Using NLP to Go Beyond “SMART” Goals

Friday, March 04, 2011

Brad Bemis


I’ve recently been studying up on the subject of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) to assess its potential usefulness as a security awareness and training tool.

You’re likely to see a few future posts on the subject after I pull my head out of the books and can speak somewhat intelligently about it.

However, there was a portion of my current studies that jumped out and bit me on the nose. Not because it was shocking, but because it managed to capture my own personal sentiment about “SMART” goals in much better words than I’ve been able to summon up on my own.

I’ve always felt that SMART wasn’t quite complete. Sure, it’s a great starting point, but when you actually sit down to start writing goals for yourself or your team, you have to think beyond those basics. With that in mind, let’s see how NLP can help us create better goals that take us beyond the SMART goal setting paradigm.

First off, SMART goals are supposed to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based. That seems pretty reasonable, so what’s missing? NLP introduces the concept of using a ‘well-formed’ outcome process – a process that makes your SMART goals even smarter.

A well-formed outcome approach requires you to step back from your end state goal and ask some pretty key questions about what you really want.

We often tend to think through a problem, find a solution, and then hold onto our solution as the ‘right way’ to fix the problem. Instead of fixating on the solution, focus more on what the desired outcome is – what it is your solution is intended to achieve.

With a clear, well-formed outcome identified, you’re ready to begin crafting your SMART goals. As you go through the process though, ask yourself a few additional questions:

  • Is the goal stated in positive terms instead of negative ones?
  • Is it self-initiated or are there outside factors forcing the issue?
  • Is it maintainable by you, or within your sphere of control?
  • Does it include ‘evidence procedures’ (or milestones) to stay on track?
  • Is it stated in the right context – one that is applicable to the situation?
  • Does it identify the resources that are needed to succeed?
  • Is it ecological – meaning does it fit in with the big picture?
  • Does it identify the first step that needs to be taken?
  • Does it lay out a clear path – one that can really be followed?
  • Does it include any stated degree of flexibility in achieving the goal?
  • etc...

Asking these additional questions, and others like them, will certainly help make your goal-setting process a bit easier – well, maybe not easier, but it will definitely make sure they're both smart and SMART at the same time.

More to come on other interesting aspects of NLP later on down the road.

Cross-posted from

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Post Rating I Like this!
Terry Perkins I love NLP. This is quite an interesting topic.
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