David Wray

Goal Setting

In NLP terms, goal setting is commonly referred to as Well-Formed Outcomes.

When is goal setting helpful to you? It is useful when you are trying to narrow your big idea down into something meaningful, actionable and achievable.

What does that mean in practical terms?

  • Your idea goes from being something big and fuzzy to something tangible and motivational
  • You move from being a passenger to a driver – goals become self-achievable

The basic technique involves defining outcomes (including goals or objectives) using a more robust model called PECSAW[1].

What is the PECSAW model for goal-setting?

PECSAW builds upon the positive aspects of the traditional SMART technique by adding more robustness around achievement and alignment (with yourself or someone you are teaching the skill to). This then leads to an approach that produces a clear image or understanding of the outcome from the outset. Thereby focusing all subsequent effort towards that objective.

So, what does the acronym PECSAW mean?

  • Positive
  • Evidence
  • Context
  • Self-achievable
  • Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Worthwhile

Positive is quite simply about focusing on what you DO want (it gets you out of a problem, excuse or rationalizing mindset) – the first step towards embedding a belief in the outcome.

Evidence is defining upfront the criteria by which you will recognize achievement of the outcome. What will you see? What will others see? How exactly will you know?

Context is about knowing the conditions under which you want the outcome to be achieved (such as where and when). However, remember it is just as important to know when you don’t want it.  

Self-achievable is accepting that outcomes (goals or objectives) must be within your circle of influence or control. Questions to consider here are what support or resources do you need to be able to achieve your goal? What do you personally need to do? Is your goal self-dependent or do you need someone else to do something too? 

Advantages & Disadvantages is the recognition that every choice (a goal/objective/outcome is a choice) has a trade-off decision. Using resources in one area deprives them in other areas. Here you focus on identifying the pros and cons of making the changes needed to achieve the goal or objective.

Worthwhile is the final motivational question – is this outcome worth your time and effort? What benefits will it attract? Why is it important? 

Where else is it helpful?

Beyond this, the PECSAW approach helps you establish rapport with others allowing you to align goals, objectives or outcomes. Rapport is a skill that serves us well in all relationships and circumstances, and which I cover further in the book.

Each PECSAW step offers a framework from which to discuss progress with others in the context of business activities, family goals, or community events amongst others.

So use the model to establish or clarify your own dreams, wishes or desired outcomes. It is probably obvious by now that the possibilities for PECSAW are wide-reaching!


[1] Term coined by Reg Connolly, 1998