A quick reality check for your 2016 plans – 3 ways to seize control while there’s still time left

"So, Bookface, how are your plans for this year?" "Well, I filled my quota of cat pictures back in January..."Time for a quick reality-check. It’s now over a third of the way through 2016 – have your plans for this year materialised yet, or have you already told yourself “well, maybe next year…”

If that’s you, it’s time to be proactive and to begin designing your future.

Now, Woody Allen wasn’t far wrong when he said “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

In other words, not all designs work out as planned, so I’ve provided some guidelines that successful people use implicitly and which you can begin to use explicitly.

These are:

While following these systems doesn’t guarantee success, they will definitely show you what is workable and give you ways to get started on your hopes and dreams instead of waiting and hoping.

That’s it. Be proactive – do something definite and do it today…

Working with Belief Clusters – Part 3: How Values Form Chains

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Working with Belief Clusters – Part 3: How Values Form Chains

Previously, I demonstrated how beliefs and values are related and how beliefs form chains. In this third part of the series, I show you how values also form chains – but only if you elicit them correctly…


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Working with Belief Clusters – Part 3: How Values Form Chains

There is a completely different way we can track the formation of chains – this time through the connections between values.

However, it’s really important to elicit the person’s values without imposing any sort of order on them.

In this instance, we’re just modelling the value structure and relationships that currently exist.

There are, broadly speaking, two formal values elicitation questions and both have different functions.

1 – “What’s important about X?”

This question identifies the values in a particular area of life, X.

For example:

“What’s important about relationships?” will tend to elicit a value in the context of relationships.

So far, so good. One way to progress from there is to keep eliciting values connected to relationships. The formal way to do this is to ask:

“What else is important about relationships?”. This will tend to elicit another value in the context of relationships. Then keep repeating this question until you get a list of values.

However, if this is the only type of question you ask, you will get a long list of values relevant to the context of relationships, but you will not have any information about how those values are connected to each other.

So the classic thing which is done in this situation (especially by life-coaches) is to impose a hierarchy. This is done by asking:

“Which one of those values is the most important?”
or
“If you had to do without one of these values, which one would it be?”
or
“List your values in order of importance.”

(It’s quite common to advise people to do this – just Google ‘NLP values hierarchy’ to see some examples.)

However, if you do this, you’ve just lost something really important and re-structured how the person perceives their values. This is bad.

I know – some of you may be thinking:

“But I’m sure values form a hierarchy. What about the ‘hierarchy of values’? and what about Maslow’s hierarchy?”

Firstly, the hierarchy of values. We made it up and it has lasted because it appeals to our need for simple order. That’s all. Elicit values cleanly and you won’t find a linear hierarchy. Just test it out and see for yourself.

This is not to be confused with a ‘hierarchy of criteria’, which imposes order on criteria (which includes, but is not limited to, values) in order to leverage aspects of that order.

Secondly, Maslow’s work has nothing to do with values whatsoever. Read up on that if you’re still not sure about it.

So you have a list of values and imposing a hierarchy is not going to show you how the values are naturally linked together. What do you do?

You ask a second type of values-elicitation question:

2 – “When you have [value] what does that give you?”

Or simply

“What’s important about [value]?”

This allows you to identify direct relationships between values and therefore you travel down the values chain, rather than across the surface.

For example:

“What’s important to you about work?”
– a sense of accomplishment

“ok, so a sense of accomplishment. When you have that sense of accomplishment, what does that give you?”
– it gives me satisfaction

“Ok. So when you get that satisfaction from your work, what does that give you?”
– a feeling of well-being

So far, we have identified the linear chain [accomplishment -> satisfaction -> well-being] Is it a hierarchy? It looks a lot like one until we keep going.

“What does that well-being give you?”
– a sense of accomplishment

What we really have here is a simple loop. This is not uncommon, by the way and there are other structures to be found too, if you elicit the values chains cleanly.

[By ‘cleanly’, I don’t mean use the ‘clean language’ approach, necessarily. Just stop assuming how the system is ordered and find out what is really there.]

Access the next part of this series to find out:

  • What other structures do values chains form?
  • What strengths and weaknesses does each structure have?

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Working With Belief Clusters 2 – How Beliefs Form Chains

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Working with Belief Clusters – Part 2: How Beliefs Form Chains

To create lasting change, we often need to look at the bigger picture, especially when working with limiting beliefs, which are connected into larger structures. In this second video in the series, I show four ways in which beliefs chain together.


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Working with Belief Clusters – Part 2: How Beliefs Form Chains

In order to identify clusters – complex structures with many linkages – we need to look first at simple connections. I call these ‘chains’. Let’s get started.

Working with the ‘If – Then – Means’ belief structure from the previous part, there are several ways that chains can form:

1. Cause -> Effect -> Further consequences

When we start with the cause and effect part of the belief, often the effect has consequences too.

if X then Y (means Z)
and
if Y then A (means B)

X -> Y -> A

For example:
If I try then I’ll fail (means I’m a failure)
If I fail then I’ll never try it again (means I’m a quitter)

These causes, effects and further consequences work like a row of dominoes.

2. Cause + Condition -> Effect

The chains can also branch, especially if multiple factors work together to create different effects.

For example:
If I try then I’ll fail (means I’m a failure)

If I fail and I’m stressed then I’ll never try it again (means I’m a quitter)
or
If I fail and I’m not stressed then I’ll try it again (means I’m learning)

This way, we get a complete and more complex structure.

X -> Y
Y + stress -> A
Y (no stress) -> X

Notice how ‘trying it again’ loops back round to the start (X)

3. Cause -> Effect 1 + Effect 2

There can also be multiple consequences to a cause-effect.

For example:

If I try then I’ll fail (means I’m a failure)
If I fail then I’ll never try it again (means I’m a quitter)
and I’ll get depressed

In this case, getting depressed is a second effect of failing, rather than a consequence of never trying it again.

4. Cause 1 or Cause 2 -> Effect

The or structure demonstrates that some effects can stem from a variety of causes.

For example:

If I try then I’ll fail (means I’m a failure)
or
If I don’t try then I’ll fail (means I’m a failure)

If a condition or its opposite create the same effect, as in the example, this is a bind, which is a special condition of this structure. In general, limitation is what happens when the flow from cause to effect narrows rather than branching.

From all this, it’s clear that cause and effect chains can form complex structures. However, those structures can be extremely unwieldy and when creating change, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to focus your efforts.

So we need to have a way of targeting the crucial areas. Values can help with this.

Access the next part of this series to find out:

  • How to identify and elicit values chains
  • how to elicit values without damaging the chains

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Working with Belief Clusters – Part 1

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Working with Belief Clusters – Part 1: Beliefs and Values

Beliefs aren’t isolated things, so they shouldn’t be worked with in isolation. This is the first in a series about working with beliefs as clusters. Part 1 describes how beliefs and values are connected.


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Working with Belief Clusters – Part 1: Beliefs and Values

Many people talk about beliefs and how they form into ‘clusters’, yet they only work with single beliefs when they want to create change.

They don’t describe:

  • how beliefs cluster,
  • why that is important,
  • how to identify the beliefs in a cluster,
  • or how they are interconnected.

I’m going to answer some of those questions in this series of videos, so when I’m finished, you’ll have some simple theory and some actionable knowledge too.

Values are an interesting place to begin, because

  • they’re easy to identify
  • they’re interlinked
  • they relate directly to beliefs
  • they focus you on the areas which are most important

Again, many people elicit values in a particular way that imposes order on them and will prevent you from seeing how values interlink.

So before we get into values, let’s look at how they’re related to beliefs.

Values and Beliefs – Relationship

First, some basic information about how a belief is structured:

It can be useful to look at a belief as a meaningful system of cause and effect.

Robert Dilts* uses this useful structure to map beliefs onto:

if X then Y means Z

where X is the cause
where Y is the effect
and Z is a value judgement

How is this useful?

Firstly, you can also use the ‘If – Then – Means’ structure to make sure you have identified all the elements relevant to the belief you’re examining.

For example: (If I try then I’ll fail, which means I’m a failure)

‘trying’ is the cause.
‘failing’ is the effect.
‘failure’ is the value.

So we can use this structure to identify values from looking directly at beliefs.

If we’re already working with beliefs, why bother with values?

Well, we can backtrack from a value to identify a belief, or set of related beliefs.

How?

In this case, we ask about the rules surrounding a value.

Suppose, for example, we elicited the value ‘failure’.

You can ask:
“How do you know when you have failure?”
and
“How do you know when you haven’t failure?”

You might get the answers: “I know I have failure when I try something and fail (don’t succeed)” and “I know when I don’t have failure when I try something and I succeed (don’t fail)”.

Again, it helps to use the ‘If – Then – Means’ structure to make sure you have the structure of the whole belief.

So that is how values and beliefs are connected.

To summarise:

Working between beliefs and values is useful.

From beliefs to values:

  • What does it mean when X causes Y?
  • If X leads to Y, what does that mean?
  • If you Y because X, what does that mean?

From values to beliefs:

  • How do you know when you have Z?
  • How do you know when you don’t have Z?
  • What makes you Z?

Access the next part of this series to find out:

  • How to identify and elicit belief chains
  • how belief chains can branch and loop

*Dilts, R., Sleight of Mouth, (1999)

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Role 2: Role-modelling solutions

Now you’ve met your role model and had a taste of what it’s like to be them. Don’t you wish they were around when you needed their help of advice though?

Here’s a way you can have the next-best thing.

Role-modelling solutions

  1. Pick a situation where you would like the advice of a particular role model.
  2. Encapsulate the situation: Be sure where the experience begins and ends.
  3. Begin by running the experience through from your own perspective.
  4. Next, imagine your role model is present.
  5. As before, ask them questions and glean any advice you can.
  6. Now step into your role model and look at the situation again. From that perspective, what would you do differently? What would you keep the same?
  7. When you’ve gained all you can from that perspective, step back out, taking the knowledge with you.
  8. Now step back into yourself at the beginning of the experience. Given your new knowledge, how do you respond differently and how does the situation unfold this time?
  9. Cast your mind forward to a time in the future where you may encounter a similar situation. How does it play out in that instance?

In this way, you can draw upon a different, expert perspective for insight and problem solving. To gather further perspective, repeat the exercise with a second, different role model.

Interesting? Your questions and comments are welcome below.

(This is just one of the techniques you learn on our NLP Practitioner training. Go here to find out more)

Unlock Your Personal Creativity

Do you think you are a creative person?

If not, I want you to think again. Your personal creativity is probably locked up in how you define ‘creativity’. That’s not a simple case of semantics though. It’s about how you define yourself and the things you can do.

For example, are you creating a life for yourself? Or making a family? Do you have unusual ideas, make things or solve life’s little problems as you go through your day?

You might be wondering whether any of those things are really creative.

Creativity is often confused with originality – in fiction, there are really only 8 stories. However, writing is still considered to be creative. So creativity doesn’t need to be making something original.

Creativity is often confused with artistry – as though only painters, writers, sculptors and musicians could be creative. Engineers and artchitects make beautiful things, which are definitely creative, but rarely considered artistic.

Perhaps it’s time to admit that you are creative and let that aspect of you come to life.

How to Kill Procrastination

Question: What plans do you have for yourself that you’ve just been pushing into the future?

You probably know the type of plans I mean – the good stuff that seems to be always a few months out of reach.

If that’s you, congratulations – you’re just in time to prevent some regrets.

Think about this: do you really want to be in this exact same position this time next year? How would that feel?

You might tell yourself that a year can seem like a long time. One thing I do know is that time passes quickly when we idle away the moments. Procrastination – the failure to move into action – is not a modern problem either.

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Listen to da Vinci. Information is not enough. Intention is not enough. There’s something fundamentally different about action which greatly outstrips mere knowledge or willingness.

Some of you might think that da Vinci sat around all day figuring things out. Far from it. He accomplished an immense amount in his lifetime.

So what causes procrastination and how do we solve it? How can you learn to move into action more of the time?

Where people fail to act:

  • Being unaware of choices
    There are certain things we’re culturally conditioned to decide and most of them aren’t really that important when you look at the bigger picture.There are other decisions that are invisible to all but the top 0.1%, the ‘great achievers’ of our age.These are the things that you ‘can’t’ or ‘aren’t supposed to’ decide.For example, you could just decide that this is going to be the year in which your life becomes transformed – the year your dreams and plans become a glorious reality.When you consider that, what did you tell yourself? Many people think “but I can’t just do that!” then reason away their future with faulty ideas about luck, random forces or what they think they deserve.
  • Being ‘all talk’
    There’s an old saying – “talk is cheap”. It’s a sad fact that talk doesn’t necessarily transform into action.The paradox is that when you get into action, you have something to talk about.
  • Being purely theoretical
    Pure theory involves plenty of supposition and no experimentation. It’s a world-view that only builds on existing assumptions. The only testing is for plausibility (i.e. does this match what I know?). As you can probably imagine, it’s possible to build towering edifices of theory on top of faulty assumptions.Good theory is intimately linked with action – and thus learning occurs. Books aren’t great for learning unless you test the knowledge presented there. Otherwise, the only exercise is one of memory.“Life is so unlike theory.” – Anthony Trollope
  • Being too clever
    If you’ve ever seen a doorstop with built in alarm clock radio, you’ll know that it’s possible to be a bit too clever. Unfortunately, this apparent exaggeration is not far from the truth in many cases. Complexity is not a virtue. To me, the truly clever people are those who can make a seemingly complex idea easy to understand. I’m not talking about ‘dumbing down’ ideas. I’m talking about good communication and the elegance of simplicity. Wallowing in apparent complexity is a great way of avoiding action.“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
  • Being a perfectionist
    The act of perfecting something can take a long time. The standard of ‘perfection’ is, by definition, extremely hard to achieve. And often unnecessary. To wait for perfection is sometimes to wait forever. Sometimes good is good enough. Then you can act. Remember the saying “perfect spoils good”.
  • Anticipating failure
    Many people fail to act because their experience tells them that it just hurts too much to fail. This is a double whammy. Firstly, the focus is on pain and failure and you will tend to get what you focus on. Second, there is the barrier of ‘being safe’Isn’t it safe to begin living your dreams? The (often faulty) assumption of safety is that it’s safest to stick with what you’ve got and do nothing new.In many cases, ‘safe’ is like sitting in a car which is rolling towards a cliff. Everything is perfectly okay until that inevitable moment…

Decision is very often the process of cutting away all lesser options. Here’s how:

Exercise for moving into action:

  1. Identify: Where is your ‘theoretical’ knowledge?
    1. Imagine it’s true
      Close your eyes. Imagine and experience the actions that go with understanding that. What do you see, hear and feel?
    2. Imagine it’s not true
      Imagine and experience the actions that do with discovering that. What do you see, hear and feel this time?
  2. Integrate: Allow your unconscious mind to sort and combine all the information from both experiences.
  3. Action: What is the easiest way that you can test your theory in the Real World? Go now and do that before moving on.
  4. Fuzzy proposition: Few practical ‘facts’ are completely true or completely untrue. There are ‘degrees of truth’ to almost any statement based on the situation and circumstances. Based on your Real World experiences, decide where/when it’s true and where/when it’s not true.
  5. Learning: What did you learn from your ‘test actions’ that was not in (i) or (ii)? This is where learning expands through experiential knowledge.

NOTE:
It’s important to take any pain out of the learning process. Make it so experimentation feels neutral and successes feel good. Give yourself a little rewarding glow every time you do something surprisingly right or good or excellent.

It’s like being in the supermarket looking through oranges to find the best ones. Dented or unripe oranges don’t feel bad. It’s more of a neutral experience. The good ones feel different though, don’t they? Make your action steps feel like this and you’ll succeed more of the time.

Summary

This is how we kill procrastination.

The true test is in the testing – da Vinci knew this because he was an experimental sort. He was constantly modelling the world around him, testing and refining those models through action.

It’s time to take action now. Otherwise, all you can hope for is regret.

What Henry Ford Taught Me About Success

Henry Ford famously said that “Getting ready is the secret of success

While some people believe that this quote is about expectation – that is, you should ‘be ready’ for success to happen to you – I think that misses the point.

Ford is really saying that success isn’t due to a single masterful action. You need to pave the way carefully, and only that preparation makes the action decisive.

In short, the focus here is on what happens before the master-stroke.

Every joke has a set-up before the punch-line and every sale frames the deal before the clincher. Ford understood that success is no different.

I also made use of this principle when using NLP to model excellence. In fact, when Bandler and Grinder undertook their first modelling experiments, creating the foundations of NLP, they used this principle too.

They video-taped sessions with Virginia Satir and when they observed a change in a client, they rewound the tape to find out what Virginia had done to pave the way for that change.

I have also found this principle to be useful for Public Speaking though not just by rehearsing. Preparation is a well-understood part of athletic performance; everyone expects that athletes have undergone a rigorous and thorough training program before competing.

Success is no different, yet many still expect it to be a one-shot deal – they try once or twice, fail and then give up. Now imagine a complete novice learning the high-jump. Is it reasonable for them to give up after only a few days of failing to break the world record? That would be foolish.

Getting ready requires preparation, practice and learning. However, it doesn’t need endless repetition.

What series of exercises can you do to prepare yourself for success? To ‘tone your mental muscles’ so to speak?

Take some time to think about that and you may find your own answers. For those who want a short-cut, I’ve created my Mastering Success course and written my Goal Mastery book as a compilation of those methods.

That’s why I think this quote from Henry Ford is so important. It shows a successful man letting you in on his secret. Isn’t it time you got yourself ready too?

How to Stop Wasting Your Time With Repetition

Many people seem to misunderstand the purpose of repetition in learning.

They seem to think that repetition is about ‘getting something into your memory’:

  • memorise your study notes in school through endless repetition to ‘learn’ them
  • go through endless repetitions of physical movements to ‘get them into muscle memory’
  • go over scales again and again in music to ‘key them into memory’

The trouble with repetition as a learning device is that it doesn’t actually do anything very fast or very well.

Repetition is really about refinement.

  • learn the physical movement, then run through repetitions (with a high quality reference experience) to refine it.
    This actually makes use of our ‘learning and refinement’ loops
  • learn the musical scales to educate and strengthen the necessary muscles. Repeat until they ‘sound right’. Refinement.

Repetition is learning only if you are refining what you have learned.

To embed learning, it must be memorable in some way. No amount of repetition can substitute for this.

I remember my Chemistry teacher giving us silly songs and rhymes to remember certain scientific principles. There wasn’t much repetition involved at all. At the time we absolutely hated it, but I can still call those principles clearly to mind twenty-five years later. They made the learning memorable.

If learning is fun, exciting, silly, shocking or fascinating, it is more memorable because the most accessible memories tend to be coded emotionally. We also tend to learn more quickly when emotion is present.

Repetition runs our learning through refinement loops until it reaches a stable conformation, where we meet some kind of internal standard (good enough) or match the quality of the reference experience we are trying to emulate.

So repetition without refinement isn’t really learning. It is a misuse of our most valuable resource: time.

To Summarise:

When you learn, get out of the repetition trap by asking yourself what the purpose of the repetition really is. If it’s about ‘getting the information into your mind or body‘ then stop and make the learning memorable. Then only use repetition to refine your experience.

Why Excellence Means Burning Your Bridges

A certain set of skills, techniques and routines raise us from zero to a state of competence.
However, to set a higher standard and further refine those loops doesn’t guarantee further improvement. Far from it.

That is a mind-trap. The thinking goes kind of like this:

“if doing X for one hour per week got me a result, doing two hours of X will get me twice that result.”

There’s a flaw: refinement isn’t infinitely scaleable.

In fact, we begin to move into diminishing returns beyond a certain point. A lot of people will tell you that this is how it has to be. They’ll insist that increasing effort resulting in smaller and smaller gains is how the top people did it. They’ll try to tell you to do it that way, or you “haven’t got what it takes”.

If you buy into that way of thinking, you may reach the point where effort vs reward is no longer worth it – and still be a long way from excellence.

Treading on your dreams

I realise that this might sound like I’m lining your dreams up for a downer ending – and that’s where they’re going if you buy into the ‘wind it tighter’ armchair expert bullshit.

However, there is another, better option when you reach a high state of competence – and it doesn’t involve winding your refinement loops tighter or being more efficient.

It involves something that is initially more difficult, because it involves letting go of the ‘tried-and-tested’ method which got you to a state of high competence.

It involves finding a process that is new to you – one which takes you to excellence by refining your skills in a different way, or refining a completely different characteristic. It involves a shift in perspective and a change in how you think about what you are doing.

Successful people reinvent themselves and they think differently than those who are merely competent.

It’s easy to be mediocre

it’s easy to keep going on the familiar route because it has proven its efficacy this far – and it’s comfortable. That comfort is also a powerful force preventing change. The bite of diminishing returns on your effort is what does the rest of the job. That’s why most people give up before they become truly excellent at something.

Simply, what got you here will not get you there.

Turning the world upside down

Here’s an analogy which might help. Suppose you want to get to Australia. You get in a car and start heading in the direction of Australia. You accelerate and so you make some gains more quickly. There will come a certain point where you reach the coast. Driving faster just will not do the job. You need to do something completely different beyond that point because what got you to the coast will not get you to Australia. It’s obvious a boat or an aeroplane is the next vehicle you need.

What is the next vehicle for you? Knowing when to abandon your current process and start searching for alternatives is a hallmark of success.

It takes daring

That search involves a lot of trial and error – essentially working past a lot of failure. Coping with and learning from failure has to be an integral part of the plan. You must expect repeated failure and use it positively until you find a new successful process.

Did you ever wonder how succcessful people are so good at a number of things? they’ve internalised this type of thinking. Having done it once already, they now know what to expect. They know when and how to switch vehicles. They know that past success can keep you from future improvement if you become addicted to success and tied to how you achieved it.

Time to let go

So think about whether now is the time to let go. Diminishing returns are a good indicator that you need to think differently and change your process.

Where are you now? Aside from your previous process, what do you think will get you from here to excellence?

Let me know in the comments below.