Goals Stated as a Well-Formed Outcome: The Super Trader Program Example, by Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.

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When you have goals, you typically produce some sort of result through acting on them. If you want these goals to produce effective end ecological 1 results, however, then the goals must fit the criteria of being well-formed.

These are a set of five conditions for goal outcomes, established through the NLP community. They include:


  • The outcome must be stated in positive terms. Generally, it is practically and logically impossible to set a goal which is expressed in terms of the negative of an experience. So if someone said, “I don’t want to argue with my wife,” then a better approach is to find out what the person wants instead of the negative experience. For example, it might be stated instead as: “I want to feel positive about whatever my wife does knowing she had a good heart and great intentions.” That’s much easier to achieve than the negative experience of not arguing.
  • The outcome must be testable and demonstrable — in other words, stated in terms of sensory specific evidence. Thus, you need to know through evidence you can perceive that you are moving toward your results so your goal must state how that will be accomplished. Ideally, two criteria are necessary: 1) to be clear about how you will know you have achieved the outcome for yourself, and 2) how will others in your life know that you have achieved the outcome.
  • The desired state must be initiated and maintained by the student, not the coach. The locus of control must be with the student which is usually in the form of accessing resources. So, if someone said, “I want my wife to stop criticizing me and telling me to get a real job,” that outcome would be out of the person’s control. Instead, the person would need to state a positive outcome such as determining what the wife might being doing instead of criticizing you and saying to get a real job. The answer also needs to be demonstrable, as described above. Then you need to determine what resources are necessary to achieve that outcome, with those resources being in the client’s control.
  • The goal must preserve any positive by-products of the present state. Those positive by-products tend to be negative habits (i.e., drinking too much) that are used to achieve the positive state (i.e., feeling relaxed). So whatever is being done must also preserve the relaxation that is desired or the person might just go back or develop other bad habits to achieve them. For example, many people who are obese may have an issue with the opposite sex and feel unattractive. What would happen if they felt they were attractive and were then approached by people of the opposite sex? If their goal was to “become attractive”, then they would need the resources to be able to deal with that particular issue. In addition, the goal must be able to deal with any future impacts of the desired outcome. So what will the person’s system gain or lose as a result of achieving the desired outcome. For example, if you become a successful trader, what are the ramifications of achieving that? What if you have issues with having a lot of money — for example, what if you believe that people will take advantage of you; cheat you; or if you believe that rich people abuse their families. The new outcome must be able to deal with those possibilities.
  • Finally, the desired outcome must be appropriately contextualized and be ecologically sound – i.e. taking into account your other responsibilities, the people around you, etc. For example, if you state your outcome using a universal quantifier such as (all, always, never), you may find situations in which the outcome desired is not appropriate. I always want to follow my trading rules, however, you might find conditions in which your trading rules might stop working, such as when the market type changes. So you must be able to contextualize the outcome. A good way of understanding that is that most beliefs, no matter how bad they might seem, might have some context is which they are useful. Similarly, most beliefs have contexts in which they are not useful.

Establishing a Well-Formed Outcome for the Super Trader Program

So now let’s look at the Super Trader program as a goal (i.e., to become a Super Trader) with a well-formed outcome. So here is my version of it.

The Super Trader program will produce massive transformation to enable candidates to be able to follow the Tharp Think principles, develop a great business handbook to run a trading business, and develop three non-correlated trading systems (that work in different market types) that they trade profitably and at 95% or higher efficiency.

This statement still needs a little more detail to flesh out the well-formed conditions. It is definitely stated as a positive outcome.

So how is the outcome testable and demonstrable? How do we know the outcome is achieved and that progress is being made?

Outcome One: Five Major Transformations

I talked about these transformations in a recent article about the Super Trader program.

  • First, I expect a candidate’s awareness and level of consciousness (pretty much synonymous) to increase during the program. We measure this by the happiness test. By the end of Super Trader 1, I would like their happiness score to be consistently above 60 (although 70 is better). This is measurable.
  • Second, I would like them to consider that their beliefs are useful (within a context) and not absolute. I would also like them to understand how they can easily change their beliefs. This would be demonstrated by numerous examples.
  • Third, negative states should be observed and witnessed and then accepted. Acceptance is a metastate which tends to change the basic state to a much higher level, however, I want them also to have some mastery over feeling release. When I see evidence of this sufficiently in their weekly reports, then I know it is accomplished.
  • Next, I’m looking for their ability to converse with their Higher Self and to do Transformational Meditation on issues that come up. Examples of this would include daily dialogues with their Higher Self and successful completion of Libby Adams 28 day course.
  • Finally, I’d like them to find their purpose in life and to be certain that they have actually found their purpose.
    And naturally, all these transformations will lead to numerous personal transformations.

These are demonstrated on an ongoing basis through the successful completion of the Super Trader lessons and their weekly progress reports. There are currently 20 lessons in the new Super Trader 1.

Outcome Two: Develop a Trading Business Rooted in A Strong Business Handbook that proves they have a strong psychological foundation and find the resources to solve any problems that arise

This is demonstrated by the satisfactory completion of their business handbook that meets all the criteria given to them for the handbook. Most of those criteria are given in Trading Beyond the Matrix.
In addition, they will demonstrate this goal on an ongoing basis through the completion of the lessons in Super Trader 2.

Outcome Three: Develop Three Non-Correlated Systems that Work in Various Market Types

This outcome is easily demonstrated through their presentation of each of their systems, to include the beliefs behind the system; the logic behind the system; why it will work in certain market types and not work in other types; and whatever statistics they can present on the performance of the system.

Outcome Four: Trade the Systems Profitably at 95% Efficiency or Better

Demonstration of this is obvious through monthly trading logs showing their profits and losses and mistakes made. And when they have 100 trades, meeting the criteria, with at least 10 from each system, then they are eligible for graduation.

Outcome Five: Demonstrate that they have developed the skill to handle any new psychological roadblocks that might come up during ST 2 and ST 3

This is demonstrated through weekly reports about roadblocks that come up and how they handle it.
Its culmination is graduation.

So How is the Program Maintained by the Student?

This one is fairly easy because Super Trader candidates do the work and send in the lessons and weekly reports. If they don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. My job as their coach is to answer questions, help them get through difficult times when they ask for help (primarily on their psychological issues), and to make sure they do a good job on the lessons. Doing a good job on the lessons is critical for their progress.

It’s all about having the appropriate resources to accomplish each task. Generally, a good coach helps clients by asking questions. I noticed recently in watching videos of Dr. L. Michael Hall’s metacoaching program that about 90% of what a good coach does is ask questions. And the questions are all about helping the client find their own resources.

How Does the Program Deal with the Positive By-Products of Where they are now and with the Future Implications of What will happen when their achieve their goals?

One difference between the Super Trader program and the normal NLP client coach relationship is that our goals are huge and involve finding and tackling many issues. For example, one lesson requires that they identify and evaluate the impact of about 400 identity level beliefs. This finds and overcomes many issues before they ever could arise in the program. Another lesson requires that they come up with a complete life history, including beliefs formed and issues that might have come up in the past. Again, this helps them identify demons well before they arise in the Super Trader Program. And finally we have at least four lessons that deal with negative states or resources that they must process. As a result, when they complete all of this work we expect that very few issues will come up during trading that they have not already dealt with.

In addition, when they complete ST1, they must also respond to a number of questions to show that they are capable of facing whatever issues might come up when they start applying what they have learned to the program. This turns the application sections, developing a trading business, developing three systems, and trading efficiently into an applied psychological exercise.

How is the Program Appropriately Contextualized and Ecologically Sound?

First, trading is contextualized in the program as the candidates’ full time job (if it isn’t already) or at least a major supplement to their income. Thus, the whole program lies within the context of a major aspect of their lives, not some minor problem area.

Second, they will complete an extensive program of evaluating their beliefs using a certain context and not in others. And they will have learned that there are probably no absolute beliefs that apply to all situations. Context is rooted in their educational process.

Third, one of the major transformations is to find their life’s purpose and to have trading fit within that context. Finding one’s purpose generally changes most people’s lives and when trading becomes part of that context, it almost guarantees a sound ecology check.

Finally, everyone in the program learns that trading is simply a measure of their spiritual growth. Here spirituality is defined as a larger system — family, community, global, universal. It’s an inner journey of discovering who they are. Once again, this context becomes a huge ecological check.


If this information about using well-formed goals is new to you, I encourage you to begin to implement this practice for current goals in your life.

1 The ecology check is a key step in every NLP technique. It essentially involves assessing the impact that a particular change of behavior will have on the rest of the system or systems of which the person is a part.

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