What Happened To The New Year's Resolutions?

Print PDF

For those of you who would like to explore goal-setting further I have put together a Seven Step Programme. You can do this with a friend or on your own. In many ways this is a simple process, but sometimes using the skills of a professional will be more effective. If you need more guidance consider investing in some sessions with an N.L.P Practitioner. Get In Touch

The example I have used below is related to weight loss, however it does not matter what your goal is, the process is the same, whether it is smoking, getting on better with others, achieving success at work, etc. Read More About NLP

Step 1: State what you want.

If you would like to be a few pounds/stones lighter, for example and you tell me that you 'don't want to be fat', it is likely that this is what you have been telling yourself over and over again. Now, it is important for you to understand that the part of your mind which really motivates you and makes decisions for you is not your conscious mind, but your unconscious mind. The unconscious mind can't process negation, i.e. it can't handle the 'don't' in the 'I don't want to be fat' sentence. What it hears time and time again is 'I want to be fat'. In fact this part of you, your unconscious, will do what it is asked. It is just like asking a small child that walks on a low wall, to be careful and 'don't fall off', the child is likely to fall off!

Another example of this is a little test that I would like you to do now: close your eyes for a moment, and whatever you do, don't think of a pink elephant with yellow spots with a monkey on its back, bashing a drum.... Don't think of that. After you have done this, you can open your eyes. It is more than likely that it was not possible for you not to think of the elephant and its monkey!

The same goes for a goal set when you ask for what it is you don't want you will get what you don't want. It is only natural that we focus on what we don't want if it has been bothering us for some time. We focus on the problem and not the outcome. This does not mean that you are being negative; it just means that you are human. To overcome the issue of focussing on the 'problem' is to say something like: "O.K. you don't want to be fat, what is it that you do want?" It is only then that you will start to get the 'outcome' answers, such as: "I want to be healthy; I want to be more attractive; I want to breathe more easily; I want to be able to wear the clothes I like; etc".

Having spent time examining this first step, we go to step No 2:

Step 2. What would achieving your outcome do for you?

Often clients are clear about a goal, but have not really considered what that would actually give them or do for them. So all that remains is some kind of vague daydream.

To bring this more into their awareness and make it a reality questions like:" What would being healthy do for you?" will get more detailed descriptions, such as:" It would give me more energy." You can then repeat the same question:" What will having more energy do for you?" An answer might be: "I can work longer hours." ...."and what will that do for you?" "I can be more successful at work."

Continuing questioning like this will bring the client to a significantly higher level of 'what is really important', i.e. it addresses their highest value and belief system. Sometimes, after asking these questions the outcome needs to be changed to whatever is really important. It might be: "I want to be more successful at work". The exercise will then have to be run again from step 1. with the new refined outcome.

Step 3. How will you know that you have got it?

Once you have set your goal, it is important to find out what you need to show evidence of success. If for example your goal is to be healthy, how will you know that you are healthy? You might say: "Because I feel well." You can then get a fuller picture by being as specific as possible:
  1. What will you see when you feel well? i.e. what do you see, what does the world look like to you, how do you look? Give detailed descriptions.
  2. What will you hear when you feel well? i.e. what do you say to yourself, what do others say about you, what kind of sounds do you hear.
  3. How do you feel when you feel well? Then describe in detail how you feel when you are healthy. Answer the questions in the present, as if it has already happened. So you will say: "I see myself walk faster and move more easily," etc. The more vividly you can imagine and describe your outcome to be, the more your unconscious mind can help you achieve it.
  4. What will you do to get your outcome? What steps will you take?
Usually outcomes are not achieved by just wishing for them. You need to 'pay the price'. Now is the time to weigh this up.

  • Is it worth the effort?
  • Is it worth the cost?
  • What is the 1st step you need to take?
  • When will you take that step?
  • What is the next? Etc.

Step 5. Where, when and with whom do you want your outcome?

It is important to put outcomes in their context. Sometimes people say they want something all the time and with everyone! A person might like to be bursting with energy all the time, but to have that experience at bedtime when trying to get off to sleep would be not appropriate. To be totally relaxed and laid-back at an important powerful presentation that you are giving would not go down too well either!

Step 6. Is there anything that you might lose as a result of getting your outcome?

Often the immediate answer would be a resounding: "No!!" The client will just want to get to this golden goal! However, it is often the case that unconsciously you might have benefitted in some way from not having your outcome. For example, to be healthier, you might have to change your lifestyle. One way of doing this would be to get up earlier and spend time exercising. The obvious disadvantage of this is that you can't stay in bed that extra 30 minutes each morning! The benefit of being unfit and unhealthy is the extra 30 minutes in bed. Sometimes these benefits are current, as in the above example, or they belong to the past and are out of date, but in some way still affect you. Or it could be a belief such as: "Once I am slimmer, healthier and have a different lifestyle, I am going to lose my friends, because they all like to hang out together in the pub and they have no time for health freaks."

In NLP terms this is called Positive Intention. In traditional Psychology it is called either Secondary or Primary Gain. It is important to take the benefits of the old behaviour with you into your new behaviour or to decide that the benefits are not important. If the Positive Intention is ignored, no lasting change will happen. This is where an N.L.P Practitioner can help.

Step 7. How does achieving my goal fit in with the rest of my life?

People belong in a wider system; we don't exist in isolation. The system can be family, friends, work colleagues or all of these. It is important to realise that any change in this system can affect anyone else within the system. So the question is:

  1. How will your achieving this goal affect XYZ?" Often the effects are totally positive, sometimes not. This is the time to weigh up whether the outcome is going to be too disruptive for your wider system or not, and what to do about this.
  2. How will your achieving this goal affect you as a person? How does this fit in with your self-image, your sense of self?" Self image, sometimes called sense of self, is very important. If the newly set goal is totally alien to how you see yourself, you might have to do some other NLP work before trying to achieve your goal. This does not necessarily take many sessions, but could be the key to your success.

Have fun doing this and please let me know how you are getting on. I wish you a happy and healthy 2015.

Antonia Boyle
Westerham Kent

...with grateful thanks to my wonderful trainers at ITS