yet still find yourself well short of your goal, the next section may be useful and important for you.
What Do You REALLY Want?
Sometimes we pick goals that are almost guaranteed not to happen. For example, Some people have the goal of never making any mistakes. Others would like everyone in the world to compliment them or love them. Some have to be the absolute best at some sport or the richest person in the world.
Even if it is possible to achieve these goals, the effort and sacrifice required may make them not worth attaining. Many people find that if they do achieve these kinds of goals, they still aren’t satisfied-the goal they pursued wasn’t what they really wanted. Knowing what we really want can help us have much more flexibility in obtaining it more easily.
If we start by picking “unrealistic goals” such as these, we don’t need to just abandon them. Instead, we can discover the “goal of the goal.” We can ask ourselves the important question, “What will this goal get for me?” This can lead to having more basic and worthwhile goals, and to moving towards them more directly.
For example, Frank’s goal was to gain acceptance from other people. He felt a strong desire for this and hadn’t been very successful in getting it. Most of us want to have good relationships with others. However, Frank wanted to gain acceptance so that he could then feel good about himself. He was focused on the goal of “gaining acceptance.” The goal of this goal was to “feel good about myself.” Frank hadn’t realized that feeling good about yourself is really a separate goal. In fact, it’s much easier to gain
acceptance from others by starting with feeling good about yourself. By shifting goals from “gaining acceptance from others” to “realizing my own self-worth,” we shift to something more attainable and more worthwhile.
Some famous people-movie stars, etc.-go through the great effort (and sometimes personal compromise) of becoming famous because they think it will get them what they want. Yet movie stars seem to be one of the most unhappy groups of people in our culture. Fame didn’t get them what they really wanted. Usually when people are driven to gain vast sums of money, power, fame, etc., it has to do with believing that if we get these things, then we will feel worthwhile, or loved, or something else very basic. When we identify this basic goal, we can find ways to have it that are more direct-without going through the effort of achieving another goal that may not really be relevant.
If your goal is to get a certain job, this could be a way for you to achieve many personal goals. You may want this job because you find the work enjoyable, or it might be a way for you to accomplish something worthwhile. This job might give you financial independence, or allow you to be around a certain kind of people. Your “goal of the goal” for this job could be to continually learn more, or to be creative. Many different kinds of jobs can provide enjoyment, accomplishment, financial independence, learning, creativity, or whatever your goal of the goal is.
For example, let’s say you want to be a professional basketball star, but you’re only 4’8″ tall. That is a serious practical obstacle to being successful at basketball. However, when you ask “What would being a professional basketball player do for me?” you may realize that what you really want is to have a job where others respect you, and you can make money. There are literally thousands of jobs that will bring you money and respect, yet don’t require you to be seven feet tall. When you focus on what you really want, you have many more possibilities for success. –
It may be even more useful to go a step farther. If you want money and respect, you can again ask yourself, “What will money and respect do for me that’s positive?” “What do I really want by having money and respect?” Most people want at least enough money to enjoy a comfortable life. Most of us also want to be respected. However, when goals such as money and success consume someone’s life, it’s usually because a person thinks that money and success are ways to get something more essential. By asking ourselves, “What will getting that do for me?” we often find that it is something like being loved, feeling worthwhile or OK, feeling safe, or survival. Essential goals or outcomes like these are important enough that they are worth going for more directly.
Sometimes you need to ask “And what would that really do for me?” several times before you get to a core goal. For example, getting a particular job could be a way to be successful. Being successful could be a way to gain the respect of others. If we go one step further, the “goal” of gaining respect from others could be to feel OK as a person.
Getting a job could be a way to avoid taking any responsibility. “I want to just do what I am told.” The positive purpose of this, or the “goal of this goal” might be to “feel safe.” “If I don’t have to make any decisions, I feel safe.”
Once we know the core goal of safety, or of feeling OK as a person, we have much more flexibility in attaining the goal. It might be that we will really be safer if we make some decisions. It might be that we can feel OK about ourselves more easily without trying to gain the respect from others first. When we know what we really want, we’re much more likely to get it. Take one of your goals now, and ask yourself, “What will having this do or get for me that’s positive?” Take the time to get down to what’s really important to you.
Ways to Get More from NLP:
Individual Sessions and Workshops
If you still feel stuck after exploring what you really want, you may want to consider consulting someone well-trained in NLP to help you discover what you want and how to achieve it. Sometimes it can be much easier to achieve our personal goals or outcomes with the assistance of someone with more experience in these methods. While some of our readers have written to tell us of the valuable changes they made on their own, others find it much easier to experience results personally when they are being guided by someone else. This can happen in a seminar, in an atmosphere of assistance from the trainer and other participants, or through private sessions. Everyone responds somewhat differently, and part of using NLP skillfully is being sensitive to those differences and dealing with them. There are many subtleties to doing NLP well, and many adaptations that a skilled NLP trainer or practitioner will be able to make with any particular method so that it fits for each unique person.
If you are considering a workshop or private work to get more benefits for yourself, we’d like to suggest some guidelines so that you get the most for your investment of time and money. The field of NLP currently has no universal standards or licensing procedures, and quality varies dramatically from person to person, and from one center to another. Here are some ways you can gather information before making an investment:
1. Does your therapist or change agent spend lots of time gathering information about what has gone wrong in the past? While some of this can be useful, devoting a lot of time to gathering information about what went wrong will seldom lead to solutions. What leads to solutions is finding out how you or other people solve similar difficulties. Effective NLP practitioners will spend much more time gathering information about your positive goals and your personal abilities and resources.
2. Are you moving toward your goal or outcome? Some goals are typically achieved in one session by NLP practitioners, while others take more time. Even with goals that take more time, clients typically experience some movement in the desired direction within the first two or three sessions. If you don’t, it may be time to work with another therapist or change agent. Even if you are working with a skilled person, they may be missing something, or your goal may lie outside their area of expertise. Noticing movement towards your goals is the single most important criterion to use.
3. Does your therapist or change agent give you labels telling you what is wrong with you, rather than spending time helping you get what you want? This is a sign that another person may be a better investment for you. Diagnostic labels are not solutions; they usually provide little or no direction for you-or the practitioner-to know what to do to help you get what you want.
4. Make a distinction between feeling good or feeling understood by the therapist, and whether you are getting the changes you want in your life. Ideally you can have both in a counselor. However, some warm and wonderful people do not have the skills to help you get the results you want. If you have a wonderful therapist but you aren’t getting your desired changes, we suggest you try someone else.
If you’re interested in a seminar or workshop, here are some brief recommendations to help you select training that will offer you the most.
1. Get Personal Experience of the Trainer. This can happen through attending a free preview, or through a videotape or audiotape. Trust your first-hand experience more than brochure quotes, endorsements, certificates, or degrees.
2. Staying Power. Does the trainer have a good track record for repeat seminars over a period of time? Those who have both personal integrity and ability (rather than just flash and charisma) can get results that satisfy people over time.
3. Information vs. Demonstrations. In a good training, you will get live demonstrations of the methods being taught, not just words describing methods or results.
4. Exercises. After demonstrating, does the trainer provide you with carefully-designed exercises that allow you to immediately practice new skills? Observation and practice are what will make new skills a part of you.
5. Evidence. Do you learn how to know whether what you’ve learned is working? A good trainer will teach you what nonverbal signs to watch and listen for.
6. Personal Integrity. Does the trainer act in ways that are congruent with what is being taught? Here are some of the qualities we look for in trainers:
a. An effective trainer will presuppose that anyone can learn-it’s matter of finding a way for each person to learn most easily. If a trainer acts like a “guru” who wants to razzle-dazzle you, watch out. Participants usually learn less from this kind of training (even though they’re sometimes impressed more!).
b. A good trainer will respect and honor questions and objections from participants.
c. A good trainer will follow through on any promises she makes to participants.
d. Effective trainers can easily admit mistakes and will welcome suggestions to improve the training.
7. Skill. This may be difficult to detect before going through a lot of NLP training, but is very important. Some checks are: Can the trainer demonstrate getting results? Do you observe nonverbal shifts in the demonstration client? Do you notice your own skill improving, or does the trainer just say “Your unconscious is getting it,” or “You feel confused now, but six months from now you’ll notice the difference.” Insist on observable results.
8. Sense of Humor. The single best aid to learning is a sense of humor-the kind that is infectious, laughing with others or at the human condition, not at anyone’s expense. If you find a trainer who has this along with the other qualities we’ve listed, you’ve found someone you’re likely to be pleased with.
These seminar recommendations are condensed from a more complete article, “A Consumer’s Guide to Good Training,” which is available free on our website.
Reprinted with permission from “Heart of the Mind” by Connirae and Steve Andreas, (c) 1989 Real People Press Moab, Utah