Introducing NLP What Do You Want and Where Are You Going? Outcomes 1: Purpose, Direction and Milestones by Caitlin Collins
oal-setting is a dangerous business. It’s not for nothing there’s a saying, be careful about what you ask for – you might get it! For a start, the very concept of setting goals can be overly action-oriented. As sages and artists will affirm, both wisdom and creativity arise from stillness and spaciousness; it’s very useful to know how to do nothing! The busy go-getter who rushes about without thinking things through can be a menace. Context matters. Actions don’t happen in a vacuum; everything we do has an effect on and is affected by the interdependent web of life. If we treat our goals as isolated incidents we make things difficult for ourselves – and for others, if we don’t take their needs into account. Expanding our awareness and sensitivity to take a more holistic approach can enable us to be more effective on many levels. In NLP terms, the ability to set ‘well-formed’ outcomes is a key to success. It includes thinking small scale and large scale: knowing what you want and where you’re going regarding the immediate task of the moment and also your larger purposes. It also includes considering what in NLP is happily termed ‘ecology’, meaning the possible consequences for you and others both now and in the long term. Identifying your larger purpose, your general direction and your specific milestones can be of great help in skilful goalsetting. First, take a moment to reflect on this question: ‘What would you do, if you really believed you could...?’ How you answer will tell you a lot about your values and also the scope of your vision. Some people go straight for world peace; others for personal comfort; some
Summer 2008 - rapport
just want to tidy their office – and some go temporarily blank at the radical possibility of being free to imagine what they want! This simple exercise introduces us to what in NLP is called ‘chunking’, meaning how you
size your aims. If world peace is a pretty big undertaking, tidying your office is relatively small. However, sorting out your office may be too mammoth a task to contemplate, while tidying one drawer of the filing cabinet could be manageable. If you identify your Purpose as your larger intention, something that expresses your values, then your Direction will fall into
alignment with that, and your Milestones will be the smaller chunks or stages of your journey. For example, your Purpose may be to do good in the world. A specific instance of that purpose may be to set up a charity to take care of homeless children. Now, is what you’re doing taking you towards fulfilling your purpose, or away from it? Allowing your purpose to draw you towards it will establish your Direction; just getting up in the morning becomes a step on the path! Your Milestones or markers along the way can also be big or small: housing all the homeless children in the world is a mega milestone; sorting out your office so you can manage your correspondence efficiently is a smaller one. It’s important to spot markers along the road so you have somewhere close enough to reach before nightfall and also so you can appreciate the distance you’ve travelled. Identifying a purpose is like aligning yourself with a giant magnet. If you are too rigidly prescriptive about specific goals, you can become discouraged by set-backs: having an overall purpose and direction allows you to be flexible, creative and resilient, so you remain open to taking other routes or means of transport where necessary. We’ll be heading further along the road of setting outcomes and exploring many other areas in future issues of Rapport, looking at topics en route such as planning, values and beliefs, emotional resources, modelling, motivation, success criteria, chunking and much, much more! Next time we’ll be applying a handy little NLP acronym to setting well-formed outcomes: if your goals are PURE – Positive, Under your control, the Right size, and Ecological – you’ll be well on the way!