Since January I’ve been sharing techniques on creating career plans and sharing some insights on how to create well-formed desired outcomes.

There is a reason why most goals or New Year resolutions don’t succeed. There’s not much thought goes into the planning and thinking through of a goal and they end up being vague, unrealistic or there are just too many positive benefits to a person’s current situation.

Here are the steps to creating well-formed desired outcomes:

  • State the outcome in positive terms
  • Outcomes need to be within your control
  • Be as specific as possible
  • Include all five senses
  • Access resources
  • Hidden positive benefits
  • Check the ecology
  • Define the first step

State the outcome in positive terms

It sounds obvious to set and state outcomes in positive terms. Goals are always things that we want or desire. As a coach, we often hear and see goals that describe aspects or things our clients actually want to avoid. They are not focusing on the desired outcome.

Here are some examples of outcomes stated in the negative terms: 

I don’t want to…

  • …get into debt
  • …get nervous before an interview
  • …be rejected
  • …worry about the future
  • …eat junk foods
  • …end up on my own and be lonely

All the above will result in our minds just focusing on the negative aspects we want to move away from, debt, junk food, being nervous etc.

You’ll spend more time thinking about all the things you want to avoid as the voice in your head keeps on repeating these goals. Some of the above examples aren’t even within our control.

So, remember when you are setting the outcome to focus on the positive results. The results you want more of.

For example, I don’t want to feel nervous before an interview becomes I will feel confident before an interview.

Outcomes need to be within your control

If your outcome relies on other people to do something or not do something then it’s not within your control and is not an NLP (Nero Linguistic Programming) outcome.

If your outcome relies on bigger aspects of the state of the economy, which political party is in power, the weather! Again this is not within your control.

  • I want the interviewer to offer me a job.
  • I want recruitment agencies to approach me and offer me a job.

You don’t have control over these outcomes. Instead set actions you can take 100% responsibility.

Be as specific as possible

Coaches often see vague or woolly goals like, I want to be rich! How rich? What do you want to earn? When do you want to be earning this amount of money?  Why do you want to earn this amount of money?

Or I want an interesting and challenging job! What type of job? What does interesting mean to you?  What sector would you like to work? What do you really enjoy doing or getting involved in? What type of culture suits you? What hours would you like to work? And so on…

With big outcomes, you’ll need to break it down into steps.  However, beware the outcomes that are too small or easy to achieve as they may not be motivating enough

Include all your senses

If possible you want to paint a colourful vision of your desired outcome. The only way to do this effectively is to use all of your senses.

  • Visual – seeing
  • Auditory – hearing
  • Kinaesthetic – feeling and touch
  • Olfactory – smell
  • Gustatory – taste

Imagine what it will look and feel like when you achieve your desired outcome. Make your vision as clear as possible. Attempt to describe your outcome once it’s achieved using all the senses above. See what you see, hear what you hear, feel how you feel!

Access Resources

What are resources?  They might be internal resources such as commitment, determination, persistence, skills, knowledge and competencies etc.  They could be external resources such as money, time to study or train, contacts or equipment.

I’ve talked about the importance of conducting a SWOT analysis in previous posts and this tool would be perfect to identify and assess the resources you have and need.

Click here for more information and a template for the SWOT analysis tool

Hidden positive benefits

When we set goals or outcomes we are often changing one set of behaviours for new behaviours.  Or we are creating new habits.

The reason we often don’t obtain our goals is that our current behaviour (or state or habit) provides benefits that may be lost if we accomplish what we set out to do.

For example, if one of your goals is to get a new job, you may have to move house, not see your current friends as regularly, your children may need to change schools etc.

Another example, if you’re planning on losing weight or getting fitter (the most common goals set after Christmas), then there could be positive benefits attached to your current behaviour – watching TV, extra hour in bed, more time to spend with the family (rather than out running or in the gym) or socialising and eating out and drinking etc.

All of these are a ‘positive by-product’ of your current state or behaviour.  It’s a really good idea to be aware of these positive aspects of a negative behaviour, habit or state so you can identify, address and acknowledge.

You can then factor these into your well-formed desired outcome or they may no longer be of benefit and you are happy to let it go!

Check the Ecology

With any course of action, it’s ethical to check the ecology of the system or process.

Ecology refers to the consequences for the system (course of action) as a whole. Who will be impacted by the process, change of behaviour or the outcome?

Here are some questions to ask when you are checking the ecology:

  • What will happen if you achieve this outcome and what won’t happen if you achieve this outcome?
  • What will happen if you don’t achieve this outcome and what won’t happen if you don’t achieve this outcome?

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of achieving your outcomes.

For example, when I transitioned into Human Resources as a Recruitment Specialist I had to obtain the CIPD qualification. This qualification costs £10k and three years of study – there was a significant financial and time commitment.

Define the first step

Turning an outcome into reality requires action. Let’s make no mistakes here wishful thinking alone will not move you forward. Small and consistent steps in the right direction are better than no steps at all.

This is the final part of creating a well-formed desired outcome but a really important part of the process.  Again be specific about what this first step looks like and make a commitment and write up your desired outcome and read every day