How To Use PRIEST to Create Well-Formed Outcomes

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“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” — Jimmy Dean

The acronym PRIEST provides a framework for evaluating outcomes.   Outcomes is another way to say goals or “results” but with more precision.   It’s a way to walk through what you want to accomplish and map out your results with precision and detail.  The better you can visualize, talk about, and feel your success, the more you stack the deck in your favor.

In Brilliant Nlp: What the Most Successful People Know, Say & Do, David Molden and Pat Hutchinson share the PRIEST framework for well-formed goals.

Why PRIEST
PRIEST is an acronym to make it easier to remember how to create well-formed outcomes.  According to Molden and Hutchinson, PRIEST is a way to clarify your goals with precision and accuracy:

  • P is for Positively Stated.
  • R is for Resources
  • I is for Initiated and Maintained By Self
  • E is for Ecology
  • S is for Sensory Evidence
  • T is for Time.

Summary of Steps for Using PRIEST

  • Step 1.  State Your Goals in the Positive (the P in PRIEST)
  • Step 2. Identify the Resources You Need (the R in PRIEST)
  • Step 3. State Your Outcome in a Way that’s Initiated by You (the I in PRIEST)
  • Step 4.  Check the Ecology (the E in PRIEST)
  • Step 5. Identify Your Sensory Evidence (the S in PRIEST)
  • Step 6. Identify the Time Frame (the T in PRIEST)

Step 1.  State Your Goals in the Positive (the P in PRIEST)
State your goals in a positive way.  It’s about what you want, not what you don’t want.  The mind is not good with processing “not” or “no.”
Molden and Hutchinson write:

“A feature of the human mind is its inability to process a negative. Consider the following instruction, "whatever you do, do NOT think about a pink elephant," Oh! Too late, you thought about one didn’t you? We know you did because you have to think of the thing you are not supposed to think about! Beware of your capacity to "get what you focus on." If your main focus is on what you don’t want you may end up getting it! Make sure that your outcomes are clearly stated in the positive — in other words what you do want, not what you don’t want (a pink elephant.)”

Step 2. Identify the Resources You Need (the R in PRIEST)
Identify the resources you have, and the resource you need.  This includes both internal resources, as well as external one.
Molden and Hutchinson write:

“This includes internal as well as external resources. Do you have the courage, confidence, staying power, commitment, determination and other internal resources you may need to succeed? If not there are NLP techniques you can use to acquire them. What external resources will you need – finance, people, knowledge?”

Step 3. State Your Outcome in a Way that’s Initiated by You (the I in PRIEST)
State your goal in a way so that it is for initiated and maintained by you.  Focus on what you control.  If it’s beyond your control, then reset your expectations and adjust your outcomes accordingly.  The key is to stay empowered.
Molden and Hutchinson write:

“Is the achievement of this outcome totally in your control or does it depend on something outside your control? You may want to adjust your outcome if you are not fully in control. Even if you involve other people to help you, make sure you keep hold of the responsibility for your choices, even when things don’t go according to plan.”

Step 4.  Check the Ecology (the E in PRIEST)
Take a look at the bigger picture.  Map out the bigger system or situation that this is part of. 
Molden and Hutchinson write:

“Have you considered the consequences of achieving your outcome? What are the likely impacts on other people and other aspects of your life? Are they acceptable to you? This is known as an ‘ecology check.’”

Step 5. Identify Your Sensory Evidence (the S in PRIEST)
Identify how you will know when you’re done.  This includes using your senses, such as what you’ll see or hear.
Molden and Hutchinson write:

“What sensory evidence will tell you that you have successfully achieved your outcomes? What will you hear? what will you see and how will you feel? Take some time to imagine how things will be in the future having achieved what you set out to achieve. How will you know you have been successful?”

Step 6. Identify the Time Frame (the T in PRIEST)
Identify the timeline or timeframe for your goals.  This pins your outcomes in a way that you can use to prioritize or to pace yourself.
Molden and Hutchinson write:

“What timescale are you working to? How long will it take you to achieve all the outcomes attached to your goal? If you write out your goals it is very easy to miss something.”

Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:

  • Leverage sensory evidence. I think this is a hidden gem. Hard measures aren’t always the best way to show progress, particularly when it’s not obvious or it’s tough to measure. For example, if you’re losing weight, what you see and feel might be more promising feedback than what you see on a scale. On the flip side, if you’re not seeing or feeling results, your approach might not be working and it might be time to change your approach.
  • Leverage your resources. I think this is another key to success. I see too many people go it alone without figuring out what they need, beyond just motivation. Knowledge is key. One of the most effective ways to succeed is to use reference examples and model their success. Mentors are all around you. Figuring out the resources you’ll need up front can really help you over hurdles downstream, particulary if your lacking a resource like knowledge.
  • Focus on what you want. This sounds obvious, but it’s easier to stay on course if you keep your attention on where you’re going versus where you don’t want to go.
  • Know how the system will react. I really like the ecology check. You can affect a lot of change in your sphere of influence. Anticipating what the downstream chain of reaction might be, can be motivating or it might inspire you to take a different course.
  • Use time to your advantage. Do you need to be a tortoise or a hare? Is is a marathon or a sprint? Can you chunk it up and get incremental results sooner? Do you personally thrive on building momentum? Can you scale back Rome? Keeping perspective on time, anticipating results, and choosing the right pace go a long way for effective results. One of the most important things to remember is that consistent action over time produces profound change. Most of the meaningful changes you want probably go beyond a short-burst effort.

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