How to find the best route to your goal

Even when people have set a compelling goal for themselves, they may struggle with knowing where to start. Of all the possible actions, which step should you take first?

One way would be to engage your unconscious mind by walking the goal into your timeline as we used to do on the final day of my Create The Life You Want weekend workshop. As you walk back along the timeline from having installed your goal at your chosen date in the future, you may find that ‘milestones’ along the way just pop into your mind.

But what if you don’t have access to the course and don’t particularly want to learn about NLP, but just want to be able to set goals more effectively? You might want to try this more ‘left-brained’ method, based on the principle that it is much easier to find the route to your destination when you start from where you want to be and work backwards:

  1. Take a large sheet of paper and write your goal at the right-hand edge.
  2. Imagine that you have achieved your goal – take a moment to experience it fully in your imagination. What will achieving the goal mean to you? Write whatever it means and connect that to the goal.
  3. Ask yourself: “What conditions needed to be in place immediately before this goal happened in order for it to be achieved?” Write each condition down to the left of the goal, and draw arrows joining them to the goal. For each condition, write what fulfilling it will mean to you and link it to that condition.
  4. Treat each of the conditions you have identified as the result of some other previous conditions. Ask, “What conditions needed to be in place in order for this to happen?” Write each in its appropriate place to the left of the result you stepped into, and draw an arrow joining the condition to its result. Add each condition’s meaning.
  5. Continue to work backwards until you arrive at your first step, or at conditions that are already fulfilled.

You may be tempted to omit the ‘what does it mean to me?’ step, as this may not look like it adds much until you try it. In fact, the meaning of each step is what gives it emotional energy. Your route to your goal will feel much more alive and motivating if you take a moment to think about the meaning of each step.

You may find that you have more than one possible route to your goal. The ‘meanings’ of each condition along the way may help you to decide which route will be the best, most enjoyable and the least hard work.

In any event, you now have the essential steps to your goal that provide the “milestones” along the way.


NLP Knowledge EngineeringNote: this method of working backwards from your goal, and eliciting the meaning of each step, is based on the ‘backward chaining’ method developed by the NLP trainer Jonathan Altfeld as a small part of his excellent Knowledge Engineering seminar and home study audio. Check them out!

Achieve Your Goals bookAnd there’s lots more about emotionally intelligent goal setting in my book Achieve Your Goals: Strategies To Transform Your Life (Dorling Kindersley 2006).

© 2007 – 2023, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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