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.

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.

“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.


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 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.

Terms Which I Question – Metaphors part 1

While words themselves can’t hurt us, we must be careful of the metaphors we use because they often have hidden implications. The danger here is that we may unconsciously be directed or limited by those implications.

What is so important about the metaphors we use and what makes them different from other pieces of language? Metaphors are interpreters of context, so often correlate with high level change. We write the stories of our lives through our use of concepts within the limitations of our contexts, so where better to look for change than in our metaphors?

The implications of some ‘popular’ metaphors are less than useful, so it’s worth examining them here:

  • work/life balance
    The implications here are many. Firstly that ‘work’ and ‘life’ need to be in equal balance, i.e. that work should be given as much time and energy as everything else put together. Secondly that work and life are the only two areas of focus to have a harmonious life. Thirdly, that work and life do not overlap and are exclusive concepts.

    If you think that last one is a stretch, let me tell you a story that underlines the point. A while ago, I was at a friend’s barbecue and was introduced to an acquaintance of his. He was struggling with his workload and was near burnout. Part way through the conversationI noticed that he was treating work and life like opposites, rather than overlapping concepts.

    So I asked him what the opposite of work was. “Life”. And then what the opposite of life was. At this point he went a little pale. He realised that throughout our conversation he had been telling me that he was only ‘living’ when he was not working! Understanding this, he was able to begin finding ways to see work in a more positive light.

  • Leadership of self
    The key implication here is that we have an ‘internal leader’ – and an internal ‘follower’ too. Leading and following is a two-role process, so ‘leadership of self’ indicates some sort of internal division or conflict, in my opinion. I’d use a different metaphor which implies internal integration and cooperation.

A better metaphor
My purpose here is not to create “word fear” or the sort of internal censorship that came with “political correctness”. I’d prefer you examine the implications of the metaphors you use in everyday life, especially in areas that you consider less than optimum. And through such consideration, choose to live through more empowering contexts and narratives.

Boundaries and Values – Part 2

The value of ‘free’

I’ve written about the ‘value of free’ before, though a recent experience has brought this back to the forefront of my awareness. A complete stranger contacted me several months ago about one of my training programs. They had decided they would “quite like to be a life coach”, so could they please attend my NLP Practitioner and Coach certification course (a £1749 value) for free!

Besides having a hell of a nerve, I think that people in that ‘free’ mindset somehow don’t understand that this business is my livelihood as well as my passion. Try pulling that sort of manoeuvre with your landlord or your bank manager and I guarantee you won’t get very far.

As I see it, there are several things wrong with the ‘free stuff’ mindset:

1) ‘Free stuff’ is less valued

In my experience, those who come to a paying seminar have invested something in themselves and are fully engaged in the process. They’re more motivated, tend to get better results and – most importantly – are inclined to practice. Those who have booked on free events I’ve run in the past are less likely to take the material seriously or even to turn up.

2) Investment constitutes a firm commitment

For example, those who invest in themselves take a therapeutic process more seriously. Statistics show that subsidised ‘free’ treatment has more no-shows than paid treatment.

3) Those who invest in themselves tend to be more involved and have specific outcomes

For example, training people within a business shows a great contrast with those who choose to attend our public courses. And the greatest contrast can be experienced when talking about outcomes. Many people treat a business training course as a ‘day away from their desk’ and that often translates into either a day off work or wasted time – neither of which is a positive way of engaging with the material. Needless to say, it’s good to get this out of the way beforehand.

4) ‘Free’ is a game that everyone has to play for the system to work

The ‘free’ mindset can be a tad selfish – “what can I get for nothing?” – but it’s important to look at the whole system to check the ecology. I would be perfectly happy to work for free if I can get free rent, free food, free clothes, transport, heating, electricity, water etc. and can live tax-free. I somehow can’t see that happening any day soon 🙂

5) There’s no such thing as a free lunch

Free material can sometimes have value, but it’s not motivated by altruism. It’s there to promote, to pitch, to up-sell, to build brand awareness or to educate, so your mileage may vary. In short, there is a lot of dross out there. Personally, I follow a principle I learned from marketing expert Mark Joyner – Don’t give something away that you couldn’t otherwise sell. It’s not a ‘free lunch’ but it does have substance – and is therefore a win/win.

Value, substance and standards

I think it’s vitally important to have standards. I feel great after delivering a training because I know that my trainees all measure up to a high standard of ability. Most of them don’t quite realise how high those standards are, because the training experience is so relaxed and fun. However, they consistently stand out from the crowd and I’m proud we could accomplish that together.

Naturally, I’m keen to promote more of that, so I’m done with ‘free for the sake of it’ and when it comes to my values, compromise is inappropriate.

As I said in Part 1 of this article, Life can be something of a teacher. However, it’s up to us which lesson we learn from life.

Is Fate holding you back?

There are several common mental pitfalls that we have to avoid throughout our personal evolution.

Many of these result in the Big Questions that we all pursue at some point. To the experienced eye, these questions serve as great examples of someone stuck in a model – trapped by a way of thinking that had previously been useful and liberating.

It’s important to remember that your model of the world isn’t reality and that it’s on the inside of our heads. Sometimes we outgrow our current model of the world and don’t yet have any better reality to replace it with. So these Big Questions basically translate into “help me, I’m stuck”.

Fortunately, help is at hand. There are a number of presuppositions involved in these Big Questions which can hide a solution. When learning, those presuppositions form the domain within which one can comfortably grow and develop. Sooner or later, you will outgrow that domain. It’s only natural. The presuppositions must then be redefined or removed at that point for growth to continue.

The model that binds many of us at one point is the notion of Fate, usually resulting in the question “What is my Life Purpose?” Let’s look at the presuppositions involved in that statement.

To read more, go here:

The Myth of Fate