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The Process of Well-formed Outcomes in NLP

Studying the behaviors of successful people, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the creators of NLP, concluded that successful behaviors are the results of the goals that have been taken through the process of well-formed outcomes.

They discovered that the ordinary people and the successful people think differently when they make decisions. The successful people envisage various conditions and different dimensions of a goal and its results before they begin. The ordinary people just begin.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the creators of NLP defined a well-formed outcome in (1979) Frogs into Princes as follows:

“A Well-formed outcome is a term originating in Neuro-Linguistic Programming for an outcome one wishes to achieve, that meets certain conditions designed to avoid unintended costs or consequences and resistance to achieving the goal resulting from internal conflicting feelings or thoughts about the outcome. Thus, a high quality outcome is more than a vague wish or goal. It is an objective or goal that is integrated with all aspects of one’s life (morals, ethics, relationships, finances, health, body, etc.) and has a process of accomplishment that respects and supports the current desirable circumstances in one’s life.

A high quality outcome is (in a sense) consistent with forward-thinking action as well, or alternatively have been clearly and well enough defined to be prima facie free of common “muddy thinking”. By applying all of the well-formedness conditions to a goal or outcome, and adjusting the outcome specifications accordingly in the process, you create a Well-formed outcome.”

When NLP became popular different people from different disciplines used the same principle but defined it in their own words and experiences. All of these different explanations showed different aspects of well-formed outcome although each person my place emphasis on one aspect of it. Jules Collingwood, an NLP trainer, described it:

“A well formed outcome is like an opening gambit in chess. It sets the scene for the rest of the game, and the level of attention given to plotting the outcome has a direct bearing on the ease with which desired results are achieved. A well-formed outcome makes the difference between wanting something in theory, and becoming able to go and get it in practice. This is not the same as taking a position about something. A well-formed outcome describes something that its user wants, in sensory based, positive terms. It includes a description of what the user wants it for, and the terms, conditions and environmental contexts in which the user wants to have it. It includes consideration of different approaches to the outcome, and time frames, costs and consequences to interested parties, and whether it is within the user’s control.”

Process thinking and forward-looking are two important issues in NLP as they determine the path and destination. Every action has some consequences. Some of the consequences are predictable and desirable and some others are not predictable but when you do them they get usually out of control. The way we define a goal or an objective is to make sure that we understand what we want and what we do not want after it is realized. What we do not take into consideration is what happens when we get what we want and what we do not get when we have it. The objective of a well-formed outcome in NLP is to make sure that we consider and examine in details different aspects of the goal.

“When our wants, dreams or wishes are refined using this process they become more believable and realizable. This is why they are then described as being `well-formed’ outcomes. The term ‘well-formed’ has been around in NLP for over 30 years. However, as with many NLP terms, this name gets in the way of understanding the simplicity of the model. Some people, to make things even more obtuse, even refer to the ‘well-formedness conditions for an outcome’.

Simply put, what the term really means is that the outcome has been refined or checked against six tests and once it ‘passes’ these tests it is well-designed, or, if you must, ‘well-formed’! You can use this process to clarify your own wishes so that they are more realistic, action-focused and to assist others in doing the same.”

One action can determine a large part of your life if it is not examined fully and completely. If we have any idea of NLP or a well-formed outcome we would behave very differently. The aim of a well-formed outcome is not to stop people from doing things or making decisions immediately but the objective is to ensure that at each phase of an action or goal setting is fully recognized and understood.

Your history follows you wherever you go. Be careful what you leave behind as it may capture you one day when you don’t need it at all. Whatever you do may emerge in your life somehow later. You will enjoy or suffer the consequences of your actions. To make sure that NLP can help you in processing a well-formed outcome, six major questions must be asked. Each major question includes some subordinate questions to clarify those aspects of the goal that are usually neglected.

Well-formed outcome is a six-step process. Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders of NLP defined well-formed outcome in this way:

The well-formedness conditions:

1. Be stated in the positive (that is, what you want, rather than what you don’t want), see positive and negative

2. Be capable of representation in the sensory representational system (tangible rather than theoretical or conceptual: able in principle to be evidenced through the senses when attained. Thus, seen, heard or felt)

3. Be possible and achievable

4. Have all the resources (people, psycho-physiological states, time, capital, equipment, or material) required or accessible.

5. Have a defined time frame

6. Be ecological in having consideration for cost and consequences for oneself and others affected.

The 6 Qualifying Detailed Questions NLP trains you to ask these questions from yourself and others when you train them in order to shape their attitude in a way that focuses on well-intended results.

1. Be stated in the positive

Everything starts with the big question and the most important question of life: what do you want? This question is valid for the whole life or for a very small event. Possibly this question has been asked more than any other question in the history of mankind. The big problem is also that most of people do not know what they want. When you wake up in the morning, the first question arises in your mind is what I do today? Where I go today? What I want to achieve today.

Even if they are not asked consciously they pester your mind even if you do not respond to them. If you don’t know what you want, you don’t get anything or you may get what you don’t want to have. If you don’t know where you want to go, you may never go anywhere or you may end up where you didn’t want to go. If you do not have a plan of action for everyday you may not do anything or you may do something that you shouldn’t do. These are the questions that NLP developers reflected on for some time and realized that successful people always know what they want, they know where they go and they know what to do and how to do it.

2. Be capable of representation

When you realize what you want, you have to know how you would know when you had it. In fact you must have a very clear picture of having it in your mind so that you know when you have it, it will look like the way you have figured it out. This is also a very important part in NLP as it would use your sensory systems to figure out the whole process and the end result.

3. Be possible and achievable

You have to make sure that what you want is possible and achievable so that you cannot go after things that are not within the framework of your capabilities although you may never know how much capabilities you have. Most of the people do not know their capabilities. That is the reason that they do not go for bold actions. NLP gives you confidence that you can develop unimaginable capabilities for achieving outstanding results even if you may think that they are not possible at the beginning. The important thing is what ever the goal is, you must believe that it is achievable and possible even if other people tell you that you cannot do it or it is not possible because when other people say something like that, they talk about their own limitations and not your capabilities. NLP is about unleashing your capabilities.

There are major differences between NLP goal setting, NLP well formed outcome and wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is what most people do during the day and the life. They wish that they had this and that without turning that wish into a goal and taking the goal through the process of the well-formed outcome. Remember that the goals have outcomes. And outcomes are intended or unintended. The goal setting becomes more realizable when it is conducted through the process of well-formed outcomes.

4. Resources

Collin Powell once said the secret of success is adequate preparation. For each goal that you want to achieve or any well-formed outcome that is supposed to be accomplished you need a wide variety of resources and preparation. NLP emphasizes more on mental and psychological resources. Other resources may be financial, intellectual, professional, educational and many other things. You need to think about all these resources you need to have before starting a goal if you do not want to get frustrated at the middle of the project and abandon it. Millions of projects are abandoned everyday and every year because all the requirements for their success were not thought of and provided when they began the project. NLP draws your attention to preparing what ever is required to succeed and providing it.

5. Have a defined time frame

Timeline has a particular importance in NLP as everything happens in time and place. You must therefore have a timeline for starting a goal and completing it. Thinking in terms of Timeline requires what I call systematic thinking in which you start from the beginning and go step by step systematically until you accomplish it. The example is start from A, then go to B, then go to C and then go to D to until you reach Z. You need always a place and context in which you want the well formed outcome to be achieved. As an NLP trainer I have realized that the context in which to achieve a goal is very significant. And context makes goals more specific and related to specific places, issues and people. As much you need a timeline in NLP you need a context too.

You need to know where you want to do it and when you want to do it. Creating a Timeline for starting and finishing a project compels you to work according to deadline and finish it accordingly. At the same time when you divide the job into small pieces of A, B, C… you make it easier to accomplish.

6. Be ecological in having consideration for cost and consequences for oneself and others affected.

This is the last important part that I have been talking about in the previous articles: intended and unintended consequences for yourself, for others, and four everything else. You have to think what would happen to you when you have achieved it. There are a lot of people who go to NLP courses and consequently they begin to improve themselves and they expect the members of family to do the same thing but they do not show any sign or willingness to improve themselves.

This creates tension among the members of family as the expectations among them will change. You may write a book and do not think of the consequences. You may face the situation that Salman Rushdie encountered when he wrote the Satanic Verses.

If you follow these simple steps of NLP and well-formed outcome when you set a goal, make a decision and prepare a project, you are more likely to achieve success.

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