How to get the Outcome you want!

Updated: Jul 29, 2018

It was some time in the last decade I was reading a book called S.U.M.O. (Shut Up, Move On): The straight-talking guide to succeeding in life”, where the author (Paul McGee) introduced a concept I’d never heard before. A simple formula that was embedded in his S.U.M.O model and resonated with me and where my career was at.

The formula was E + R = O


(I’ll talk about S.U.M.O. and how the learnings from that book helped me along my journey in another post, but today’s post is about E + R = O.)

So, what is E + R = O? What has it got to do with you and your career? And how did it impact me? I’m glad you asked!

E + R = O stands for Event plus Response equals Outcome.

The formula was developed by Jack Canfield and first described in his book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be”.

In simple terms the concept is that every outcome you experience is the result of how you have responded to an earlier Event in your life. Similarly, if you want to change the outcomes you will get in the future, you must change how you respond to events in your life.

A bit abstract? Ok, let me explain in more detail.

It is not uncommon when people don’t like the Outcomes they are experiencing, that they will blame the Event for their lack of results (or the Outcome.)

For example, how often have you heard people blame their situation on the economy, the weather, not having any money, being unlucky, discrimination, their boss being an idiot, their partner, their parents not sending them to the best school, blah, blah, blah? I’m guessing more than once.


Now how many of those same people ever blamed themselves? Not so many huh?

Now, I’m not saying that some of these factors aren’t absolutely real and may very well have impacted their situation. But it’s highly unlikely that their situation is totally unique. And, if these things were THE deciding factors in whether someone succeeded or not, how could anybody succeed? There would be hundreds of people who have faced the same circumstances, conditions or challenges and succeeded, from the same, or similar, position.

So why are those lucky sods successful? The deciding factor in their success is not the external conditions and circumstances, but how they choose to respond (which is R).

Whilst it might be comforting to not blame ourselves, we need to really consider the possibility that we may be our own worst enemy. Too often people are constrained by limiting thoughts and engage in behaviours that restrict their chance at success.

I’m a runner (not a very good one) and I run marathons, ultra-marathons and the occasional adventure multi-stage race. And yes, I’m completely sane, my Mother had me tested.


When I talk to people who don’t run but tell me they would like to complete a half marathon or a 10km fun run, many will immediately follow up with statement like, “But I’m not a runner” or “My knees hurt when I run” or “There’s just no time for me to train”, and so on.

These are all fine excuses, but they aren’t reasons.

“I’m not a runner?” Seriously?? Humans were designed to run. If our ancestors weren’t able to run they would have been gobbled up by one of the many larger, big toothed predators chasing them.

“My knees hurt when I run”. Spoiler alert! Everybody’s knees hurt when they first start running, along with their feet, their calves, their quads, their hips, etc etc. Now I accept some people have old injuries that will resurface when running. But, usually they can be managed, by:

  • Not running on hard surfaces.

  • Investing in good runners that will cushion the impact on the body.

  • Doing exercises to strengthen those areas that are susceptible to injury or pain.

  • Using gym equipment like elliptical machines and cross trainers to build cardio without running to get fit for a run.

“There is just no time for me to train”. Really? How about setting the alarm one hour early? For more tips on how to create time check out our "You want Me time? You Got it!" guide on the Resources page.

My point is simple. If you want it, you have to work for it and you have to make it happen. It might mean sacrifices, discomfort, pain, self-doubt and embarrassment.

Training for a marathon (or a 5km or 10km run) can be a metaphor for life, work, study, relationships or sport.

  1. Set the goal.

  2. Do the training/work

  3. Prepare yourself for the event

  4. Do it!

  5. Celebrate it!

When you start finding reasons to dodge the training (work) or looking for the easy way out, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Make the time, do the work.

By the way, I was in my mid 40’s when I completed my first marathon and up until then I was unfit, overweight and uncommitted to exercise. My drive was that I wanted to run a marathon, and I had seen others complete a marathon. Surely if they could, I could.

Look at the things you know you should do, but don’t. For example:

  • Make that call,

  • Do the training,

  • Sign up for the course,

  • Develop those skills you know need development

  • Eat the right food and ditch the junk food

  • Avoid time on trivial time wasters

  • Don’t spend more than you make

Get the picture?

It’s a tough lesson, but the world doesn’t own any of us a living. You want something, you gotta work for it.

As Vince Lombardi said, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”


People that appear to be super lucky and successful have a different mindset and a different approach. They simply change their responses (R) to the events (E) until they get the outcomes (O) they want.

What? Sound too easy?

We each have absolute control over the way we think, the way we communicate, and the way we behave. Let’s face it, that’s about ALL we have control over.

The key to making a positive shift is to take control. This means not allowing ourselves to be ruled by the “way we do things”, our old habits and sticking to practices that don’t yield the results we want.

It can be a dangerous trap when you become stuck in a rut of conditioned behaviour and responses, be that to our partner, colleagues, customers, employer or friends – or simply conforming with the way the world tells us we have to behave to “fit in”. Habits are hard to break, especially bad ones!

Do me a favour and take a moment now and step outside of all the noise and activity surrounding you. Take a deep breath and clear your mind. Now ask yourself…

  • What is it you want?

  • Is it important to you?

  • What would it mean to you?

  • Is what you are doing today going to get you there?

  • Do you think you can achieve it without doing something to make it happen?

  • Do you think you will regret it if you don’t try to make it happen?

  • What do you think you could do to help get what you want?

  • Is it important enough for you to make some changes in your life?

  • Are you prepared to make sacrifices to make it happen?


So now what are you thinking? Do you want to turn your dreams into reality?

To do so, requires you to gain control of your thoughts, your actions, your dreams, and your behaviour. Everything you think, say, and do needs to become intentional and aligned with your purpose, your values, and your goals.

The simplicity of the model is, if you don’t like your outcomes, change your responses. But don’t blame the event, and don’t give up.

An Event can be anything!

  • When traffic is crazy, and someone cuts you off on the road.

  • Crappy weather when you have to commute in to work.

  • The boss’ bad mood who seems to be taking it out on you

  • A terse email from a client or colleague that seems unfair and out of context

Pretty much anything actually that is outside of your control, which means you can’t change it, manipulate it or control it. But let’s be honest, you can’t analyse and review everything in your life, so it makes more sense to focus on the important “stuff” – and more importantly the Events that really cause you angst and hurt what is most important to you, and your goals.

So how can you change the way you respond? It really comes back to being mindful about the way you think when an event occurs. Ask yourself:

  • What do I think when this event happens?

  • How do I usually react? Is that helpful?

  • What are the consequences of how I act?

  • How do I feel in response to those feelings and thoughts?

What you will probably find is that the way you react to certain events is an emotional reaction driven more out of habit, ingrained behaviours and past experiences, than considered action.

As humans we love consistency, predictability and certainty. That is why habits form, which in turns creates neural networks from repetitive behaviours. When you can create positive responses that deliver better outcomes, you start to create new neural pathways.

There’s mountains of really interesting papers on neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and the importance of stretching your brain to do things outside your norm. Consciously changing behavioural activities and learning new things in our daily lives, enables us to rewire the brain and establish new patterns of activity. Good way to de-risk the chance of getting dementia too ;-) But that’s for another day!

All this, ties back to what you believe is in your control and then what you can do to change your response.

Responding is where the rubber hits the road and words and thoughts need to turn in to action – deliberate action.

How you respond is all about choice. They are choices you have, and your response can be controlled by you. Forget about how you used to respond. This is about how you choose to respond now, and from this point forward, with your new-found awareness and clarity of what is important.

Your response is actioned through your thoughts, your emotions and your behaviour.

Now before you go charging off to make massive changes in the way you behave, it’s important first to get a handle on the way you think and why you react the way you do so you can deal with them. If you know there are things that hit your buttons, review them and understand the emotional triggers so you can decide how to react when they occur next time.

The most important take-out is that you will accept that how you respond is your responsibility. Sounds easy huh?

In general terms it is. That is until you have to make a change in the way you respond that you feel is unfair or unjustified. Sometimes dealing with other people’s crap and needing to take responsibility can be irksome and overwhelming.

It seriously annoys me when I have to change my plans because someone else has dropped the ball, changed the rules or just been totally ignorant. Whew, deep breath, I’m not getting angry.

This is why it is always important to reflect back on the outcome (goal) you are seeking and reflecting on how important that is, and what you would do to realise it. Don’t let those things you can’t control rain on your parade!

Making this formula work requires a commitment to be completely honest with yourself and be able to conduct a critical self-assessment of yourself and how you are feeling.

Whilst this program sounds like it could be THE solution, there is no absolute guarantee of success (is there ever!). The trick is to keep pivoting with different responses and trying other ways to tackle an event, to get your desired outcome.

All you can do is deal with the challenge in front of you. And you can only respond with actions that you can impact or control.

The key lesson to take from this formula and allow you to impact your performance and achieve your goals, is to identify what is in your control, and what is not. Don’t over invest time and energy responding to events that you cannot change or influence.

Give your time and energy to actions that you can take. Look at every event or challenge that you can’t influence as a speed-hump or obstacle that you need to work your way around through positive action taken by you.

So next time you feel like the world is against you and your goals are slipping away, remember E + R = O.

You have the power.