The Disney Strategy for goals

Reading time 4 mins

“I once had this great idea… but….”

How many great ideas have you come up with Great Ideas – and never followed through on them?

Such as I’m going to

  • Go after that new job or promotion
  • Begin that exercise and weight management programme
  • Start my own business
  • Make a big change in my personal life
  • Re-evaluate where I’m going with my life
  • Change my living circumstances.

Note: there are two articles on this technique. This is the big-picture or overview – and there is also the Step-by-Step Guide.


Most of us come up with big ideas like these but they tend to quickly get squashed or remain simmering in the background forever through thinking such as:

Lovely idea – but I could never do that…

It’s too big for me right now

I mean…well, let’s be real – you know your place!

I’d  never be able to achieve it

You’re only setting yourself up for disappointment

Oh, well, maybe one day…

Why do we do it?

It can appear as if we’re self-sabotaging. We want to make the dream happen yet we appear to endlessly delay or obstruct our own plans. And this process undermines peace of mind – as in the quotation ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick.’

Why do we not take action? There can be many reasons for this apparent self-sabotaging or negative thinking:

  • We’ve been taught as children not to have high hopes – and to ‘know your place’
  • We did have great hopes at one stage but they came to nothing
  • We’ve failed in the past and decided that was that – never again

It doesn’t help when the positive-thinking brigade, in the form of well-intentioned friends and relatives, offer their advice:

You’ll just have:

  • Stop being negative and start being proactive or
  • Believe in yourself or
  • Just do it or
  • Seize the day (etc, etc.etc.). 

Following recipes? Nah, just a waste of time!

Let’s you want to prepare a lovely meal for family or friends. But you don’t like following recipes: Much too confining. Too much faffing about. I like to just do it intuitively. So you throw everything in the pot, heat it up and then serve the resulting mess.

Although it’s unlikely to be well received this doesn’t mean that you’re a poor cook – just that you haven’t followed a recipe.

So let’s say that, instead, you decide that just this once you’ll carefully follow a recipe. So you cook the ingredients in a particular order which brings out the individual flavours and textures. Result: delightful meal – but made by the same cook.

So, when it comes to turning your dreams into reality, what may appear to others to be negative-thinking or self-sabotage or a lack of determination is often simply the result of muddled and unclear thinking – the result of not following the right recipe.

The Disney ‘recipe’ for clear thinking

We often don’t get around to doing the really important things in our lives because we’re not using the right thinking tools.

In particular we allow three different styles of thinking, each of which is very valuable in itself, to undermine our dreams because we throw these into the same pot and at the same time – and end up with a confusing and discouraging mess of thoughts!

The NLP approach to using your brain efficiently is similar to cooking – and the Disney Strategy is like a recipe for turning your goals or dreams into reality. It gives us a way of separating out these three styles of thinking so that we can benefit from each of them.


The strategy was devised by Todd Epstein and Robert Dilts, two NLP trainers from the US west coast, and is based on the strategy which they identified in how Walt Disney brought his visionary ideas for animation films from dream to reality.

They observed that when Disney had a plan for a new film the people around him recognised that he seemed to go through three phases of thinking which they named Dreamer, Realist, and Critic. They quote one of Disney’s animators … there were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler.  You never knew which one was coming into your meeting.  (Skills for The Future,1993, Meta Publications).

Walt Disney used each of the three styles – but in sequence rather than simultaneously! This produced action. Many of us muddle up the three styles – producing confusion, disenchantment, and inaction.

A technique for making dreams real

The NLP Disney Strategy provides us with a systematic way of turning dreams into workable plans – or, as is sometimes the case, evaluating the dream and recognising that it’s simply not workable.

It’s always one of the favourites on our NLP Practitioner Programme, partly because it is so simple and especially because it is a great method for taking those Huge Daunting Projects and transforming them into manageable goals.

It does take a while to explain the technique in text rather than demonstrate it in a live and interactive workshop. But once you’ve run through it once or twice you’ll see how easy it is to use – and how quickly it can be done.

For example, here in Bournemouth we have a monthly NLP practice group.  A few days ago we were exploring the Disney Strategy and each person had just 15-20 minutes, coached by a friend, to run a great idea through the strategy.

Despite the shortage of time the results were impressive – and I afterwards jotted down a few of the comments:

  • I’m now clear about the goal instead of a little muddled
  • Things are now  achievable
  • It’s no longer overwhelming
  • I have a strategy for an idea I’ve been thinking about for years.

Time for action

If you would like to use the technique for yourself you can follow the NLP Disney Strategy Step-by-Step guide on this page.

It’s all explained there. Use it to turn those Great Big Ideas into plans.


The Pegasus NLP Newsletter

Most articles on this site originally appeared in The Pegasus NLP Newsletter – which has been published continuously since January 2001.

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