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What is the difference between goals and outcomes?

In NLP, a general distinction is made between goals and outcomes. A goal is a lay-term, and is often lacking in the precision and cognitive clarity needed to be acted upon. For example:

  • I want to be loved
    (by whom? How much?)

  • I want to be happy
    ("happiness" is a process and its not clear what the speaker means by the term in their own world, nor what kind of happiness, nor how they expect it to be maintained)

  • I don't want that!
    (NLP states that the brain cognitively processes in terms of positives not negatives, and that cognitively this "goal" is akin to asking for a plane ticket to "not here". It's unclear what is wanted instead)

  • I don't want them to do that
    (not only tends to block thinking what is wanted instead, but may be vague as to exactly whom and what the subjects are, and what it is that they are perceived as "doing" that's objectionable)

An imprecise wish is seen as problematic for several reasons:

  • Its vagueness may mean it is unattainable in practice (for example people who want to be "rich" or "successful")

  • Its expression in the negative may focus the mind away from generating positive steps to get around it

  • One might not know when one actually has it (for example people who want "security" or "to be safe")

An outcome may be small scale (the purpose of asking a specific question or phrasing) or large scale (the meaning of one's life), but NLP teaches that in each case there are some basic conditions that indicate if the outcome is well formed, or whether it needs further clarification and precision to be useful.

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