How to Get What You Want – Part 1

When I attended my first neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) training five years ago, the trainer asked us if we’d like to know two questions which could change our lives. I have used these questions consistently ever since, and they have been among the most useful things I’ve ever learned. They were “What do you want?”, and “How will you know when you’ve got it?”

What do you want?

“What do you want?” is probably the most well-known ‘NLP question’. It takes advantage of the fact that the human nervous system is ‘goal-seeking’ ie. we operate most effectively when we have a goal or objective of some sort to aim for, so…

1) Ask yourself “What do I want?” & pay attention to your answer.

You can’t do a don’t

Is your answer stated in the positive (eg. to get fit & healthy, to double your income, to start a new business etc.) or in the negative (eg. to quit smoking, lose weight, stop spending so much etc.)? Negatives aren’t processed by the nervous system in the same way that they are linguistically (eg. The command “Don’t think of a purple hippo” is difficult to obey.) You get what you focus on, so if your goal is stated in the negative, you’re making it more difficult for yourself.

2) Ensure you state your goal positively.

How will you know when you’ve got it?

I once had a client whose goal was to become rich. I asked her how she’d know when she was rich and she said she’d have more money. So I tossed a pound coin to her and said “Congratulations, you’re rich.” ‘More money’ did not turn out to be specific enough evidence for her having achieved her goal, so we went into the detail of what she would see, hear and feel when she was rich. This gives your nervous system a rich representation of what success is for this particular goal. So, with regard to your goal…

3) Ask yourself “How will I know when I’ve got it?”

What will you see, hear and feel as you are achieving your goal? What specific details will let you know that you are getting what you want? The more sensory detail you include, the more information you will give to your nervous system about what to aim for.

4) Ensure you have details of what you will see, feel and hear.

Get your body involved

Once you have clear evidence (ie. how you’ll know when you’ve achieved your goal), you can engage your unconscious resources more fully by getting your body more involved. Stand up and ensure you’ve got enough space to move safely, then…

5) Imagine you are going to step in to that time in the future when you already have what you want, then literally take a step & imagine you can see what you’ll see, hear what you’ll hear & feel what you’ll feel when you are achieving your goal.

Mind and body are a single system

Mind and body are a single system, and people often find that the process of stepping into a future achievement has a profound effect, allowing you to experience learnings and insights which may not previously have been consciously available. Often, the people most sceptical of this approach have the most powerful experiences, so if you are dubious about whether this will work for you, great – do it anyway and see what happens!


Jamie Smart is one of the UK’s finest Neuro-Linguistic Programming trainers, and MD of Salad. Salad is an NLP Training company and one of the world’s leading source of products for developing NLP skills. He believes that people are capable of far more than they think they are, and that changing your beliefs and attitudes is the fastest way to move towards the success and fulfillment you desire. Jamie is passionate about people, happiness and language, and is the creator of Ericksonian Hyp...

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