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Every year we hear about people setting New Year’s Resolutions and every year we hear about people ruefully admitting that they didn’t exercise more, lose weight, take more time with the family or stop spending so much on Starbucks. Likely it’s because of the way they communicated their resolution to themselves.

Everyone who has studied NLP with Dr. Richard Bandler has been taught the conditions for well-formed outcomes:

  • Stated in Positives
  • Initiated and maintained by the individual
  • Ecological – Maintains the quality of all representational systems
  • Testable in Experience – sensory based

Most of the time when you have these conditions met you’re well on your way to a successful New Year’s Resolution and yet, even those of us who have incorporated NLP into our lives sometimes struggle with successful New Year’s Resolutions. So what’s going on?

One of the areas often overlooked in setting New Year’s Resolutions or in fact, any goal are Modal Operators – especially the use of Modal Operators in setting New Year’s Resolutions.

How often have you heard or even said to yourself, “I have to lose 20 pounds this year,” or “I should get more exercise” or “I should eat more salad”? All of these have Modal Operators of Necessity.

John La Valle teaches a great Timeline exercise using Modal Operators. As you’re standing on your timeline start using the different Modal Operators of Necessity and Possibility when stating your goal or resolution and see where you move physically to a point on your timeline in response to the statement. Some of these will feel farther along than others and some might even be off your timeline but in any case you’ll begin to get a feeling for which Modal Operators work best for you when you communicate with yourself. Also, it’s a great exercise to take clients through as they learn to think differently.

So remember to use the Well Formed Outcomes and structure your New Year’s Resolutions with the Modal Operators that work best for you and you’ll have Well Formed New Year’s Resolutions and a very Happy New Year.

James is a Licensed Trainer and Coaching Trainer with the Society of NLP. He is working on bringing NLP skills to corporate Talent Acquisition and is available for coaching sessions in the New York Metropolitan Area.