7 steps to find a way not an excuse

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I was recently asked by a team to help them get more structure in their project. It is for this team a critical project with an aggressive timeline and they felt like running out of time.
The project started a couple of months ago and they have been struggling since then with different kind of issues on different fronts.

But there is one more pattern which I see in people’s behavior. If teams and individuals do not have a crystal clear goal, they will be not motivated and always find excuses if something does not work the way it should.

If you are curious to figure out how to find the way towards your goal and not an excuse, then read on!

The Well-formed Outcome

Just like on a journey, before you start you provide the exact coordinates of your destination into your GPS. You know where you want to go, you can see it clearly. In other words, when there is clarity of what you want to achieve, it’s easier to accomplish what you set out to do. However, if you are unclear and without a focus, the path towards the accomplishment of your goals looks blurry.

I decided to help them and to figure out what their goal is, what do they really want to achieve as part of this project. You might say that it is crystal clear what they want: to deliver the project in time, in budget and in quality. The only problem with this statement is: it is blurry!

Think of a camera: if you set the lens and focus in a correct way you will get a great picture. If your focus is not proper, so will be your outcome picture – blurry.

Here is a great technique I used with this team to help them achieve a Well-formed Outcome. This is a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique, which can be used whenever you want to change something, either in a project or generally in your life. It helps you to clarify how the goal to be accomplished looks like and to get the confidence that this is indeed what you want. By following this approach, the goal becomes so clearly defined, that the path and the steps towards its accomplishment become tangible.

So, here is how the Well-formed Outcome technique works.

 1. What is your goal?

The first goal setting formulation is in general not concrete enough. “I want to participate on the longest and biggest ski competition in Sweden (Vasaloppet)” – is a very blurry goal.
The goal must be formulated positively, which means it shouldn’t contain any negation. For example, a goal like “I don’t want to eat so much anymore” is not a proper goal formulation. It would be much better to say: “I want to lose weight”!
Another aspect of a goal formulation is that it should not contain any comparison. Saying “I want to become better at running” is also the wrong way to formulate your goal. By saying “I want to become better”, you actually mean that your self-image is not the one of a good runner.
Last but not least, you need a time frame. By when do you want to have this particular goal achieved?

To summarize, a good formulated goal must have the following ingredients:

  • It must be concrete
  • Your goal must be formulated positively and should not contain any comparisons
  • It must have a given time frame
  • And it must be achievable through your own competence

Example: I have finished the Vasaloppet – the world’s oldest, longest and biggest ski race by 4th of March 2018.

2. What values will be achieved?

Let’s assume that reputation and prestige are important values for you. Ask yourself if these values are possibly fulfilled when the goal is accomplished.
Other possible values might be: freedom, enthusiasm, simplicity, friendship, harmony, peace, creativity, love, beauty, fun – just to mention few of them.

Example: By completing the Vasaloppet ski race, my following values will be fulfilled: self-esteem, courage, adventure and performance.

3. What are the characteristics of the goal state?

What activities are you going to do when your goal is achieved? Ask yourself what will you look like, sound like and feel like when your outcome is accomplished? Imagine your goal state in details using your visual, auditive, kinesthetic, gustative and olfactory channels.

Example: It is a sunny day and after many hours of skiing l crossed the finish line. I can’t believe it, but I did it! What a great feeling. I am surrounded by many thousands of  other competitors from many different countries and I see everywhere their happy faces. I feel the cold air on my face, the pain in the legs but I’m so happy. I’m really proud of myself.

4. What has changed in your life by reaching that goal?

A goal which has no positive impact in your life is not worth your time. So, ask yourself the question what has changed in your life when this goal is finally accomplished.

Example: I am self-confident that I can achieve whatever I want. I have an excellent condition both mental and physical.

5. What gets lost by reaching that goal?

At this point you have to understand what drawbacks or negative consequences such a goal might have. You must be clear about what you have to give up or leave behind you. For example you might have no more time for other things which you have done in the past. You might also have to invest money for buying equipment etc.
Write down at least three negative consequences which your goal might lead to, even if it is hard to do that.

Example: Completing the Vasaloppet ski race requires a lot of time for training. Therefore, I will give up on other activities, which are not supporting that goal. I will have to invest money to buy the proper equipment, to book an accommodation and also the flights.

6. What resources are required to accomplish that goal?

To effectively achieve your goal, it is important to think about all the resources you need for that. Resources might be skills, abilities, qualification and so on.

Example: I need to enjoy the training even if it will be a hard one. It is important to have a passion for cross-country skiing, so that everything goes smooth. I need patience and the ability to say no to other activities, which are not supporting this particular goal.

7. What is the reason not to start right now?

This point is extremely important because it shows if you are really ready to start towards your goal. By following the Well-formed Outcome technique, it might have become clear for you that you have to work on the required resources. Or maybe there are some prerequisites, which have to be fulfilled before starting out.
But of course, it might be also clear now that there is nothing, which hinders you to start right now.

Example: There is no reason not start right now with the training. I will set up a training plan this week and register myself for the competition.

One last thing.

In the workshop I conducted with that team, I did a couple of small adjustments on this approach to better fit to the team and project goal.
However, by running through all these 7 steps, the team got into a good position and identified the major points to focus on in order to accomplish their goal. It is not anymore a hectic because of the big amount of issues they had, but instead they got a proper structure and a clear path towards their goal.
Try it out and let me know how it worked for you.

Happy to help.

If you have questions about that, do not hesitate to contact me by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

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