“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” This is the question Robert H. Schuller asks in his 1973 book, You Can Become the Person You Want To Be.
This question invites you to think beyond your fears and limitations. It asks you to imagine what you could achieve if those barriers didn’t exist.
More importantly, Dr. Schuller’s question introduces us to outcome-based thinking. It also shows us that most of us don’t start, as Stephen Covey once said, “With the end in mind.”
Most people, and this included me for the longest time, have no idea what they really want out of life.
If you ask a person who has a positive mindset what they want, they might say something like “I want to be rich” or “I want to be healthy”.
While this is positive, it isn’t very specific.
People who don’t think so positively might say, “I don’t want to lose my job” or “I don’t want to catch covid-19 (for the record I don’t want to catch it either. But there are other ways to think about this, read on).
These people are focused on what they don’t want in life. The problem with this mindset is they are constantly focused on what they don’t want. As a result, they base their lives on moving away from things they don’t want.
What is Outcome-Based Thinking?
Outcome-based thinking is a mindset that focuses your mind on what you want from an outcome or situation. As we discussed above, it can be your desired outcome, or it can be an undesired outcome, something you don’t want.
Here’s what’s key. You can, with a little practice, learn to focus on the things you want.
For example, a person may take a job because they don’t want to live under a bridge, in poverty. While it’s good not to live under a bridge, especially if you have been struggling to find employment, don’t you think it is better to focus on what you want from a job? Isn’t it better to focus on finding a finding a job that will start you on a path that allows you to grow both personally and professionally?
Not wanting something doesn’t pull you anywhere. In fact, it can keep you stuck right where you are.
While focusing on getting out of poverty and growing as a person are both outcomes, outcome-based thinking is the use of focusing on things that will pull you in the direction of your goals.
It encourages you to think about what you want, set goals that will take you there, and then take action towards achieving those goals.
In this example, focusing not only the goal of having a job, but on what you want that job to provide you with. This mindset allows you to imagine the lifestyle you desire. Your image will pull you toward it.
Creating a Well-Formed Outcome
Outcome-based thinking shifts your focus to what you want, your desired outcome. Knowing your desired outcome will motivate you to do the things you need to do to achieve what you want out of life.
This is why you need a well-formed outcome.
Well-formed outcomes are what change what you focus on automatically to outcome-based thinking. This is focusing on what you want instead of what you don’t want.
Without a well-formed outcome you’ll wander aimlessly through life, never quite achieving anything.
Let’s say you want to start a new business.
Instead of just thinking “I want to start a business,” you can create a well-formed outcome by asking yourself specific questions like:
Why do I want to start a business?
What’s the purpose of my business?
Who do I want to serve?
What steps do I need to take to get started?
By asking these questions and being specific in your answers, you create a clear picture of what you want to achieve. This makes it easier to focus your energy and take action towards your desired outcome.
That’s the importance of developing a well-formed outcome, an outcome that will pull you in the direction you want to go. By deciding on your outcome, your mind begins to focus on achieving that outcome.
Here is where miraculous things can happen.
So, the key to outcome-based thinking is to develop well-formed outcomes.
Using Well-Formed Outcomes to Maximize Outcome-Based Thinking
The following are 6 simple guidelines to developing the type of well-formed outcomes that will maximize your outcome-based thinking.
This approach can be applied to personal and professional situations. It can help you overcome challenges, take risks, and achieve success.
- State your outcome in positive terms.
Well-formed outcomes are stated in positive terms. State your outcome in terms of what you want to happen instead of what you don’t want to happen.
Let’s say you, like many other people, are overweight.
The way most people would state their outcome would be “I don’t want to be overweight” or “I want to lose 20 pounds”.
Let’s face it, “not wanting” is not a positive outcome. Neither is “losing 20 pounds”.
This is because nobody wants to lose anything, not even twenty pounds.
We can turn this into a well-formed outcome by stating, “I want to have a healthy weight that allows me to look and feel better.”
This is a great use of outcome-based thinking because it focuses your attention on the experience that you want.
Keep in mind that you must be able to reach your desired outcome. You cannot do this with a negative outcome. You can’t engage in a process of ‘not doing’, or ‘not wanting’. You can only engage in the process of doing.
This is the only way you can move toward the outcome you desire.
- You Have to Be Able to Measure Your Results
Another way to say this is what gets measured gets results.
Because measurements give you evidence.
Let’s go back to the example of being overweight.
If you do not have a method to measure your results you are just kidding yourself. If you are weighing yourself, or checking the size of your waist or how your clothes fit, you can tell if your efforts are moving you in the direction you want to go in.
Remember, what gets measured gets results.
No matter the outcome, measuring your progress helps you to determine if you are making progress towards achieving that outcome or not.
- Your Outcome Must Be Sensory Specific
You make goals, or create outcomes, to move you into a desired state. This desired state needs to be sensory specific.
This means you need to able to say what you would look like, sound like and feel like once you have achieved your desired outcome. This helps your vision pull you in the direction of your goals.
Outcome-based thinking involves how you look, feel and what you will hear when you reach your goal.
Returning to our example, “I weigh 145 pounds. People compliment me on how well my clothes fit me. I have enough energy to work all day and then enjoy my family when I get home. I feel fantastic!”
- Your Outcome Must Be About You
While important, this is often overlooked.
A well-formed outcome cannot be about your spouse, your child, or your mother-in-law. The only person involved in a well-formed outcome is you.
Now this doesn’t mean your outcomes don’t affect others, they do. In fact, your outcomes are affecting others right now.
What this means is a well-formed outcome can only be about what you have control over, yourself.
You are only in charge of your own actions and behaviors. This means you are responsible for working toward and maintaining your desired outcome.
Focus on what you can control – you and what you DO.
- Your Outcome Must Be in the Right Context
For you to have better outcomes you need to have more choices. To do this you need to state your outcome in a specific context rather than as a universal statement.
This widens your ability to choose rather than reducing it.
For example, universal statements that include such words as ‘always’ and ‘never’ reduce your choices.
Let’s return to our example of improving your health. You wouldn’t use ‘I always exercise at 6 AM every morning’.
Because this outcome reduces your choices.
What if you needed to be at a work meeting at 6 AM? Would you tell them you couldn’t make it?
How about if you had to fly? Would you start exercising in the aisle?
A better scenario would be to reschedule your workout to later in the day at a more appropriate time.
Instead of such a ridged context, your outcome statement might be “I work out 5 days a week”. This gives your schedule flexibility and allows for things that might come up.
Outcome-based thinking that includes the right context increases the choices available to you.
- Your Outcome Must Be Ecologically Sound
An outcome that is ecologically sound is one that doesn’t harm you or anyone else or your environment. While this seems obvious, we can sometimes overlook it.
When developing your outcome ask, “Will this harm anyone or cause harm to my environment?” This is the best use of outcome-based thinking.
You Can Accomplish More with Well Formed Outcomes
Think of your goal as links in a chain, each link being a task needed to accomplish what you desire.
If you try to push the chain what happens?
It scrunches up into a ball.
The same goes when you try to push yourself to accomplish a goal. Barriers form, demotivating you and blocking the path to your progress.
On the other hand, if you pull on the end of the chain, what happens?
You can pull that chain wherever you want.
This is what outcome-based thinking does for you. Outcome-based thinking aligns your whole being with the outcome you desire.
Well-formed outcomes motivate you. They help you to overcome the barriers that previously held you back. They pull you in the direction of your goals.
This is the power of developing a well-formed outcome. It will move you to places that, in the past, you have only dreamed of.
Start putting outcome-based thinking to work for you today. It will help you create a clear picture of what you want to achieve.
I can almost guarantee you you’ll be amazed at the results you achieve.