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.

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.

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.

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.

What do you worry about?

What are the problems you worry about every day?

Some people worry from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep. Some even worry in their dreams!

If you could change that, how would your life be different? What would it be like when you’re with your friends? With family? At work? When you socialise?

If you could fully let go of just one of your worries, what specific things in your everyday life would be different?

Not from getting rid of the ’cause’ of the worry, but just by getting rid of the worrying itself?

Would this be a breakthrough in your life, however big or small?

In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll give you a technique you can use to stop worrying.

“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.

Is it always possible to make a good decision?

There’s a growing interest in how to make ‘good’ decisions.

Think about this – there are some things you make better decisions about than others. Almost no-one has it all. So, what are the areas in which you already make good decisions?

Some of your ‘bad’ decisions will have been made through inexperience. That’s okay. Just make sure you learn positively from these experiences and you will begin to make fewer of these.

Some of your ‘bad’ decisions will have been made through emotional bias. We all have tendencies, idiosyncrasies and ingrained habits. Our thinking processes are no exception to this. Where there is conflict in our choices (e.g. green salad or chocolate cake?) it’s useful to separate which choice will feel better from the choice that will be better overall.

As for the rest, consider that many decisions can only be evaluated in hindsight.

Let’s test that out. Flip a coin and cover it so you don’t know the outcome. Choose: heads or tails? Now, before uncovering the coin, ask yourself: was that a good decision? It’s really hard to know whether it is or not. Now uncover it and see the true outcome.

Actually do the experiment so you can experience the learning with your body and senses.

You might object that the result is random. So attempt to have the coin come up tails then repeat the experiment.

Now for the most important question – has that experience helped you to make a better decision next time you flip the coin? It really hasn’t, has it? A ‘win’ last time may lead you to feel more confident of your decision this time. A ‘lose’ last time may knock your confidence a little the next time around. However, objectively, you’re really no better off. It’s really difficult to be definite about a decision where the outcome is unpredictable, or largely out of your control.

So this type of experience does not refine your decision-making process in any useful way.

You might argue that decisions like this don’t occur in real life. But just think about how many random contributors there are to most outcomes. Sometimes one or more of those random contributions will become significant, like a change in the weather or a crucial person who changes their mind.

These experiences are also being created artificially as part of game dynamics. Imagine this scenario:

While playing a game, suppose you receive a large reward. If you want the reward again, you’re going to try to figure out what you did that resulted in getting the reward. So you will keep playing and try a variety of likely approaches – ones similar to those you were doing before you were rewarded.

But here’s the twist – suppose the reward is actually being given out at random. What happens to the psychology of the player under those circumstances? The player thinks they somehow caused the reward and further experimentation will yield no lasting match between cause and effect. The usual effect is cognitive dissonance – the player becomes confused and highly motivated to find the ‘winning’ pattern. The result is similar to patterns of addiction, especially if the reward is big and occurs early in the process.

These ‘games’ are not always explicit (like tetris or roulette) but are now becoming part of other processes where customer engagement is a key part of the system.

In these ‘unknowable’ cases, it’s more important to make a decision, rather than hesitating too long.

Instead of trying to make a good decision, how about

  • taking calculated risks
  • becoming good at course-correcting

Let me know your opinions on this in the comments below.

Video: Learning to see with your sense of touch

Doctors used to believe that certain parts of the brain couldn’t develop or change after childhood. This meant it was widely accepted that certain functions, if lost in adulthood, could not be restored.

However, a whole field of research has grown since the 1960s to contradict this. The research is based upon a premise known as neuroplasticity – that we can train a different part of the brain to take over those functions.

This is demonstrated profoundly in the work of Dr Paul Bach-y-Rita, who is a pioneer of technologies that allow “sensory substitution”. These devices allow people to learn how to see again by translating images from a camera into something they can feel.

To find out more and see this principle in action, watch the video below (11 min approx).

Feel free to leave your comments too.

NLP Influence and Metaprograms

One of the major realisations that comes from learning NLP is that we all experience the world in different ways.

In NLP, one of the ways in which we describe this distinction is through ‘metaprograms’.

In practical terms, metaprograms are a series of filters through which we experience the world. They dictate what we focus on, how we best absorb information and what our expectations are.

Metaprograms do their filtering ‘out of awareness’, so only the informed mind can catch them at work.

Two of these filters in particular can influence other people’s decisions. Watch my video below to learn more about them:

The most powerful way to incorporate metaprograms into your communication is to listen and be aware of which ones a particular person uses most. Then tailor your communication to fit that.

That’s all for now. See Part 2 here.

If you have any questions or comments, you can add them below.

Is NLP compatible with the Law of Attraction?

NLP and the popular philosophy of the ‘law of attraction’ disagree in several important ways.

The so-called ‘law of attraction’ is a belief system dating from the New Thought movement and the concepts behind ‘positive thinking’. In its original form, it states simply that similar things experience some kind of affinity.

Unlike NLP, it is not a system of change and in its common popular use (as in ‘The Secret’) is, in my opinion, a dangerously sloppy form of wish fulfillment.

NLP, for me is about awareness and positive ecological actions. The philosophy of NLP is one of experimentation, feedback and progression towards stated aims. It explicitly involves formulating outcomes and then taking action.

By contrast, the philosophy of ‘The Secret’ inspires that most fruitless of outcome-related activities – wishing and hoping. The whole philosophy is that a specific type of ‘wishing and hoping’ is itself an effective action and nothing further is required. Some interpretations even go beyond that to suggest that further action to achieve your outcome is counter-productive!

It’s easy to understand how that type of approach is seriously flawed – and insidiously seductive to those who feel powerless or limited in their ability to influence events.

In short, ‘Law of attraction’ thinking encourages the creation of poorly-formed outcomes and can implicitly discourage actions to achieve those outcomes.

If anyone reading this is offended, or believes I’m exaggerating, just watch ‘The Secret’ with both an open mind and common sense. There is no action step beyond ‘intending’.

“You must keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.” – James Oberg, NASA engineer and Science Writer

The whole system is riddled with faulty thinking, preventing high-quality feedback through psychological traps such as consistency and attribution errors (more about those here:  feedback and faulty thinking) – e.g. if it works, the ‘law of attraction’ is responsible, yet if it doesn’t work, you ‘did it wrong’ or ‘had doubts’.

I would assert that the principles behind NLP involve eliminating such faulty thinking.

If, after all this, you’re still interested in getting an edge in achieving outcomes, consider something like Silva Method or mind skills training. The focus there is on manifesting new options and using unconscious faculties to intuitively be aware of relevant opportunities. And taking the required action.

The processes are wholly compatible with NLP and are useful for building good state control too.