it’s not about outcomes, it’s about direction

A lot is talked about in the self improvement field about goal setting and achieving outcomes.

NLP itself has a “well formed outcome model” which suggests how to go about designing a desired outcome in the most useful way, and I do spend a lot of time talking about outcomes and desired states in my Practitioner training.

However, this focus on outcomes is to just to help you get used to facing in the right direction…

You can use outcomes as mile markers in your direction, ways of checking you are going the right way, but the problem with outcomes based thinking alone is that it is limited and not overly useful in every context.

Let me give you an example:

You set a goal to lose some weight. You manage it, you hit your target weight. Brilliant! Now what?

This is why people often yoyo when they diet. They hit the target weight, they lose motivation and then just put the weight back on.

Sound familiar?

3 more disadvantages of outcome based thinking:

1. it may be the wrong goal for you

I have lost count of the number of clients I have had who are convinced they want or need something that is utterly inappropriate for them. Because they are so fixated on it they refuse to consider anything else (see below) and it is a nightmare to try and help them change course!

2. goals can be restrictive

You set a goal, you focus on that goal, you miss everything else. You may be offered better opportunities, but you miss them as you are fixated on the goal (that may longer be the best thing for you).

And most importantly…

3. goals mean you often miss the journey:

Life is a journey after all, if you focus on your goals you miss everything that is going on around you. Just imagine putting up with utter pain for the sake of a goal and then getting hit by a bus before you achieve it. Was it worth it?

It is much better to think about direction.

what is the difference between outcome and direction?

Like many things, the difference is very subtle and often only noticed in the way you phrase something. If you say “I want to be thin” or “I want to lose weight” (to carry on the weight loss example), these are goal based statements and prone to failure. If, however, you say “I want to be fit and healthy”, then that is a direction based statement. How you phrase your desires has a profound effect on your psychology…

I will leave you with this video from The South Park creators and Alan Watts which highlights my point perfectly.

About Matt Caulfield