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.

Assumptions and Faulty Thinking

Lately, I have found myself thinking about the assumptions that we make about the world around us. The world can sometimes be a complex place and the assumptions we make are an essential tool in simplifying things.

Very often, these assumptions are useful and we move forward quickly because of that. One can safely assume that gravity will always work and that rain is wet. You can assume with a high degree of certainty that your front door opens the same way as it did yesterday and when you wake up in the morning, you’re still in the same place where you went to sleep.

However, many of the assumptions we make are on much shakier ground. Have you ever found yourself anticipating that a task will be difficult? Or that a person will be unreasonable? Or that everyone else sees the world like you do?

This last assumption – that we all live in the same world, following the same ‘rules’ – is the cause of more conflict and unhappiness than just about any other premise.

It’s good to test your assumptions once in a while – or more often. And some faulty thinking is really silly. for example:

“Racing cars are fast and they have stripes, therefore putting stripes on my car will make it go faster.”

It’s a funny example, I know, yet no less valid than many of the assumptions we make every day.

If you’re NLP-trained, these concepts will be familiar to you – it’s possible to identify and break down such assumptions with the meta-model. From this, life flows more smoothly – and it can be much easier than you previously thought.

NLP Word Power 2 – Words That Lend Influence

Some words can be used to ‘lend’ influence to others. In this pattern, two things become linked in a person’s mind. There are various simple words to do this, words that you use every day.

Linking with a simple conjunction, such as ‘and’, can be very powerful, because we tend to consciously ignore small words.

At this point you might be thinking “seriously – ‘and’ ? That’s it?” Bear with me.

Because we ignore words like ‘and’, we need to sharpen our awareness to notice the effect of this linking.

How it’s misused:

For example, think about the phrase “health and beauty”. We see this fairly often and don’t question it, but do the two necessarily belong together?

Are healthy people necessarily beautiful? Are beautiful people necessarily healthy? I’m sure we can agree that the link between the two is nowhere near as definite as the phrase might imply. How about “health and safety”? Again, the link is tenuous at best. This is true of many statements which are linked with the word ‘and’.

How about an advertising example: Have a coke and a smile

How you can use it powerfully:

On the upside, this language pattern is really easy to use. Just link something together with something else using ‘and’. Here are some examples.

“relax and enjoy yourself”

“have fun and do well in your interview”

“take your time and come up with the right answer”

It’s really simple and you can test it out for yourself.


To add borrowed influence to an idea, use simple linkages like ‘and’.

NLP – The Magic of Structure Part 1

(1) Do people have structured internal experience?

One of the presuppositions of NLP is that experience has a structure. This is a very useful thing to presuppose as it opens up clear channels of access to a person’s experience and enables us to have a means to re-encode it. This is the basis of many useful techniques in NLP, whereby we can reassign someone’s beliefs, their preferences and their hopes and fears in order to enrich their experience and improve the way they interact with the world.

However, if taken as an absolute law, this presupposition can be quite limiting. How so? The difficulty arises when one questions how much of that structure was there before you started and how much was ‘installed’ as part of an intervention by the NLPer. I see no problem in itself with installing temporary useful structure if there is none evident. The real problem is that when one believes the construct to be real, the structure can become limiting.

How do these frameworks become installed? When one pre-frames a technique and asks for structure as part of an elicitation, one tends to get what the language has set up as an expectation and continues to presuppose throughout the process. So what is really there?

What structure is commonplace?

So how can we tell what structure is present without elicitation? The structure we can observe analogs for from the outside initially seems like a safe bet. This would include sensory modalities, submodalities and metaprograms as well as a great many other things. If one can observe those in someone who has not undergone NLP training, then they must be inherent. And the place where you personally keep pictures of people you like must always be the same, right?

Now, how does this vary between individuals?

What structure is individual?

While many people exhibit similar eye accessing patterns and other structure, it is evident that many other patterns vary between individuals. As a simple example, both myself and the reader have a ‘location where I keep pictures of people I like’, but mine may be in a different place than yours. This is meaningful in that it suggests that this part of the structure may be flexible. Some constructs, such as that elicited in the submodality belief change, may be even more flexible – and it is important to realise that such structure may not be absolute.

In fact, one could usefully describe three different categories for structure :

  • Rigid structure (e.g. eye accessing cues)
  • Flexible structure (e.g. submodalities)
  • Arbitrary structure (e.g. concept/belief submodalities)

So, what use are these distinctions anyway?

Who needs the structure – the client or the NLPer?

It is reasonable to say that an awareness of such patterns is of great use to an NLPer and of lesser importance to the client. The structure is essentially used as a system of classification for the client’s current world-view, so the NLPer may reorganise items into more useful places – basically to reorganise their perceptual filters and associations more harmoniously.

Is it more useful to suppose that we, in fact, install a structure in order to sort their experience?

In the purest sense, it doesn’t matter whether we install the structure or not as long as we get the flexibility to rearrange any ‘inherent’ structure that is not geared toward supporting the change the client requires in its current form.

It is useful in that we get to choose and modify the structure at will. With this recognition that we can install useful constructs and sorting systems, one can pre-frame some very useful things and elicit exactly what one needs to in order to make a considerable change. It is possible to be free to generate more useful structures for change, creating a potential short-cut to a lasting solution rather than supporting the belief that ‘this is how that person is’.

Are many techniques just reorganising experience once it has been pigeonholed into the installed structure?

In the case of the submodality belief change and many other NLP patterns and techniques, this seems like a promising description of what actually occurs. The real potential is in understanding how one may reorganise the structure for greatest ease of operation and benefit to the client. Which distinct pigeonholes would you need to re-sort an experience beneficially? Why not just presuppose they exist and, within a good rapport, the may come into being! For how one rearranges current structure, see the next part of this series.

Questions and comments are welcome below.

Unconventional NLP Practice – Practical Issues

The final category of objections are all practical concerns.

  • People (will) think I’m weird
  • Didn’t work on ‘real’ people
  • No-one I know wanted me to ‘work’ on them

“People (will) think I’m weird”

When you think about it, some NLP-related behaviours can seem quite odd. Do you remember the first time you experienced ‘the swish’ for example? Or took someone into a hypnotic trance?

Those behaviours are okay within a seminar room or in a therapeutic or coaching environment. They are ‘formal’ change behaviours and belong in a formal setting. However, if you think about what is really going on in each case, you will probably realise that there are informal versions too.

Putting aside the techniques for now, think about all of the NLP skills – anchoring, meta model questions, eliciting states, reframing, etc, etc. All of those are natural behaviours we each do regularly. It’s just a question of practicing the skills in the right contexts. Then it will be more natural – for you and for others too.

“NLP didn’t work on ‘real’ people”

There’s a curious notion that the people you trained with are somehow ‘in on the secret’ and therefore more susceptible to NLP in some way. They are informed and therefore more at ease. They know what to expect and are therefore expecting the required result. This is true to some extent, but it’s not the whole story.

Many of the NLP skills work better if the ‘subject’ is not aware of them. Take rapport, for example. It works best as an unconscious skill that is directed consciously. You decide to get rapport, to fall into the same rhythm as the other person and trust your unconscious mind to do that. However, if you – or they – suddenly notice (“Good heavens, we’re walking exactly in step…”) it can weaken the unconscious effects of the rapport and suddenly you’re not in step any more.

Many of those who struggle with NLP outside the seminar room do so because they are creating a strange space for those with whom they are trying it out.

Anything preceded by a statement like “let me try out this really cool mind thing on you – it’s NLP” is naturally going to create a strange atmosphere. With that strangeness can come discomfort and a degree of resistance.

By contrast, suppose they practiced eliciting states instead – by telling funny stories until they got a laugh or even a smile. Or suppose they used their meta-model questions to clarify what was going to happen later that evening. No strangeness, no resistance and no problem. Just common-sense NLP.

“No-one I know wanted me to ‘work’ on their therapeutic issues”

This practical concern is a subset of the ‘NLP is Therapy’ misunderstanding I dealt with earlier. To stop thinking about NLP as a series of therapeutic techniques is possibly the most powerful shift in thinking you can have from that point.

Put the techniques aside for now and focus on skills because it should now be really obvious that opportunities to practice your NLP skills are literally everywhere.

What Next?

In response to these common needs, I’ve created a series of simple exercises which you can practice in the background during your day. The focus will change each week, so your skills will continue to sharpen.


How Exactly Does It Work?

It’s really simple:

  • There is a new area of focus each week.
  • You will get a short review lesson of the relevant background information on Day 1.
  • Each weekday you will receive an email which briefly outlines the exercise of the day.

The initial version of the program is called NLP Practitioner Integration. It lasts eight weeks and you can sign up here: http://www.nlppracticegroup.com/nlp-practitioner-integration/

Enjoy your practice!

Unconventional NLP Practice – Ethical Objections

Many people avoid certain types of NLP practice on ethical grounds. Before I really get into this, I must first say that (in my opinion) there are unethical applications of NLP. However, there is nothing inherently ethical or unethical about NLP itself.

Think of NLP as a set of tools. The ethics are dependent on the choices and intention of the person applying them. For example, a knife can be applied to prepare dinner or may be used to save a life during surgery. Or it can be used as a lethal weapon. The application itself is key.

Let’s look at some examples where a misunderstanding or misreading of the situation can raise unnecessarily limiting concerns:

  • not safe to practice NLP informally
  • unethical or manipulative to practice NLP on unsuspecting people

Informal NLP

NLP can be used to create powerful change. It’s quite natural that this should be treated with due care. However, I think it’s going a step too far to think that it’s only safe to practice NLP in ‘formal’ settings. Here’s why.

Think about this: where did NLP come from in the first place? If your immediate thought was ‘from modelling therapists’, you’re thinking too specifically. More broadly, it came from modelling effective human behaviour.

If the only applications of NLP were therapeutic, I could understand keeping such behaviours within a strict formal setting. However, what would be the sense of limiting how we apply effective behaviours? Especially considering how many of those behaviours occur naturally outside the therapy room.

Part of the goal of NLP training is to integrate the skills into your everyday behaviour. Some of the skills are already present in virtually everyone to some extent, yet are perhaps selective in their effect, or somewhat unreliable. For example, most people can get some rapport with some people. To integrate the NLP rapport skills would allow them to get rapport with a greater range of people in an increasingly reliable way – conscious access to a more reliable unconscious process.

And rapport is a skill you exercise virtually every day. Further, people anchor each other fairly frequently. Just watch some people in a cafe, bus queue or bar and you will notice this.

However, it’s much better to be aware of when we are and aren’t anchoring someone, so we can be sure our behaviour is guided by positive outcomes, rather than accident. So restricting NLP practice to the therapy room could actually be considered unethical.

And if you stopped doing all of the NLP-related behaviours in your daily life, it would be really hard to communicate with anyone or achieve anything worthwhile. So the more responsible choice is to bring NLP awareness and skills into every area of your life and move towards positive, ethical outcomes.

‘Covert NLP’

I’ve heard it said that it’s unethical or manipulative to practice NLP on unsuspecting people. I’d suggest that there is an ethical boundary here, rather than a clear yes or no. What it all comes down to is the purpose behind the use of NLP and the desired outcome.

Working towards mutually agreed outcomes is obviously ethical. And it’s not always necessary to explicitly agree the outcomes. Somebody might state their wants and you might see a win/win. The intervention itself need not be explicit in a “now I’m going to do some NLP” way. The outcome could be easier to achieve if done subtly.

If the NLP is used only to the benefit of the NLPer and against the interests of the other party, then it’s really not ethical.

Fortunately, this deliberate self-centred influence isn’t as effective as many people think. So many NLPers are caught up in the intricacy of the technology that they do not stop and realise that most people can spot a hidden agenda without taking any NLP training. Most people will know when there is something wrong, or they will intuit that the person is untrustworthy.

With that said, the full range of NLP skills are at work in many areas of daily life – and that means in the area of influence too.

For example, if you’re seeking a promotion, is it ethical to try and influence the interviewer? Before you decide, think about this: When you go for an interview, you tidy your hair and dress to impress. Isn’t that an attempt to influence the interviewer? Add in NLP skills too. Suppose you’re really good at getting rapport. Is that a fair advantage or an unfair one?

Overall, it’s a question of where you draw the line, so I’d suggest you don’t rule out using your NLP skills to mutual advantage, or in areas where you use such skills already.


Let me know what you think in the comments below. The final part comes tomorrow.

The Unconventional Secrets of Successful NLP

Newly qualified NLP Practitioners want to know “How do I get really good at NLP?”

It’s clear that high-quality practice is a large part of the solution. However, I know that many people struggle to practice NLP as thoroughly or as often as they would like.

Part of the reason they struggle is because of the definition of NLP they have been given or have accepted. This isn’t a criticism of the teaching or of the student either.

There are many ways to define NLP and any definition carries with it a set of assumptions. Some of those assumptions can lead to faulty thinking, or to limitations which are not useful.

Faulty Thinking

To me, faulty thinking is like faulty wiring – sometimes it appears to work well, other times it doesn’t work at all. The overall result is unreliable – and only a fraction of what you could achieve. Let’s look at some examples:

  • NLP is about techniques
  • NLP involves big change
  • NLP is therapy
  • NLP is something I only do within a specific context

“NLP is about Techniques”

Many people think that NLP is a set of techniques. How is this limiting? Think about this: how many times a day do you get the opportunity to do a ‘swish’? I’m guessing that for most of you this doesn’t happen very often and that’s part of the problem.

NLP is made up of skills, such as anchoring, rapport and a whole host of awareness skills too. How many opportunities do you get every day to subtly anchor someone? Or get into rapport? Or be aware of changes in their physiology/state/language/tonality etc? Or your own?

Even if you live alone in a cave, there are many opportunities every day to practice and master your NLP. But only if you think about NLP skills. The techniques are just examples of effective ways to apply those skills to achieve specific outcomes.

“NLP involves Big Change”

I know that the promise of NLP is great – you can transform your life and do many things you had previously considered impossible. True.

However, the idea of Big Change can be an obstacle. Not everything you do with NLP needs to be earth-shattering. It doesn’t need to turn the world upside-down. Often, the best changes are subtle and take place over a period of time. The hallmark of a good piece of NLP is to create the minimum upheaval in reaching the outcome.

Consider: If you thoroughly shake up the lives of all your practice partners, you may quickly run out of people to practice on. And do you really need to have a massive impact? It can be like blowing out a candle with a nuclear explosion – the degree of force is unnecessary and there’s plenty of fallout to deal with.

It’s also a mistake to focus on an ecological outcome, while forgetting to include an ecological process for change.

To summarise: If you’re looking to set the world on fire every time you practice NLP, this will seriously limit your opportunities.

“NLP is Therapy”

For various reasons, some NLP students get the idea that NLP is a kind of therapy. Even those who aren’t therapists can form this opinion. How, then to practice?

Those who are therapists will have existing clients and can add NLP to their existing skill-set. Those who wish to use NLP as a stand-alone therapy face a different quandary: how do they get good enough to begin working on clients? How much experience is necessary before they can ‘go it alone’?

The non-therapists are left with a bigger problem – how do they practice NLP if they’re not interested in doing therapeutic change?

If you think you need to do complete pieces of therapeutic work to practice your NLP, you’re missing all of the other opportunities around you to sharpen your skills.

NLP isn’t therapy. It does have therapeutic applications. It has other applications too. Look for them in your existing areas of interest and practice sharpening your NLP skills in those areas instead.

Additionally, therapy is a remedial mindset in which all activity is focused on fixing areas that are judged to be deficient or broken in some way. The highest goal available within that mindset is to be ‘okay’ or ‘normal’. A different mindset allows us to achieve ‘excellence’ and far beyond.

“NLP is something I only do within a specific context”

As I explained in the previous section, sometimes NLP can become rooted within a specific context. Where do you use NLP?

If your answer is that “NLP is something I only do in a (business / coaching / sales / sport / therapeutic / self-help) context” then you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to practice.

This is a learned limitation – usually related to the focus you first brought to the course, or it may be due to learning NLP within a narrow context, such as ‘NLP for Therapists’ or ‘NLP for Business’. The best way for you to broaden your opportunities to practice NLP is to broaden the range of contexts in which you apply it. And you will have a variety of mindsets to draw upon that will guide applications.

The true strength of NLP comes from its freedom of application and the intermix of ideas between those contexts. For example, hypnotic language can be used to entertain people through storytelling – and storytelling has therapeutic and business applications too.

How can you use your NLP skills to:

  • help your kids learn more easily
  • master a new skill
  • improve an existing skill
  • coach others to higher achievement
  • settle disputes at work or at home
  • set and achieve better personal goals
  • design a better business plan
  • understand your spouse or partner better
  • help your spouse or partner understand you better
  • negotiate a raise
  • negotiate a better price in a shop
  • cheer up a friend, colleague, family member

Some of these examples may not apply to you and that’s okay. They are only there to whet your appetite – to start you thinking of ways your NLP skills can be applied usefully in unexplored contexts.

And explore the small pieces first – they have power. For example, all it takes to cheer someone up is eliciting a state, using a funny reframe, or firing an anchor. It’s a mistake to apply only the big pieces, applying or reproducing a set technique – or even putting someone through a process and “turning the handle”.

I know that most NLP learning involves things you ‘do’ to completion:

  • a whole therapeutic change
  • a ‘formal’ coaching session
  • a ‘formal’ hypnotic trance
  • a polished marketing piece
  • a complete presentation
  • a successful sale

This is another limitation of learning in a narrow context. Not every change is ‘formal’ or takes an hour to achieve. You have learned these things because it’s good to have examples of how to apply the skills of NLP in combination and achieve something useful.

Instead, remember that outcomes can be big and small. And the big outcomes are all made up of smaller ones – so it’s best to practice the smaller pieces too.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. More tomorrow.

An alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

The way we greet the New Year has changed.

  • Ancient Babylonians started their new year by repaying outstanding debts and returning items they had borrowed.
  • The ancient Romans ended the year by reviewing the previous one, resolving to achieve more in the year to come and paying homage to Janus, the god of doorways and beginnings (and source of the name January).
  • We currently start each year by resolving to give up a ‘bad’ habit or take up a ‘good’ habit.

So you have a choice about how you can meet 2014 – and you can choose how to spend your time.

What you have no choice about is that over the next 365 days, you will be presented with a host of opportunities and challenges. That is a certainty unless you live in a perfect world.

What you can do is decide whether you will seize those opportunities and choose how to meet life’s challenges.

The best way to seize opportunities is to expect and look for them – otherwise, how will you know they are there?
The best way to meet challenges is to attribute cause carefully:

  • what was your part in that?
  • If you did something different, what difference would it have made?
  • What have you learned that will help you avoid or minimise that in future?

New year’s resolutions are just the start – instead of making the usual effort to stop something ‘bad’ or start something ‘good’, why not choose how you would like to meet the opportunities and challenges over the next 12 months?

It makes more sense and, I think, is a much more productive use of time and resources.

NLP Word Power 1 – Words that magnify emotion

Influence. Most people want more of it. It can be frustrating if you are unable to affect important events and circumstances in the world around you.

Those same people don’t realise how much influence they already have, but are unknowingly frittering it away. It’s not really their fault – they don’t know any better yet.

This series will cover simple things you can do to use your language to reclaim your influence and expand on it easily.

Language that magnifies emotion

There is one simple word that you use every day which amplifies emotions: “why?”

More specifically, asking “why?” will tend to magnify another person’s current emotional state.

How you currently misuse it:

When dealing with problems and when you are trying to help people out, I’ll bet the first question that comes to mind is “why…?”

When I train people in NLP, I put a temporary ban on ‘asking why’ when dealing with problems, because it tends to magnify the problem.

In short, “why?” creates “because.”

Asking “why are you feeling sad?” results in the client generating more justification for the sadness. This brings them further into the emotion of ‘feeling sad’ and tends to focus their mind more on sadness. A downward spiral.

In this way, a carelessly worded, but well intentioned question can suck any remaining positivity out of their day.

How you can use it powerfully:

On the upside, asking “Why?” doesn’t just accelerate negative feelings. You can take a more positive emotion and build upon it instead.

If someone is mildly happy, asking “why are you so cheerful today?” tends to result in reasons for the cheerfulness, creating more cheerful feelings and focuses more of their attention on the good feelings. it creates an upward spiral.


To amplify their current state, good or bad, just ask “why…?”

Inside The Science of Ethical Influence

Since I teach hypnosis and NLP, plenty of people ask me about influence and persuasion. Many people wrongly assume that influence is about ‘clever’ language, often to the point of asking for ‘scripts’.

The truth is that the language is far less important than certain other motivating factors that surround the influence situation.

There are six universal factors in influence and persuasion that you should be aware of.


  • it is important to be aware of when someone might be trying to influence you against your interests
  • it is useful to know how to influence someone ethically

I know that, for some, the words ‘ethical’ and ‘influence’ don’t normally belong in the same sentence. The difficulty is that we can’t not influence each other, so – if you consider yourself to be ethical – you need to know how to do this for the best of all concerned. And ethical influence is the only good long term persuasion strategy.

The six influencing factors are described in the video below. This is the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini, the most cited expert on influence and persuasion.

Notice how so little of this is about clever or convoluted language. All influence depends on simple, normal everyday actions – done with awareness for mutual benefit.