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.

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.

nlp-skills-chart

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.

How to Stop a Worry

How do you worry?

No, I’m not asking ‘why’ do you worry. You already know that and insight requires new information.

I’m asking what you do on the inside – in your mind – when you worry, because we each do it differently.

Do you worry in pictures? Imagine movies of things going wrong? Seeing the worst case scenario?

Or do you worry in sounds? Do you tell yourself off, or use a stressed or panicky voice for your internal dialogue? Do you hear the worst things that others might say?

Or is it a physical sensation? Do you get a sinking feeling or a sense of dread?

Do you do a combination of these when you worry?

Here’s how to change that.

  1. Pick a specific thing you worry about
  2. What do you do on the inside when you worry? What is the process? Is it picures, sounds or sensations?
  3. Now change the process:
    • for pictures or movies: pause the action. Turn down the colour and push the image into the distance.
    • for sounds and internal dialogue: turn the volume down, change the voice to a goofy-sounding one and move the sound into the distance.
    • for sensations: if the feeling moves, slow it down. Move it outside your body and turn it upside down.
  4. Take a deep breath and let it out again.
  5. There are things you have enjoyed in the past. Some you have enjoyed a little bit, while others were much more fun. Choose one of these memories and build it up instead:
    • for pictures or movies: Turn up the colour of the pleasant image and pull the image towards you.
    • for sounds and internal dialogue: turn the volume up, change the voice to an even more pleasant-sounding one and move the sound closer.
    • for sensations: if the good feeling moves, let it move faster.

If you understand what you do on the inside when you worry, you can begin to change it.

Note: these are elements of NLP in practice. If you want to know more, have a look at my NLP training courses, or go to nlppracticegroup.com to look at my online NLP courses.

Value, self investment and self-development

Value and self-investment is a fascinating topic to study.

Since I sell my own self-development courses, I’m ideally placed to experience how people express the value of their own development. This is especially so

In some cases, I’ve seen faulty thinking, mental evasions and other expressions of inner values in conflict.

Note: I’m not saying that everyone needs, or could benefit from, learning NLP, for example. What I am saying is that some people have a strange mindset when it comes to money and value. (I’ve written about this before here).

For example, one of the most common excuses for putting off learning NLP is that “there just isn’t the money for it“. Those are the facts as they experience them.

What is really going on in their mind is far more interesting:

  • Learning a skill-set, mindset and taking on a powerful new worldview is scary
    For some, it’s stepping into the unknown. “What will it be like? Will it be better or worse than I imagine? Will I be any good at it?” It’s easy to see that none of these questions are answerable at the outset.My advice is this – take a chance. Achieving the best is within your personal control if you’re prepared to take the time and put in the effort. The only way to stop the unknown from being scary is to make it into the known. Take that step. Do that thing you’re afraid to fail at – and you can make sure you succeed.
  • Will I change?
    Some people think that developing themselves means becoming ‘someone else’. They ask the question “If I learn this, will I still be me?”Yes, you’ll still be you. Think about this: were you ‘you’ ten years ago? Are you ‘you’ now? I’m betting that you’ve changed in some ways in the last ten years. Despite that, you have been ‘you’ right the way through, so you can learn and grow as an individual without having to become ‘someone else’.
  • They haven’t ‘joined the dots’ between learning and earning
    When I ask people why they’re interested in self-development, they have lots of answers. When I then ask what they’re going to do with the new knowledge to achieve that, the result is often a confused look.I think that any good investment will pay you back, so I’m basically asking them “how will this investment in yourself pay you back?”If you’re thinking about investing in your own development, you need to ask yourself that question too. And don’t be vague.Ask:

    “How specifically will this investment in myself pay me back?”
    “How else will it pay me back?”
    “what else specifically will it do for me?”
    “How else will I benefit?”

    If you’ve really thought it through and haven’t got good answers to the questions above, then don’t do the course until you do.

    It’s up to you to make those benefits tangible, because only you know your circumstances, your willingness to learn and where you want to apply the insights or use your new abilities. A good trainer will act as a sounding board and help to coach you through the options and possibilities. Only you can predict how exactly you’ll benefit.

  • They think that if they invest in a course, that money is gone forever
    This is the mindset of scarcity. It amounts to thinking that if the money is spent on X, then there will be no money for Y. That if the money is spent on self-development, it can’t be spent on a new TV. So the decision is: self-development vs. a new TV.This is what Economists call ‘fixed pie’ – if you take one piece of the pie, that’s one piece less for everything else. We have a saying that expresses this mindset: “You can’t have your cake and eat it”. If you think like that, of course, you won’t.But self-development is an investment in the future of your self and as I said above, a good investment pays you back, with interest.So the decision is different: what future will I have from self-development vs. what future will I have from getting a new TV?And be honest – if you know it’s not going to improve your future, don’t do it. But if you can see the benefits you will gain, go ahead.

Sometimes it helps to go at the question from a different direction.

Ask: “If you could change or improve one aspect of your life, which one would create the biggest positive difference?

What would it be worth to have that?

If some self-development can help you to achieve that, would you do it?

Take some time to think it through because only you can know the answer.

4 Ways to Rapidly Improve Your NLP

1 – Watch and listen
During your NLP Practitioner training, you learned to watch and listen in a new way, focusing on certain visual cues and listening for certain figures in language.It’s vital that you continue to build upon this because calibration is the most under-rated skill in NLP.

Calibration consists of three essential steps:
– observe patterns
– draw inferences
– test inferences

Many people leave out the testing phase, or rely on instances instead of looking for patterns of behaviour.

2 – Diversify your rapport skills (learn more ways to create rapport easily)

Many NLP practitioners have one way (or one favourite way) of getting rapport. Those with a language preference will prefer to match sensory predicates. Those with a behavioural preference will prefer to match posture and gestures.

There are 1001 reasons you should go with your preferences and they’re geared towards preventing you from having to work at this. Familiarity is a trap. Staying so far inside your comfort zone makes you less flexible and therefore less effective overall.

So start experimenting. Get rapport by finding common ground. Practice building rapport by turning the relevant state up and down.

Above all, stop matching and start leading. You can’t really know if you have rapport with someone unless you can get them to follow you. And if you’re just matching, _they’re_ leading. Being led is not a skill. Rapport is something quite different.

3 – Practice your skills outside of the therapy/work context

This is my personal favourite and the greatest area of missed opportunity to get really good at NLP.

If you only practice your NLP in the therapy room, in the training room or at a ‘practice group’ you’re missing a whole host of opportunities ideal for your learning.

NLP isn’t a formal activity, it’s not therapy and it doesn’t require NLP-trained subjects to make it work. It’s a set of universal skills that can be practiced anywhere that two people or more meet and communicate. I’m not talking about doing changework on colleagues or passers-by. I’m talking about intentionally getting better at eliciting states, rapport, anchoring, calibration, meta-model and milton model language and all of the other everyday skills that underpin excellence at NLP.

4 – Take NLP to Master Practitioner level

Master Practitioner is all about raising your skills rapidly to a higher level. Note the comparative ‘higher’. The first thing you’ll do on the course is re-open your learning loops, allowing you to further refine your abilities naturally.

Then you’ll learn additional skills which will add to your capabilities, especially in any areas you’ve identified as being ‘gaps’ in your skill-set.

You’ll learn how to diversify your abilities and deliberately generalise them into every area of your life where you can benefit from the additional edge this brings.

For those interested in option 4, full details are here.

Whichever methods you choose, let me know what results you get.

NLP Modelling, Criticism and Scale

NLP modelling

Recently, I’ve seen an increasing amount of people who don’t understand something important about NLP modelling.

The first group struggle to know whether a model is complete – whether it has enough information or too much. So many (otherwise promising) models languish in a desk drawer, or in a neglected folder on the hard-drive for just this reason.

Perhaps that is why there are so few published NLP models.

So add “How will I know that the model is complete?” to your set of questions preceding modelling.

Bear in mind that I’ve heard a lot of glib answers to that question – answers that don’t hold up very well when modelling moves from pure theory to practical activity. And it really doesn’t matter what your favourite NLPer says about modelling unless you understand it well enough to actually create a useful model.

A second wave, composed mainly of armchair experts, criticise the usefulness of models that others do produce. Common criticisms are:

  1. the model doesn’t do X
  2. the model only works in a certain context/situation
  3. the model only works with a certain type of person
  4. the model is ‘too simple’
  5. the model is ‘too complex’

Some of these criticisms may be valid. However, it’s much more common that the critic has misunderstood something about the nature of the model.

There is one idea which will help with both these problems.

That idea is ‘scale‘.

Let’s use maps as an analogy for an NLP model.

Maps are a simple way of representing a complex physical space. Different types of map represent that physical space in different ways. They do that for a variety of reasons because they fulfil a variety of purposes.

Mostly, the critical principle is to omit information that does not support the purpose of the map.

For example, a road map does not feature individual buildings. It includes no information about power cables or drainage. There are no contours, or information about height on a normal road map. Even some (extremely minor) roads may be omitted.

My point is that you know when a road map is complete when it is fit for purpose. If you focus your mind on the uses it will support, you will more easily understand what territory it must cover, what needs to be included and what can safely be omitted. This is true of any model. So this principle of scale (map detail) can be used to answer concerns relating to completion of the model.

The second group – the critics – have a different set of problems. When you look at the five commonly used criticisms I have listed above, some answers now become clear.

For the first three criticisms, the answer is “so what?” Yes, it’s valid to slam a road map if it doesn’t guide you from A to B by road. However, it is ridiculous to criticise a road map if you try and use it for a walk in the woods. That’s not what it was made for. Few people would get upset when their toaster can’t be used to boil water, so why complain when a telesales model doesn’t work well through the medium of email?

For the last two criticisms, the answer is “too simple/complex for what?” The scale of the model depends on the purpose for which it was created. A model for selling lawnmowers in person will not necessarily work fully for selling lawnmowers by phone. It probably won’t work for selling coffee either. A general ‘model of selling’ should work for selling all these things and will likely embrace greater complexity than a more specific sales model. In short, scale matters.

These are principles of design and are easy to learn. Perhaps that would be a useful place for NLP modellers to begin – with good design in mind. It would certainly give more people the confidence to finish – and publish – their work.

“I don’t need a coach”

“I’m doing well at what I do. No one can just come in and tell me how to do it better – they don’t know my business.”

That could well be true – and that isn’t what a coach does anyway.

Before considering what a coach does, consider this:

  • Usain Bolt has a coach
  • Barack Obama has a coach
  • Madonna has a coach

These are people at the very pinnacle of their profession – and they all benefit from the services of a coach.

How?

To answer that, you need to know what a coach actually does that adds such tremendous value for even these high performers.

Coaching isn’t for wimps – it can involve looking into areas that you would rather ignore, or are sensitive about. This is usually where the greatest benefit of change may be found. It takes courage and a high degree of personal honesty to explore these areas – and grow as a result.

What is valuable about coaching?

  1. The coach acts as a sounding board for your ideas and outcomes.
    The important things in life often need some consideration. What if you could have someone really listen and help you to clarify your thoughts while you think out loud?
  2. The coach pinpoints any blind spots in your thinking.
    We all, at times, miss something important that is going on in our lives because we don’t know to look for it. It’s good to have a second pair of eyes looking out for new opportunities and things that are sabotaging your success.
  3. The coach helps you to create breakthroughs in vital areas of your life
    Sometimes, we get stuck and can’t see a solution or sometimes your performance plateaus. The insight of a person who thinks differently from you is vital at this point.

To find out how valuable this is to you, ask yourself this question:

“What impact would each of these three benefits have on your work life, your personal effectiveness or your happiness?”

Really think about it – and now is the time for some of that personal honesty – keep going until you have a list of at least ten items.

Now look at your list – how important is it to you to achieve those?

If you want to take this further, contact me. I can help you to do this.