Personal boundaries are the borders that we maintain between what is acceptable and what it not in how we are treated. Boundaries that affirm us, but that are flexible enough to allow meaningful interaction with others are considered healthy boundaries. Boundary crossings occur when someone does not respect our dignity, power, and well-being. A comment or joke that is sexist, but not directly insulting, can be considered a subtle boundary crossing.
People who have weak boundaries may take on others’ problems. It happens when a person thinks he or she is a good friend, while in reality they let themselves to get overwhelmed and absorbed with another person’s emotions and problems. A good friend should be there to stay strong for you, stay sensitive yet unaffected, so that they can pull you up and support you. This does not happen if that “good” friend is taking a part in feeling the pain or assuming responsibility for alleviating it.
People with weak boundaries become victims of themselves, and by becoming miserable for other people’s problems, they actually push them away. When those others are dependent or destructive, the person with poor boundaries is called codependent. These people lose themselves in harmful patterns. Some of them are even consciously aware of that habitual self sabotage. They may not be able to act in their own interest until they get their partner to agree with them or stop having bad (manipulative) feelings about it. They tend to have perceptual position distortions in which they have other people’s attitudes and thoughts mixed in with their own. They wonder why their relationship is not getting better when they are working so hard, without fully considering that they are the only one working on the relationship. People with overly rigid or extended boundaries may place unreasonable demands on others to comply with excessive expectations. This technique helps people define and strengthen boundaries that are too weak or unclear.
Select a pattern reflecting weak boundaries.
Think about the information on poor boundaries and codependency. Find a pattern in your life that bears some resemblance to at least one of the elements or something else that shows a weak boundaries.
Create a boundary-affirming imaginary space.
Imagine a physical space around your body that extends out about two feet. Fill that space with your boundary-affirming and boundary-enforcing qualities such as attitudes and personality characteristics. Consider qualities such as assertiveness, perceptiveness, commitment, honesty, ability to read others, and so forth. Be sure that these are not generic, they must be qualities that are unique to you. What is the quality of assertiveness that comes from you? What is positive about it? Include only the positive aspects in your imaginary space. If any of those qualities seem weak, don’t allow that to be relevant in placing them in your imaginary space. Take the collective sense of these qualities and anchor it.
Imagine the force field.
Imagine that your boundary space is surrounded by a force field that is getting so strong that nothing can penetrate unless you allow it. It defines you as being a unique entity, separate from others in the sense of being an individual capable of interacting and benefiting from interaction. Be sure to sense this from the first perceptual position (first person). Anchor this strong, “boundaried” sensation.
See yourself in second position from a highly supportive perspective.
Move to second perceptual position. Imagine that you are seeing yourself through the eyes of a person who is very supportive of your boundaries and thinks the world of you, even if you need to invent that person for this pattern. Discover what it’s like, as this understanding person, to express strong approval for you as a unique individual and for your boundaries. Take a little time to clearly express this in a way that is fully connected and full of feelings. Do whatever you need to do in order to make this a powerful, valid resource.
Amplify your uniqueness in first position, and Future Pace this state.
From first position, amplify and experience the validity and power of all that makes you a unique, “boundaried” individual. Future Pace this state as a way of being in the world and a way of navigating life.
Elicit creative expressions of your uniqueness and boundaries by testing them with a boundary violating fantasy person.
Imagine experiencing someone who is not respectful of your boundaries in some way. Allow your state of unique self and good boundaries to elicit creative responses from you. You can stop the fantasy to adjust your response, or loop it and try various responses each time through. Be sure not to be caught in the trap of trying to change the other person or convince them of anything. If they are manipulative, they will not respond to that in a constructive manner.
Imagine moving into the future with your healthy boundaries and unique identity. Allow imaginary scenarios to come up as you enjoy projecting this state into the future.
In the coming days and weeks, notice any ways that you express your uniqueness despite demands from others that would turn you away from your unique self expression or meeting your needs in your own self-affirming way that connects you with supportive people and valuable resources. Notice any ways that you defend and enhance your boundaries, including maintaining your own thoughts independently from others’ thoughts and attitudes.
Develop positive beliefs and resources for almost any kind of issue. Directly install the beliefs and strategies of the vital elderly models. While this is not an advanced NLP pattern, I would still recommend that you wait until gain confidence and skill in other Neuro Linguistic Programming tools, such as anchoring and moving through perceptual positions.
Imagine your timeline.
Imagine that your past, present and future are represented by a line that goes from left to right in front of you.
Select a physical location in front of you, that you can step onto during this pattern.
Start from your meta-position.
Look at your timeline from a meta-position (your objective or transcendent perspective, position #4).
Be sure to have a physical spot for this position.
Step into your positive future.
Start by stepping onto your timeline where the present time is located.
Face toward your future.
See how your future timeline extends into the infinite future.
Elicit a relaxed physical and mental state, and walk slowly into the future.
Imagine that you are moving in a positive direction, in a positive state.
Focus your mind, in positive terms (what you are going toward, rather than avoiding), on your health as something that you enhance over time in many ways.
Add elements to this sense of your future health. Include:
1) a sense of your influence and what you can actually control,
2) the feeling of deserving excellent health,
3) a positive representation in every sense modality,
4) ideas and images of how you are of value to others and society, and how your age and experience are assets,
5) a sense of the larger reality that led to your existence and that supports your continued existence,
6) the visual representation of your physical posture and body language as being uplifting, balanced, and expressive.
Access past resources.
Turn to face toward your past.
Focus your mind on all feelings and experiences of vitality and well-being that you have generated in this pattern, and slowly walk toward your past.
Connect with many of the resources of your past, especially experiences that can remind you of your abilities and beliefs that support you in achieving your goals and in generating new positive beliefs and action.
Notice some special people that helped you generate those resources, including your ability to appropriately trust and believe in others.
Take the time to savor each point in your timeline where resource experiences and generation are especially noteworthy.
Fully connect with these experiences and savor and relive them.
You may not always remember details, but follow the good feelings that are part of this kind of experience, and they will help you access a positive state and maybe even connect you with more of the resource memories that we are focusing on.
Reframe and potentiate negative memories as appropriate.
Here’s what to do when you encounter negative memories during your walk into the past.
If the memory holds no value in supporting your resources (but bear in mind that negative memories often do hold great value), then it’s fine to simply step around it and continue on.
However, if you feel that there may be some value in the memory, then take the following steps:
a. Step off your timeline and onto your meta-position.
Now you are in an objective position, insulated from the discomfort of the memory.
b. Derive positive meaning from the experience.
Determine what resource would have helped you derive resources from this experience.
This can be as simple as thinking of the worst experiences that people have survived and grown from. It can be as sophisticated as giving your adult perspective to that moment so that you can discover the resources that are in that situation, and take them with you.
Even if this is a memory of something negative that you did, pay attention to the fact that your feelings about it are a link to your higher values. This is an opportunity for you to become fully aligned with these higher values.
c. See how the negative experience has contributed to positive experiences.
This may have happened because it served as some kind of warning, or made you tougher or more sensitive and aware. Remember to analyze this in terms of logical levels (see appendix) to uncover the dynamics that you might otherwise miss.
d. Think about the positive underlying motivations that have been a part of the negative event.
Even if a person behaved badly, notice positive intentions or drives that you can draw upon and redirect positively in future situations.
e. Find the humor in the situation. Humor tends to come from getting an unexpected shift in perspective.
Surprise and variety are human needs. This will help you cultivate your sense of humor and ability to innovate.
f. Once you have found one or more effective reframes, step back into the timeline and negative experience.
Now imagine re-experiencing it from your expanded perspective.
g. At the beginning of this step, you thought of at least one resource from your life that would have helped with this experience.
Recall the time in your life in which you were most connected with this kind of resource.
Find that spot on your timeline, and step into that spot.
Associate into that resource experience.
As you fully experience the associated resource state, experience it as an energy and see what color it manifests as.
How does it vibrate?
What other sub-modalities do you notice in any sense mode?
How does it feel to run through your body as a healing energy?
h. Beam that energy down your timeline into the negative experience, and maintain that beam of energy until you notice a positive change in that experience.
See what resources are liberated by this energy.
Continue until you reach the earliest supportive memory.
Create a resource vortex.
Turn to face your future again.
Slowly walk toward the future, and relive your supportive and resourceful memories.
Collect them, taking them with you into your future.
Cultivate the sense of all these supportive people and resourceful situations being with you now.
Amplify the state of resourcefulness.
Step around any negative memories as you go. They do not detract in any way from your positive memories.
Connect your resources with your future goal as you experience it.
Listen to a song that captures the sense of your resourceful state and supportive memories, as well as your health and vitality.
Get into the spirit of that song as you proceed into your future.
Continue until you arrive at your future goal on your timeline.
Experience all of the resources that you have brought with you as well as your goal and the optimal state for attaining your goal.
Integrate these sensory representations into a single, positive experience.
Notice and fully feel the connection between this future and all the people and resources of your past that are connected to it in some way.
Experience the congruent connection between all of your life events and your vital, healthy future.
Improve mood, motivation, and success by resolving internal conflicts between states. Generate resourceful states more consistently by resolving habitual (automatic) negative states. Robert Dilts, a well-known NLP researcher and master trainer, explains the issue of inner conflict:
“In a typical situation, if we are prevented from reaching a goal due to an external impasse, we maintain our focus on the outcome, inhibit any “antithetical ideas” and continue to attempt other avenues or strategies in order to attain the goal. If there is an internal conflict, however, the “debate ground” shifts inward, and a battle begins between the two parts of one’s self. As Freud points out, the external frustration is supplemented by internal frustration. It is as if the person is “caught between a rock and a hard place.” “And when the fight is between two parts of one’s self, one can never ‘win’.”
Notice incongruencies between conscious and subconscious communication.
This is done while working with a client on an issue that involves conflict between two directions, but has poor awareness of one of the opposing states. When exploring the conflict, observe incongruence between the person’s conscious and subconscious communication. By this we mean what the person says versus what their body is giving away. For example, if the person shows anger, but denies being angry, you will see body language that contradicts their denial. Anger physiology will show as jaw and lip stiffness, squinting of the eyes, shoulder tension, and maybe even resentment or tension in the voice.
Sort into polarities
Some of these incongruencies will have something in common with other incongruencies. If the person really was not angry, they would have relaxed shoulders and other physiology of a “not angry” state. This observation provides you with a polarity involving two states. On one end of the polarity is shoulder tension, and, on the other, is relaxed shoulders. The polarity is that of a range of shoulder tension from high to low. Simmering anger is high tension, not being angry is low tension. Discover more incongruities between these two states, and sort them into polarities as we did with shoulder tension.
To find these incongruities, you are seeking physiology clues. A good way to detect them, is to have your client enter the very state that their body language is telling you they are not really into. For example, with the “not angry” state that the angry client insists that they are in, you could help them align with that state by remembering, in first person, what it is like to watch a child play with a very friendly dog. Once they are fully in the “not angry” state, find out what is happening with every sub-modality associated with that state. In other words, what they are experiencing in that state.
Now you have moved beyond body language to include sub-modalities that your client is able to describe for you. This would not have been possible with a client who is not aligned with the state they claim to be in. This technique is important, because, when people are out of alignment, they can have difficulty being verbally or detailed, or, instead, unconsciously create distractions in order to avoid being aware of their schism. The subconscious mind is very creative when it is tasked with this kind of deception.
Sort these incongruencies into their polarities through means such as spatial sorting, symbolic sorting, rep systems, roles, and Satir Categories (i.e., blaming, placating, or rationalizing). If you don’t know about all of these, stick with what is more obvious to you, such as how your client positions them in their mental space and what sub-modalities they associate with each state. How the state feels is often the easiest one to elicit.
As your client talks about what these states mean to them, note what beliefs appear to drive each state. Thinking of the states as parts may help you derive beliefs that are empowering or limiting. You are likely to find more than a few negative or limiting beliefs.
To summarize by using an example, fix “depression” in its “space” by asking your client to recall a recent time that they felt depressed, and enter into that state for a few moments. During that time, elicit sub-modalities and any other aspects that distinguish these states from each other. For example, list the predicates, key words, eye accessing cues, and physiology cues that you can observe in connection with that state.As you explore the original issue, you will discover additional states with aspects that can be placed onto polarities. As you do the sorting, you eventually get to states that do not share enough polarities or similar attributes. At this point, you begin resorting. On the other hand, some states, such as depression and passion, will be competitive, that is, so incompatible that they cannot be placed on the kind of polarity that we are working with here, because they would be too incongruent.
Integrate the incongruencies.
Put each state where it belongs. For example, place depression and happiness in their unique spots, (i.e., their respective spatial locations). Then group similar states in these locations.
a. Make a connection between the polarities. Have your client group the sensations of the states. To do this, your client must focus on the kinesthetic aspect of the state, bringing it to the foreground, rather than the imagery, sound, and concepts. In doing this, your client is moving all of the feelings of depression, for example, into a limited space, thereby experiencing it as something that they can control. This makes these states and their feelings less overwhelming and builds in your client a sense of empowerment and hope.
b. Be sure that your client is in a very positive state before proceeding. Your client should be in a very confident state. Be sure that their positive states are stronger and collectively larger than the other polarities. Have your client move into a meta position. From there, bring the polarities together in a way, what can create new solutions.
Resolve inner conflicts so you can engage consistently in a desired behavior. This technique uses logical levels and NLP resources in an interweave that deserves some explaining. We encourage you to study this thoroughly. In essence, you will learn to leverage higher levels of criteria in order to produce your desired behavior, despite the resistance, distractions and temptations that have typically sabotaged your efforts in the past. Often inner conflict arises from the way higher logical levels override lower ones. This is possible because a desire often gets its drive from more than one level. When these levels work at cross purposes, we can end up sabotaging our higher intentions through procrastination, misplaced priorities, and other self-defeating behavior. Consider this example: If you derive personal meaning from helping others, and you have made a career of it, then your Identity level (one of the logical levels) provides much of the drive for your career choice. At the same time, you desire to express your skills and knowledge and to act on habitual behavior. These desires drive your career actions on a day-to-day basis. This example shows three different logical levels driving behavior:
Identity (as a helper), Skills/Knowledge (applied to helping), and Behavior (helping). But, what if you want to get a better job so that you can make more money and contribute more by gaining more responsibility in your chosen field? Let’s say the answer is that you need to return to school to learn more and get an advanced certification or degree. Although you may be able to say that this goal is connected to your Identity level, it is not enough if that understanding is only an intellectual, conscious one. If your strongest connection with going to school is only happening at the Skills/Knowledge level, then you’ll have a problem. That’s because your Identity level is currently filled with actually carrying out helping behaviors on a day-to-day basis.
This “Identity override” (the Identity level overriding the Behavior level) leaves you procrastinating on going back to school, while your current work absorbs the lion’s share of your energies and creativity.
This technique is designed to help you connect a higher level, such as your Identity level, to an important aim, such as going back to school. This creates a strong subconscious drive that causes you to move forward much more easily and creatively. As you’ll see, the power of this technique comes from its clever integration of several different NLP resources.
In addition to Logical Levels, this technique can use Spatial Sorting and the Counterexample Process. It will also sharpen your awareness of rep systems and cognitive strategies. It has broad applicability and much flexibility in the hands of an experienced Neuro Linguistic Programming practitioner.
Prepare the page
On a piece of paper, in a landscape (sideways) position, create four columns with the following headings.
Leave room at the top of the page for two items: Behavior and Override.
Column 1) Capability
Column 2) Belief
Column 3) Desired Behavior
Column 4) Identity
Note the desired behavior.
At the top of the page, write down a behavior that you want to engage in, but that you somehow self-prevent from carrying out. For example, studying as much as you need to.
Note the motivating factors.
In column #1, Capability: list the factors that give you the most motivation to engage in the positive behavior. Emphasize factors related to skills, possessions, and knowledge that build and result from your capability to do this behavior. For example, getting into a top-notch grad program, getting into a great career, or having a nice house. Note the strategy, meta-program patterns, and sub-modalities that tell you that each criterion is motivational. For example, the idea of a great career goes along with the eager excitement in the solar plexus. The things that feed into that positive feeling include the desirable challenge and a desire for prestige. Refer to the meta-programs appendix as needed.
Note the preventing factors.
In column #2, Belief: list the factors that prevent you from carrying out the desired behavior.
Emphasize thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and values, including any that seem irrational. Include any resistance or objections that pop up and take you away from your desired behavior, even if you have never put them into words before.
Take yourself through the process of getting pulled away from your desired behavior and analyze it as though it was a formal decision-making process.
Look for strategies, meta-programs, and sub-modalities that drive these decisions.
Look for the criteria that the decisions are based on. For example, “I do not study as much as I need to because it is stressful and I run out of time.”
Another would be, “When I study and the phone rings, it seems important to answer, even though I know it will be a friend who will distract me from studying.
The sub-modalities are that the ring is in the center of my attention (auditory), and gives rise to feelings (kinesthetic) of relief and excitement that are a very attractive alternative to studying. This creates a sense (kinesthetic) of urgency, so I fail to think (self-talk) about setting limits on this. I don’t think of myself turning off the ringer (visual).”
Note the override criteria.
Carefully think about your criteria for your desired behavior from column #1.
Think about how these criteria make you aware of criteria at higher levels, including the Identity level.
Jot down any ideas that occur to you in the appropriate column or on a separate sheet if you like.
Continue until you are able to select one criterion that is the highest and most powerful of all.
Write this one down in the space just below the behavior and put a big star beside it or highlight it. In seeking this high criterion, it might be helpful to ask, “What strikes me as being so important that I would always have time for it, and that stress would not prevent me from doing?”
Note what personal value of yours that it satisfies so that it achieves this superior level of importance, (e.g. “preventing tooth decay is a value that means I never forget to brush my teeth twice a day.”). Elicit the strategy, meta-programs, and sub-modalities that drive this criterion. For example, preventing tooth decay is represented as seeing bad teeth (visual constructed) and getting a bad feeling about it (kinesthetic). Refer to the meta-programs appendix as needed.
Let’s discuss how these levels play out in the example of the student. His problem was that his context contained a convenient temptation (phone calls from friends) and an aversive (the discipline required for studying). As a result, the student’s behavior appears to be at odds with his identity as a student, and even with his higher values and vision.
Since the conflict is coming from the lower levels (behavior and context), you can intervene at any of several higher levels, and at the same levels.
For example, students often intervene at the behavioral level by using behavior modification to “outgun” the effects of temptations in their environment.
For example, one student made a rule that he could not leave his study area without doing twenty chin-ups. The chin-ups served as an “aversive stimulus” that reduced his drive to escape to the kitchen for snacks. He enjoyed the side benefits of losing weight and building up his arms. Prior to this intervention, the snacks tempted him away from his studies too often and he gained weight. This intervention uses context (the chin up bar and the requirement to do chin ups) to affect behavior, just as the problem caused the context to affect behavior. However, unlike the problem, the solution was driven by his identity as a student and as a physically fit person.
You could say that he used leverage from his identity level in order to produce success at the behavioral level.
In this case, he did not directly confront his behavior with beliefs about the value of studying. Instead, he used the identity level, and a rather superficial version of it, pertaining to his physique and attractiveness, in the service of his desired behavior, which was eventually studying, not pumping up his biceps. It doesn’t matter much where the motivation comes from, as long as you are able to engineer the behavior you desire.
Also note that, by using behavior modification principles, the student gained leverage over his behavior at the subconscious level. You will see in the remaining steps how to engineer the most effective behavior.
Leverage the process by anchoring the behavioral content from override.
Go back to column #1, Capability, and anchor the behavioral content there.
Really get in touch with carrying out the behavior in a positive state (use the override criteria to help you).
Anchor that positive state.
Apply the highest override criterion.
In column #4 (Identity), use the highest level criterion that you found by applying it at the Identity level.
With the school example, you might say at the Identity level, “My identity as a helping professional is expanding and becoming more meaningful because I am attending the program I have chosen.”
On the belief level, you might say, “I believe in life-long education, and I believe in the craft I am learning.”
Brainstorm, and review what you have done so far to determine how your high-level, override criterion applies to your Identity level.
Engineer the desired behavior so that it is in harmony with all criteria levels, and fulfill the objectives of the desired behavior.
This step may mean a dramatic change of course, or some simple refinements to your desired behavior. Most likely, it will involve adding supportive activities and perspectives to make it ecologically sound and highly motivating.
Bring your attention to column #3, and draw a line below what you have written so far. Write down a behavior here that fulfills (or at least does not violate) the criteria of all columns.
You might want to start by brain storming all measures that you can take in order to enhance or add to your desired behavior so that it fulfills the criteria at each level.
This way, you will come up with a main behavior for this column, as well as a collection of supportive behaviors and adjustments that will help to ensure that you succeed.
Remember that brain storming means you open your mind to many possibilities. You may want to start on a separate sheet and exhaust your ideas, then return for more after letting some time pass.
You might want to call some friends or a mentor to discuss this step. In making sure that your ideas are in harmony with your criteria, you might ask questions such as, “What ways are there for me to take part in a school program that will (from column #1, Capability) improve my income, skill, prestige, and (from column #2, Belief) allow me to continue the work I am doing now in a meaningful way and keep making a living?”
Pick out the best idea for column #3.
Map and adjust the override criteria and limiting beliefs.
Review your override criterion that you noted above the columns.
Notice what sub-modalities give it power. Also, note what strategies it implies.
Observe what meta-programs give this criterion its shape. (Meta-programs are the higher level programs that affect how we think and perceive. For example, some people focus more on what they are avoiding, while others focus more on what they want.)
Now take your revised desired behavior from column #3, and adjust the strategy, meta program, and sub-modality features of the criteria of the desired behavior to match the strategy, meta program and sub-modality features of the highest level (override) criterion. Do the same thing for the column #1 Belief criteria (the values and conditions that give the limiting beliefs a sense of legitimacy). This may seem like an odd request, but remember that you are harmonizing your desired behavior with criteria from all columns, and this adjustment will actually help to drive your desired behavior now that you are no longer waging an internal battle between conflicting levels of criteria.
Over the next few days or weeks, notice if you carry out the desired behavior enough to achieve the positive outcomes you intend it to, such as getting better grades so you can get into a good graduate program.
How well have your interventions worked and how might you improve them?
Are there other logical levels at which you should intervene?
Discover and correct any ecological or other conflicts.
This technique can go very far in helping you achieve very useful depth of insight as well as valuable, creative, fresh solutions. It helps you develop capacities that are quite under-realized in most people. We strongly suggest that you make a project out of this technique for any really challenging or complicated situations in which you are trying to cultivate or engineer behavior that is more appropriate than what you do automatically.
By keeping it handy and revisiting it from time to time, you are likely to find that it can go much farther than one time can achieve. Reviewing Dilts’ neurological levels can help generate ideas.
What additional support or interventions might help you secure this new behavior?
Use your environment to reinforce what you come up with. Posters, sticky notes, and recordings can all help reinforce and remind you.
Recall the behavior modification example above. It takes advantage of context and behavior modification principles. It is not an obvious strategy, because it does not directly or obviously addresses the desired behavior or confront the undesired behavior. In working with a client, you can keep track of the details by writing them down yourself, while guiding the person to step into areas that represent each of the elements written.
In this approach, the original one suggested by Dilts, the person steps into spots on the ground that correspond to each of the columns. This assists with anchoring and eliciting states.
A common problem is to find that the criteria preventing your desired behavior occur at the same or higher levels than the criteria that support your desired behavior. When that happens, people feel mystified as to how to sort things out. Keep thinking it over and you will find a way. For example, put criteria that are on the same logical level side-by-side and keep asking what makes them different.
At first, it might just appear to be that the desired behavior is more relevant to your long-term status, or it might bring a better version of the same benefits or a larger quantity of the same benefits. But if you keep asking why that matters, you will come to values at a higher level, even at the identity level. Get as many as you can, and explore ways to make them more compelling.
Get much more control over your mind and your life, by resolving the meta-model violation known as nominalization. This works because nominalization removes the actor from the scene. If I say, “I have to go visit my stupid relatives,” I’m not saying who is in charge of the “have to.” If I decide to be empowered, I can say, “I’m going to make my mom happy by visiting my stupid relatives.” or, “I decided it wasn’t worth going through that misery.” Even better, if you can say it honestly, “I’m going to create a completely new and mind-expanding experience with my relatives.”
We nominalize when we turn verbs into nouns. If you talk about “the relationship,” it seems to have a life of its own. Where is your (and the other person’s) leadership and vision? Think about situations in which you feel less powerful. You might feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or coerced. Find a nominalization in the way you talk about the situation.
De-nominalize by turning at least one noun into a verb.
Find a way to turn at least one noun into a verb. This change puts someone into the driver’s seat. The more challenging or empowering it feels, the better. If it challenges you to take responsibility in some way, that is a special challenge to embrace.
Talk about it without nominalization.
Explore ways to talk about the situation without nominalization, and by including the verb(s) you identified. Instead of, “This job is killing my soul.” you might have, “I am super motivated to get a different job, and fast. I’m networking and telling everyone I meet to keep an eye out for good opportunities in my field.”
Do you feel that you are in a more meaningful, connected, empowered state?
Dear colleague and friend, This list of practical guidelines is directed to NLP practitioners, therapists, coaches and consultants, who wish to start a private practice and work full-time in our field. Being a private practitioner is an exciting and interesting profession. If your passion is helping people, you’ve done the right career choice. I’ve been a full time therapist for 35 years straight, and I’m loving every minute of it. My main purpose here is to contradict the naysayers, that say it’s impossible to work full time as a private practitioner. While they’re sitting on the sidelines, pretending to know better and looking for excuses, you can be out there, scoring your goals. I speak only out of experience. Working for yourself, while earning a full time living with NLP, is not complicated: make a decision, take consistent action, learn and adapt and keep moving forward. What you’ll find next is a thorough list of advice and suggested guidelines, some of what I give new graduates in our online NLP course. Read it through, mark the ones that speak to you and then go ahead, implement and execute. I root for you and your success. Yours Truly, Ben Heigl Master Trainer, NLP College
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into smaller manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” –Mark Twain
What business are you stepping into? Therapy? Personal coaching? Corporate management coaching? Counseling? Get a clear image in your mind. How is it going to look like, sound like and feel like, when you reach your desired outcome? What will you see, hear and feel, as you step into your private practice every morning? Make the image bigger and brighter and richer in tone and color, and place it on your mental screen, right in front of you, somewhere above eye level.
Now consider your current reality. How is it right now, in comparison with your desired outcome image? How does it look like, sound like and feel like, right in this moment?
Starting and running a private practice is not a problem to be solved. There really aren’t any guaranteed formulas for success. Keep reminding this idea to yourself as you take little steps on your journey toward lucrative self-employment. It’s an adventure. It’s a dynamic learning process. The experience is, quite honestly, simply awesome when you realize you’re getting well-paid for doing something you are passionate about. It feels, then, less like work and more like following a calling.
Your first priority is to become congruent. In other words, to be single minded about who you are and what you value most, and eliminate the gap between knowing and doing. You become congruent by continuously seeking self knowledge. You enhance your self knowledge by periodically monitoring and analyzing your own behavior, and the verbal and non-verbal cues you observe in other people as they react to you, inside and outside the session room.
It is NOT easy to start any kind of business, let alone a private practice. There are no secrets or magical formulas that will drive a swarm of clients to your new business on its opening day. You might see some benefits right from the start, or it may take a few months. For the next 365 mornings, install this thought in your mind, as soon as you wake up: “it’s time to hustle, I’m ready.”
Keep track of your negative self-talk. “I don’t know where to begin so I’m stuck”, “I have big dreams but little ambition”, “nobody needs my services”, “I do not have the funds to begin”, “I procrastinate”, “I have low self-esteem”, “my family doesn’t approve”, “I have a 9 to midnight low paying job”, “I doubt myself”, “I’m on disability”, “I don’t own a car”, “I’m in serious debt”, “my mother in law lives with us” and so on and so on. Add the word “but” to the end of each excuse and declare how you plan to overcome it.
Although it’s difficult in the beginning, and may remain difficult for a long while, there’s a silver lining here. Being self-employed is far more creative (and feels substantially better) than the typical rat-race, grinding your teeth, keeping your head low, working 9 to 5, while boosting someone else’s profitability. In order to reap the rewards you simply have to keep showing up and work through the challenges.
Your practice is a reflection of your identity and your passions, as well as the unique expertise you have to offer the marketplace. You passed your chosen training programs, you’ve mastered your craft, you literally have within reach all the advanced communication tools, all the specialized knowledge, all the exclusive access to inner resources, and still you’re worried you’d be struggling to make ends meet?! Make a list of all your worries and concerns and tackle them one by one.
Building a successful private practice is like running a marathon. If your heart and soul are truly connected with your outcome, it gives you energy to train every day, to run an extra mile, to move past random obstacles, to overcome pain and adversity and then you reach the finish line and celebrate your success. A day later you go back out there to run again.
You’re venturing out on your own, and you’re fully responsible for the results you get. You’re about to make all the decisions, you will do most of the work, you will work through and solve the numerous inevitable problems, you will also take the heat when things go wrong, and you will definitely bask in the glory when things go right.
It will be exciting and scary, but remember this principle and follow it religiously: just keep on moving. Do not freeze and continually se any NLP tool you’re aware of, to eliminate self-doubt, fear and lethargy.
Still, you remain flexible. You keep your focus on your well-formed outcomes, you take disciplined action, you evaluate the results and you change your actions accordingly.
Prepare yourself. This journey is highly rewarding, but rough and may not fit every person. There are many emotional ups and downs, and whatever pink glasses you put on as you take your first steps on this rocky road, they’ll fall off pretty quickly. Many new practitioners jump head first without careful planning, and a hefty percentage of them either go out of business within the first year or bankrupt. Planning is not the same as reading business books or watching lectures about marketing systems. There are plenty of good ideas out there, but their worth is zero without thoughtful and persistent day-by-day implementation.
Your primary objective is to become the kind of person who is able to achieve success as a private practitioner, and then relentlessly follow a strategic well thought out action plan.
Life is chaotic to all of us, and no man (or woman) is excluded from this burden. Sometimes you find happiness, and sometimes sorrows, and most of the time – challenges! That’s nature. That’s reality. Instead of wishing for less challenges, go for the home run. Tame the dragons within and jump head first into the unknown. Yes, it’s easy to say and extremely difficult to pull off. No, it’s not a reason to stay stuck in mediocrity.
Follow your passion, BUT… delegate the rest. That’s where many new entrepreneurs get it wrong. They believe that all they have to do is what they are most passionate about, and success will follow, even though they’re ignoring the other essential cogs in the system. Yes, go ahead and become completely absorbed in your passion – help people and often! But delegate the other essentials (administration, customer service, accounting, correspondences, legal matters, finances, etc.) to competent experts.
Do not attempt to go ‘solo’. Being a private practitioner does not mean you’re completely alone in your enterprise. What is now known as a ‘Solopreneur’ is, in reality, a myth. You will not succeed without the support of more than a few competent individuals. Forget about ‘bootstrapping’ and ‘self made’ wonder stories. Their purpose is to sell you something; all you have to notice is how it’s a marketing scheme. If you look close enough, you’ll notice that behind every authentic success story there’s a very long line of hard working helpers. The two most essential helpers you will need right from the start, involved in every move and decision you make, are a business attorney and a state licensed accountant.
What are your personal reasons for starting a new business? Be honest. Are you trying to prove yourself to someone else, or to the person you were in the past? Are you jobless or in debt, and you think this could be a quick scheme to riches? Do you have other personal problems, and you believe that you can find relief by focusing on other people’s needs? Do you feel it’s the right time for you to start a new venture? What makes you so sure of it?
Did you come up with the idea to start a business or it started someone else’s encouragement? The source of your newly found motivation to become completely independent is important. If you recognize that it has originated externally, from outside of your mental sphere, you might lose traction as you run into the plenty of inevitable challenges in business. Figure out your own personal reasons, so that you can rely on that inner vision to guide you through anxiety, stress and other emotional storms.
Are you committed to spending as much time and effort as it takes to make your business successful? Are you able to afford spending 45-60 hours per week, focused entirely on work? How will you communicate this commitment to family and friends?
How will you finance your business? Do you have enough money to get started? Are you willing to invest your own money as well as ask others to invest in your business venture? Consider the exact amounts you’d be able to spend without risking bankruptcy or sabotaging your relationship with your spouse and children.
Even if you are the sole owner of the enterprise, the people who care about you are always a part of your invaluable support team. Did you share your business aspirations with trustworthy relatives or friends? What did they say about it? Who among them is most suitable to be your unofficial therapist, when times are tough and you can use a friendly, nonjudgmental and compassionate talk?
Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you don’t have anyone to answer to. You will have many more bosses than you ever did as an employee – your clients, whether private or corporate. Your attorney and your accountant, whose jobs are to prevent you taking unnecessary risks. Your family, who wants you to succeed and provide for them and at the same time want you available and approachable. It’s up to you to stay tuned into the concerns and requirements of each boss and figure out how to juggle your many roles if you want to continue to be retained. How will you handle each?
If you’re in North America, you will need to be able to comfortably spend up to $35,000 on your private practice, during its first year in business. It includes office space rent, electricity, cleaning and management fees, stationeries and supplies, legal and accounting services, extra furniture, and more surprises you can never expect ahead of time. Having this amount available to you, wether in cash or as a potential loan, can help you focus on the long term outcomes of your business and not on the lack of earnings in the beginning. It takes time to build a solid foundation, and you’d better keep existential anxieties about money out of your way for as long as humanly possible.
What will your start-up costs be? Research the office rental prices in the area of your business, consider the prices of office furniture, supplies, parking, water and electricity bills, cleaning services, etc. You can consider yourself lucky if you break even at the end of your first year in business. Are you ready to get comfortable with NOT receiving a regular paycheck, ever again?
Sometimes the road will be easy, and sometimes hard to navigate. Prepare yourself for the emotional ups and downs of a new start-up. It may take 3 to 5 years before your private practice ‘settles’ and is infused with repeating and referred clients. Until that golden moment arrives, however, you will need to keep on showing up even when times are tough.
You read about all those kids who jump head first into business and sell their start up for many (many!) millions of dollars. Or you see a news story on TV about a stay at home mom of 6, who opened a restaurant and now she has a successful franchise in 20 states… Do you imagine your new business becoming an instant success? Describe that image if you do.
What you don’t hear or see often enough are the kids who go bankrupt and the wannabe chefs that can’t pay their mortgage and lose their house when very few patrons visit their new restaurant. Unless you are lucky or backed by venture capital, you are not going to get rich quickly. It takes 3 to 5 years to build a proﬁtable, long-standing and viable private practice. In your 1st year in business, you might make less than 80 percent of your most recent salary. Can you afford it without counting on instant success?
By years 3 to 5, your bottom line (profits) can begin to grow substantially. How will you handle this probable long period of time, from now to then, emotionally?
Imagine: it’s the 1st year anniversary of your new private practice. Take a good look around. What’s the worst case scenario?
Imagine: it’s the 1st year anniversary of your new private practice. Take a good look around. What’s the best case scenario?
Are you willing to be flexible enough, to switch directions mid-course in order to meet changing market demands? The way you set up your practice in the beginning is bound to morph many times during your, hopefully, long and prosperous career. Whether it’s four months, three years or two decades down the road, planning, evaluations and re-adjustments are always required. You have to put it in stone: change is a crucial requirement for survival. It will take place wether you agree with the process, and adapt, or not. It’s true in the wild savanna and it’s just as true in your business. Are you prepared to bounce back and learn from failures or temporary setbacks?
Are you optimistic, persistent, and passionate about your future work as a full time NLP practitioner? Write the associations that come to your mind when you think about your future. Get a clear understanding of both the positive and negative associations, that your mind comes up with, so you’ll know what inner struggles are awaiting you.
Align yourself with the best version of your personality (the collective parts that support your desired outcomes). Every person is unique, and we each have our own individual strengths and weaknesses. What you have learned so far in life is important, no matter how hard or easy that lesson was, or its context. What are your 5 strongest personal skills? (math, negotiation, empathy, etc.) In which ways can these skills be useful in your new business? What may be considered as the greatest accomplishment in your life, so far?
What’s guiding you? What are your personal goals for the next 5 to 10 years? What are your short term outcomes for your new business? (establish a legal entity, find an office, etc.) What are your long term outcomes for the business? (automate marketing, hire staff, become a known leader in NLP, etc.) How do your business aspirations ﬁt in with your personal goals for the next 5 to 10 years?
Evaluate your self, as objectively as you can, against the following traits of the successful NLP practitioner: Self-confident, driven and determined, follows a clear positive vision for life and business, flexible and adaptable, able to make fast and smart decisions, outcomes oriented, multitasker and highly creative. What examples from your past and present can you give, that demonstrate you do share these traits?
To maximize your chances to succeed, analyze your strengths and weaknesses as well as your personal characteristics. To be in business, long-term, you need determination, persistence, creativity, flexibility, and a willingness to climb on a a steep learning curve. How do you plan to further develop and strengthen these characteristics? Create a self-therapy plan and list all the tools you know, that can help you realizing it. It’s a never ending journey of self-discovery, gradual corrections and celebration of achievements.
I would like to suggest a radical new frame of mind: leave your self-esteem out of your business future plans. “If only I was more confident…”, “I need to believe in myself before I am allowed to succeed” – rubbish! History is filled with extraordinary successful people, whose low self-esteem didn’t ruin their chances. Take a look at Albert Einstein and Mariah Carey, as two examples, and Google others. Your self-esteem will naturally grow as a result of your consistent disciplined action, but you have no reason to use it as an excuse for not doing the required work. If you call yourself a professional, then you do what real professionals do, and you perform your best regardless of your low self-esteem or negative internal voice.
You become a successful private practitioner using the same strategy a musical prodigy employs to be invited to play in Carnegie Hall. Practice! Practice! And?! Practice! The more private interventions you take, the more group sessions you lead, the more keynote speeches you give, the more coaching phone calls you make – the more you practice your actual work, the nearer you get to be invited to your (metaphorical) “Carnegie Hall”.
Practice means failing a lot and often. Let this concept sink in, and remind yourself daily that failure is the only way to get better. I would even suggest here another radical idea: don’t sugarcoat your failures. Failure does mean feedback, as the popular NLP presupposition goes, but – objectively speaking – a failure is in fact a failure and it still stings and hurts. Acknowledge each failure, stare it right in the face, feel the burn and start collecting them enthusiastically. Remind yourself, that one day you have a rich collection of a thousand failures, and each has contributed to creating a highly successful business.
During this upcoming year (and perhaps even longer) you will most likely spend 60 to 80 hours per week getting your business up and running. Moreover, your work hours are likely to get even longer as you gain traction. Beyond paid sessions with clients, you will be marketing your services, running your business, shuffling paperwork, solving problems, and developing new products and services. How will you remind yourself to stay realistic and down to earth? How are you going to avoid spreading too thin, quitting a project half way through or wasting too much energy and time on minor details?
Always have someone you are accountable to. Accountability helps you stay on track, focus, keep your stride, overcome obstacles, get encouragement and support to build your business. If your spouse believes in your venture idea, ask him/her to be your accountability partner. If not, ask a close friend and schedule a weekly or monthly meeting to discuss your progress:
How much should you charge for your services? I currently ask for $175 per session, and that’s because the demand for a 1 on 1 appointment is quite high in recent years and I choose to spend less time in the office and more time with my new grandkids. It’s common practice to charge $50-$85 per session when you’re just starting out.
Set fixed prices for your services and adjust them once or twice per year, if needed. Better if you do not negotiate your fees, and always state them clearly, assertively and without an apologetic tone. Charge the highest realistic session fees you can, based on your area and clientele.
If anyone asks you why your fees are high, or how come you charge more than someone else’s, simply reply, “you get what you pay for, do you not?”, and then nod your head and smile.
People will be eager to argue with you and try get a better deal. That’s natural and should be expected. Treat these moments wisely. You don’t want to come across as needy or desperate for clients (even if deep inside you might be so). You are a therapist, a counselor or a coach, definitely not a sleekly salesman or a saleswoman.
“What if it doesn’t work?”, you might be asked by a qualified prospect. Your response may be, “and how might we find that out?”, and keep a gentle eye contact (smile, don’t move or talk for a few seconds and focus on the space between that person’s eyes). In most cases, their reply will be, “we have to try”, to which you will nod, open your calendar and ask them whether they wish to come on Tuesday at 10am or Thursday at 5pm.
ABC. Always Be Closing. Even though it’s a famous sales mantra, the idea here is that you want to keep the direct interaction with prospective clients to the minimum. You cut short the preliminary conversations. The talking should be done in a session, not over the phone, at the grocery shop or during a business conference. “Let’s talk about it in our session” is a phrase I recited thousands of times in plenty of occasions. If they need to be persuaded to invest in a session, then they’re not ready for a change in their future.
Beware of the “energy piranhas”. You will recognize these confused individuals, if you pay attention, as they roam around and attempt to manipulate you into telling them everything you know. They usually say things like “Yes, but how exactly do you…” or “it’s impossible, how can you even…”. They will never be your clients, their sole purpose is to figure out if they can take your place in your successful career. If you fall in their trap, it will end with you being exhausted and out of balance, so beware.
Random strangers will routinely attempt to squeeze a free session out of you, in the most awkward and inappropriate times or places. They will often “challenge” you to prove your worth, make grand promises to fill your schedule with rich clients (or their entire extended family) and even follow you around asking the same questions over and over again. You can disarm them by simply saying, “before I am allowed to talk to you any further we have to sign a confidentiality agreement, so here’s my card, you can call my secretary tomorrow and schedule our session. Have a nice day!”, and turn around.
Some people aren’t ready yet to change their habits or self sabotaging beliefs. Their secondary gains have a high value that justifies the incongruity. When you recognize this lack in willingness, it is best if you say, “when the time comes for you to make it happen, I’ll be there for you, right in that moment.“
Be careful not to excuse yourself when talking about your fees. You might have this common knee-jerk reaction many new practitioners experience, and say that you have to charge more because you offer a guarantee. That’s a mental trap you don’t really want prospective clients to be mangled in. You see, if you have to charge more in order to offer a 100% guarantee, it means that there are many instances in which your intervention doesn’t succeed, and so the ones that do have to cost more, in order for you to stay in business.
Never take normal lunch breaks. Most employees take their mandatory break somewhere between 12pm and 3pm. A good amount of my paying clients prefer to come to their sessions on their lunch breaks. Since you are, in fact, your own boss, you can schedule your lunch to any hour you wish. You only need to ask yourself if it’s more important to you to get that discounted business lunch in the nearby diner, or take in a couple of clients and go home earlier. That “sacrifice” is just another real life reason to keep your fees high and never negotiate them.
How will customers pay you— ahead of the session, at the end of the session or – as common with corporate clients – every 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, or on some other basis? You should figure it out in advance, and set it as an office rule. Sure, make adjustments periodically and be flexible in special cases, but keep it crystal clear to prospects ahead of payment time so that (again) you will not have to bargain or negotiate your prices, ever.
How many new clients, per quarter, do you need to serve to break even? One corporate client? 25 private clients, who each refers 2 new clients this year? 50 regular participants in weekly group sessions? 250 attendees in a weekend seminar? 10,000 readers who buy your latest book?
You are not selling fresh produce in the open market! Try not to get tempted to compete by offering discounts, gifts, vouchers, affiliate programs or Black Friday deals. Keep your reputation high and exclusive. An hour of your undivided attention and qualified skillful intervention is not the same as a pack of potatoes or a Thai massage.
The other side of charging the highest possible fees and never working for free is your guarantee. You make and keep a trustworthy brand name for yourself by offering a 100% guarantee for your services. It attracts people to your practice, and it encourages your clients to be more cooperative and congruent, which in turn makes it more likely that the session will be successful.
NLP is known as a one-stop therapy methodology. That’s your most attractive selling proposition and the main reason clients will be drawn to your practice. It’s also the common sense reason for not offering a “free initial consultation”.
Each session must begin with establishing a single well-formed outcome, that is stated in the positive and is realistically achievable within the timeframe of that session. Go through the well-defined outcome pattern and agree with your client on the expected results. This becomes the outline of the session, as well as a self-fulfilling prophecy which can be used to further guide and direct the client’s mind via the Milton model techniques. You can download and use our well-defined outcome (updated link in the Resources & Downloads section at the end of this book).
Do you plan to waste your money on advertising? In some municipalities you are not even allowed to advertise therapeutic services, but even if there’s no limitation, it’s not a useful strategy because the return on investment is very poor or nonexistent. The mental frame you want to create for your private practice, in your potential clients’ minds, is that of a specialized, highly in demand, and effective therapy.
How to attract new clients? The dual, simultaneous and continuous, strategies I implement in my own private practice, are networking and pro-bono.
There’s a crucial difference between pro-bono and the marketing scheme known as “free consultation”: the pro-bono sessions are reserved to people who are in dire need for your help, but can’t afford it. Pro-bono is your continuous unbiased and generous contribution to your local community. Such important work is highly beneficial for establishing a reliable and trustworthy reputation for yourself, for getting the attention of influencers in your community, for getting profitable pre-sold referrals and of course – it’s good for your soul.
If you want to stay in business for a long time, do not give your time for free to individuals who can afford your fees. “Free initial consultation” is not a valuable strategy. It’s a popular marketing ‘advice’, and yet a really bad one! Clients will come to you only because they have good reasons to believe you have the skills to help them get results fast, and they’re willing to exchange value (cash) for that service. It is definitely in your best interest to not let random bored freebies seeking strangers to waste your precious time. Falling to the trap, that free sessions may lead to good business, will cost you, in the long run, a whole lot more than you can currently imagine.
Here’s the right way to work for free: Volunteer a lot. The universe has a weird way of reciprocity when you give unconditionally. For some odd reason, every time I went out of my comfort zone to help others who can’t afford my fees, I received multiple benefits. A new corporate client hires me because he heard good things about me the last time his company donated money to the women shelter I volunteered at. Or the head psychologist of the police department, who sent me a request for a proposal to train their officers, and later on I discovered that she was referred to me by her cousin, who was teaching in a southeastern school for delinquent youth, where I taught the kids to focus and channel their uncontrollable anger to positive outcomes.
Starting 35 years ago, 20% of my weekly schedule is devoted to pro-bono work. The Pareto principle works for me very well, on a daily basis. More than half of my regular (paying) clients are referred, in many different ways, by sources related to my pro-bono projects. I never ever had to advertise, print flyers, pay for media exposure or do any kind of promotion. I was never on social media and I still don’t have a website for my practice. There’s no need for any marketing scheme or plans.
There’s no reason to add more digital waste to the over-crowded online space. I stay as far away as humanly possible from Facebook, Twitter and like minded ‘services’. These are not only time-wasters, but life-suckers. They thrive on your insecurities, and their bottom line is directly connected to your fleeting attention span. If you want to remain congruent, keep your focus and attention out of the digital world and deeper within objective – analog – reality.
Networking is simple: you initiate contact and build win-win business relationships with other professionals in your area, who may profit by referring clients to your practice. If you want to stand out of the crowd, craft a personal message to each new contact, print in on high quality stationery paper, stuff it nicely in a big envelope and send it via snail mail instead of email. In my first year in business, I’ve mailed 1,255 letters using this exact process. The ROI (return on investment) was phenomenal. If I was starting out today, at a time when everyone has email accounts (and therefore high intolerance to unsolicited spam) – I’d send the real letters, because the impact is even more powerful. When was the last time you received a personal letter by mail, that wasn’t a bill or a flyer?
Take dentists for example. If a patient is overtly anxious, the dentist will have a hard time doing his work and may have to give up without getting paid. They lose time and money because of anxiety ridden patients. NLP can save their bottom line. You can offer them your services as a drop by therapist, when they know ahead of time that their patient will be ‘problematic’. Later on, each professional on your list of happy dentists will be an attendant in your specialized seminar on anxiety management for dentists.
My first office was in West Hollywood. In that area, it’s very likely, that if you ask a young person what they do for a living, they’ll reply, “I’m an actor/actress”, and most will work in part time jobs until they get their big break. What’s common to every single one of them is performance anxiety, most evident when they get a chance to prove themselves in an important audition. My practice was filled to the brims with wannabe future celebs, and some actually made it to star on TV shows and in movies. I didn’t get these many new clients by advertising or offering free sessions. All I did was to send a simple and short letter to every booking agent and talent manager in California, the professionals who make a profit when their signed client gets a part in a production. Briefly I described how I can help the young and promising talent to be in top shape for the audition, and that it’s a guaranteed service. I had to hire a receptionist to handle the amount of phone calls and my schedule was overbooked for months ahead.
Who are your potential clients? What do you already know about them (common challenges, lifestyle, gender and age range, income level)?
What do your potential clients both need and want? Use the 2nd perceptual position and imagine yourself as a new client. What bothers you the most? What’s your ‘itch’? What’s most important to you? In which areas of your life do you feel the need to improve? What kind of guidance and learning styles are more attractive to you? How will you know, that the therapist or coach you chose, is right for you?
You will need to incorporate. Establish an LLC. If you’re a sole-proprietor, you and the business are one, as far as the law and tax authorities are concerned. A Limited Liability Corporation is a legal entity, that exists in separation from its owners. You want that separation, it’s an essential layer of protection for your personal finances and assets (even if you do not have assets yet). Your personal and your practice’s financial management must go on separate routes. There are also many benefit to an LLC, which your accountant can explain to you in details.
Don’t pretend to be a master of all trades. Leave the numbers to the experts who deal with them all day long. You will need a (really) good accountant. Interview at least a few, and ask around for recommendations. A good accountant will guide you to make the smart decisions about your private and business financials. They will also attempt to prevent you from taking unnecessary risks and lower the amount of tax you’re paying, among plenty of other benefits. Your sister in law and her local college bookkeeping evening course? It will cost you more than the fees you supposedly save, and I write it out of personal experience only. So keep business and family separated and get a really good professional, who gets paid to save you a whole lot more in return.
You will need an insurance policy that covers general liability, professional liability, fire and hazards (if you rent an office) and workers’ compensation (if you hire a staff). The cost of a solid insurance policy is minimal, compared to the consequences of not having one. Wether you like this idea or not, in real life you sometimes give service to people who look for any excuse to file a law suit to try and make a quick buck. Don’t be naive. Protect yourself and your business.
You will need a lawyer. As you gain traction and make a name for yourself, there will be people out there who will try to sabotage your success or con you in various ways. It happens in the NLP world as well, and it has happened to me more than a few times in my long career. Several years ago, a relatively obscured NLP trainer (one of those who sell programs by making magical claims without any base in reality) sent me an email with a demand to receive a digital copy all of NLP College’s materials, because he thinks (in other words, has a paranoid fantasy) that we use his materials – and / or, that we use his copyrighted “manner of expression”… I also couldn’t understand how the last one is possible, but I refused by politely replying that we produce our own materials, and that access to the NLP College course is reserved for registered students. I received a threat next, and have forwarded it to my lawyer. The end of this silly interaction was his ‘donation’ of $6500 in legal fees to our corporate lawyer. This is bound to happen to you as well, so get a good lawyer and agree with him or her on a retainer, so they’ll be on call right when you need them.
Sign a confidentiality agreement with each and every new client. It will give them a sense of confidence and may shorten the session time they need to open up to you and trust you. Ask your lawyer to provide you with a short and simple confidentiality agreement, which declares that you will never (as you should never even think to!) share any details about the client or the session with anyone else, at any point in time.
Consult your attorney about the legal requirements for confidentiality and the exceptions, as the local law in your country or state may include different details. Where I practice, confidentiality between therapist and client is voided (and the therapist must involve the authorities) in cases of child abuse or a high risk for suicide (which affects in drastic ways not only the suicidal person, but their family and innocent by-standers, potentially even children, that unwillingly become witnesses to the act). Again, your attorney should be the source for the valid information that will protect you legally.
What benefits will you offer to your future clients? When you make a list of your services, consider the problems you will be solving for your future clients, instead of the categories everyone else is using. “One hour consultation: $85” – compare that to “One session to overcome any fear or phobia: $85”.
Design your office like a minimalist. Keep the amount of distractions in your session room to the minimum possible. You want your client to be attuned to and entirely focused on your instructions, and not distracted by your trophies, pile of papers, or the random memorabilia you have collected over the years.
You might think, that if you offer one-session therapy, how can success be sustained? How will you get repeated clients? It’s quite simple: satisfied clients return, quite often, and they bring with them new clients. You help a client to get over his fear of flying in one session, and he books another session because he is also fed up with his nail biting obsession. Then, he sends his wife, so that you can explain to her how to communicate better so her husband will ‘read her mind’ as she wishes… You might laugh, but this is a regular cycle in my practice for many years. More than 75% of my clients referred other clients to my practice. Every new referred client also referred other clients. If you’re good and you do your best every time, you will never have enough blocks in your schedule to fulfill the demand.
What do you want to be known for? How do you want to be talked (or gossiped) about, personally and through the means of your private practice? In which field of business do you want to reach a status of an accomplished expert?
Starting a business is very demanding and includes long working hours, financial investments, and, of course, no regular paycheck. It is not something to go into lightly. If your only attitude is to “Try It Out,” it’s bound to fail. Write, in your own words, a new promise and explain it to yourself: “I’m not going to ‘try’, I’m going to DO whatever it takes and keep going even when the going gets tough”… because it definitely will.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Help your subject describe his or her state. Sometimes people simply can’t connect with their state to describe it. They will say things like, “I’m not sure what I’m feeling,” “It seems vague.” or “I feel dull.” (indicating that they are also becoming fatigued, physically or mentally).
This technique comes to get a clearer statement that will enable you, their practitioner, to set a well-defined outcome for the session.
Put your finger about one foot from the subject’s eyes.
Position yourself in front of the person and at eye level.
Put your right hand about one foot in front of his eyes with your finger pointed laterally (not toward either of you).
Guide the eye movement and blinking pattern.
Ask him to take a few deep breaths and then close and open his eyes, matching your finger’s movement rhythm.
Start very slow, moving your finger from 90 degrees to about 45 degrees (downward motion), and then back up again.
Alter the movements as indicated, and break state.
Repeat 5 to 6 times with increased rhythm until normal blinking rhythm is reached again.
Then keep the finger motion, but move the hand to accessing cues Visual Constructed (up left) and later to Visual Remembered (up right).
The purpose here is to activate the person’s brain through controlled eye movements. Now let him stretch and move freely, blinking fast several times and breathing normally.
Ask the questions in the manner indicated.
Ask the following questions and wait only two seconds for the reply. If he or she doesn’t respond immediately, offer the possible answers provided in the parentheses.
Speak at the same rhythm as you notice as his eyes are blinking.
1. What would be the best feeling you’d like to have right now? (Curiosity, passion, calmness, excitement, decisiveness, relaxation, security, etc.)
2. How would you know if you felt it?
What would be evidence for you, on the inside, that you’re really feeling X (the state they chose)?
3. What would happen once you felt X?
4. If you felt X, in which situations would it be most useful for you? (At work? With your kids? With your spouse? While you’re waking up?)
5. In which situations wouldn’t it be useful for you to feel X? And with what feeling would you replace it?
Continuous fatigue state
If your subject is still feeling fatigued and dull-minded, ask the following elicitation questions:
Was there a time in your past in which you recall feeling X?
How did you know back then that you felt X?
Could you show me how you would look if you were feeling X right now?
What was it like to have that feeling? Can you feel it now?
Make sure your hand is not so close that it makes the person uncomfortable. Different people will have different comfort zones. If there is a possibility of epilepsy, such as when there is a family history, then refrain from using eye movement exercises.
Have the person discuss with their physician whether such exercises are appropriate for them.
The first set of questions should be asked and answered fairly quickly. If you give the person time to think, their own self-criticism is likely to inhibit them. If the person is agitated, this is not the right pattern to use.
Consider using the “State Chaining” technique or “Collapsing Anchors.”
An ongoing disagreement, or a long lasting conflict between two people, can often be resolved by taking the discussion to a higher logical level. This technique uses logical levels to facilitate agreements. It can be useful in mediation and with groups.
Elicit meta-model information.
The following elements of questioning will help you create a meta-model of each party’s position, as well as to get the information you need in order to pace them and develop the rapport that you will need as a credible change agent.
a. Ask each person to boil down their argument to the outcomes that they desire.
b. Have them specify the values and beliefs underlying the outcome.
c. Ask what is most important and valuable about those values and beliefs.
d. Ask any additional questions that will help create a well-formed meta-model.
Identify higher logical level elements of the arguments, and reflect this.
a. Notice the elements that their arguments have in common, and identify which of those occur at higher logical levels (see the appendix).
b. State their positions in terms of their higher level agreements.
c. See if you or the other parties can propose a solution that everyone can agree on.
If this is not yet possible, elicit a more productive state and move to higher-level motivations.
If it is too soon for such an agreement, consider the following:
The more high-level agreements that you have brought to their attention, the smaller their disagreements will appear to them. The more you emphasize their most mature, intelligent agreements, the more you will be priming a mature, intelligent state for them to draw upon in resolving the problem. Help them come up with potential solutions by drawing upon these resources. Appeal to commonalties at a higher level than the one you previously appealed to in step two.
Get clear expressions of these higher outcomes from the parties.
Have the parties express their meta-outcomes, that is, outcomes at a higher level than the ones specified. This process was started in step one, but was not made into detailed outcomes.
Confirm agreements that exist at higher levels, establishing a Yes set. Again, seek to resolve the conflict.
Get everyone into a yes set, continuously confirming agreements at these higher levels. When possible, seek specific agreements that will resolve the conflictY
Follow up as needed.
Once you have achieved an agreement, follow up to see that it is working out. You can establish a timeline for follow up with the parties involved.
Matrixing is a way to strategically plan your work. It uses NLP to generate your responses to the client on the fly. This means we can use NLP know how, such as analyzing the client’s meta-programs and repairing their meta-model violations. If you aren’t 100% on top of things like meta-model violations, the processes to follow will still make sense.
A meta-programs are the cognitive patterns that an individual tends to emphasize in managing their mental processes. This establishes an important link between our thoughts and the sensory representations that NLP uses in so much of its work. You could say that meta-programs are the rules that govern our thought and decision-making patterns, especially in terms of how we select from our memories and environment in triggering and constructing those patterns. Put more concisely, meta-programs constitute the rules by which we select strategies (mental, behavioral, etc.) that we use to achieve our outcomes.
One way to get a feel for someone’s meta-programs is to notice what they pay attention to. An example meta-program is “toward versus away from.” A “toward” meta-program derives motivation and perspective from moving toward something. A person on a diet would experience himself or herself moving toward their desired weight and appropriate foods. An “away from” strategy would emphasize eliminating fat and avoiding fattening foods or excessive eating.
The meta-model asserts that we must exclude a great deal of information in order to function. When this exclusion takes place in a dysfunctional way, it can lead to problems such as overgeneralizing, as in bigotry. Such errors are called meta-model violations. One method of repairing such violations is to ask questions that require a more specific answer or that bring forth a contradiction. For example:
“If atheists are immoral, how do you explain this long list of atheists who have made great contributions to humanity?”
“You say she hates you? What exactly do you mean by hate? I know she did you a favor yesterday.”
Matrixing for Complicated Problems
Matrixing means being relevant to complicated problems requiring a strategic response, rather than a formulaic one. This is in contrast to a common approach of NLP practitioners, which is to focus on a very specific problem, and apply a specific technique to the problem. This is not to say that such an approach is wrong. There can be a great benefit to the artful winnowing down of a vague problem into a specific, operational definition, and many NLP practitioners excel at this. Many of them also excel at selecting a technique from their NLP quiver to rapidly resolve the problem. However, not every person will receive adequate help if their problem must be the equivalent of a sliver in their finger, and there’s no reason to limit NLP’s contribution to that of a pair of tweezers. Many of the problems clinicians and coaches find are quite complicated.
Some coaching clients may seem to have buried themselves in un-resourceful narratives and stories that they have become very attached to. Many clients will work with a coach on success or other life issues, but have mild mental health issues that are either left over after getting psychotherapy, or not yet bad enough to get the client to seek a therapist. The book, Shadow Syndromes talks about the way that “subclinical” issues can disrupt peoples’ lives without necessarily being readily diagnosable. We often call these clients “twilight” clients, because they may benefit from psychotherapy or medication, but are not necessarily motivated to explore that route. When they are, their residual problems don’t contraindicate coaching, but they can make them more challenging to the coach. Because such problems affect nearly everyone in some way, coaches should get to know enough psychopathology to help them understand their more stuck or confusing clients. This knowledge can be useful in many ways. It can help the coach respond in a more strategic way and help them have a more realistic sense of what will be needed.
My Favorite Matrix
I’m tempted to call this a starter matrix, but it is so fundamental to thinking about problems. This matrix may look simple, but it is very flexible and can be used to formulate very complicated problems, especially if you use it in a mind map format. You can use it for an overview of all the life needs of a client, or use it to zero in on a specific problem. It supports holistic and strategic planning. It helps to bring your intent and next best actions into focus. Let’s start with the categories, and then an example.
Examples include stigma, self concept, vision as a source of goals and meta-model violations.
People, things, and situations in the person’s environment that affect them.
The actual behavior of the person, and any plans that have a strong emphases directly on behavior, such as behavior modification. Can include desired behavioral goals and habits. Can focus on ways that developmental issues have created behavior limitations or patterns.
A focus on what is affecting the client from a biological perspective. Can include lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet. The more you think in terms of evolutionary psychology and the “internal pressures” that this creates, the more you may find yourself thinking in terms of physiology. As you know, NLP has plenty to say about observing and influencing your client’s physiology, while thinking in terms of state management. Both coaches and therapists find that they can think more about physiology as they incorporate reprocessing techniques such as EMDR and EFT into their work.
Now try this:
Think of a client, or even yourself. On a fresh, blank sheet of paper (or some kind of mind mapping software) put the four categories near the center. From there, you can branch out and add the most important related issues. Continue to branch out until you have actionable items. Here’s an example… The name and some of the details have been changed to protect her privacy:
Marcy is 30, hates her job, loves her husband, hates they way they get into arguments, feels kind of untrusting and judgmental of people, is very bright, is a really good sales person, is underemployed because her employer isn’t making very good use of her, and really wants to take her life to another level. She has trouble when a lot of little tasks and details come her way because of ADD. She has had counseling for ADD and has been reticent to take medication because it seems kind of creepy to her.
Mary is generally irked. The underemployment, overwhelm with details, and feeling intolerant of people that act petty, boring, or stupid, all make life less satisfying. She loves her husband, but he thinks and speaks in a very step-wise fashion. This is very difficult to tolerate for a person who thinks in hypertext. She realizes, though, that he is bright and successful, and his heart is in the right place. Coaching or counseling will need to help her find a more life-affirming and dynamic way to be a very smart person in a world that can seem pretty dumb.
Her need to improve her career is important here, because her context is a major source of her complaints. The results will show up here, but this is not necessarily the category where the real action will be. Changes in her attitude (Meaning), and strategies (Behavior) may be the keys that unlock her career potential, or help her convince her employer to make better use of her sales skills, which are excellent.
Her issues with the rest of humanity show up here in the sense that she does not have very satisfying relationships in her personal life, and she is not sure how to get into harmony with her husband. In addition to working in the Meaning category, behavioral strategies may be important.
Marcy has a lot of youthful energy, but the issues are taking their toll. Nonetheless, she brings a lot of energy to her job, her relationship, and her home projects. ADD has a physiological side, of course, and she will need to learn to cope with it, even if she takes medication. ADD coping methods will go in the behavior category. The prospect of medication, supplements, and other things that address ADD from a physiological angle go here.
How a Treatment Plan Would Look
Here is an example of a plan for someone like Marcy. She has come in for coaching. She has had psychotherapy, and it has been helpful, but she wants to focus on success and lifestyle. Nonetheless, it if very obvious that there are emotional issues and ADD symptoms that loom large.
Goals: To get from irked to fun and strategic. Getting into harmony with people and her husband. By being fed up from her distracting judgmentality and impatience, she will probably come up with better strategies for making her relationships more satisfying. By being less distracted by feeling oppressed and under-appreciated at work, she will probably be able to come up with better strategies for her career as well.
Methods: Metaphoric, reframing and other counseling techniques will be helpful. Reprocessing will be more helpful if we can connect with earlier experience that helped to establish her pattern of relating. Timeline work might be very helpful here.
Goals: To get from overwhelmed and under-appreciated to meaningful challenges that draw upon her gifts and inspire her to develop even higher skills.
Methods: Sometimes it is necessary to get context changes in order to progress in coaching or counseling. In this case, it looks like the context change is a goal rather than a short-term objective.
That means that the focus on methods will be in the other categories. Not that keeping an eye on the classifieds isn’t a good idea.
Goals: Round out her success with targeted strategies. The first two sessions created a strong impression that the short-term action is in the meaning and physiology areas.
Methods: Coming in a close third is the area of ADD coping strategies. These strategies will probably do a lot for her attitude and feelings of resourcefulness as well. This should create an upward, self-reinforcing spiral. It is also important to add to her intimacy skills with her husband. But her thought patterns that bind her into less resourceful ways of handling her husband come first.
Goals: Reduce ADD symptoms and respond to old emotional triggers from a state of fresh mastery.
Methods: Consider medication (via a referral to a psychiatrist), supplements, exercise, and anything else that will help her with ADD from a physiological perspective. Direct her to sources of information for this.
Do reprocessing to help her generate a more resourceful state instead of being stuck in the irked state. NLP techniques will rely a great deal on state management during whatever processes are used.
Assertiveness is a very important trait, yet people often fall into habits of being too passive or aggressive. These habits can be subconscious, and people often fail to realize how much they are losing and how many bad experiences come from poor assertiveness.
Analyze the non-assertive behavior.
Determine what the person does instead of asserting himself or herself in a specific situation. In addition to the behavior, uncover the chain of thoughts and other internal representations that take place prior to and during the non-assertive behavior. For verbal thoughts (self-talk), get a good sense of their position. For example, how much are their thoughts acting as a broadcast for someone else’s thoughts. And how much are they trying to preempt what other people might think? Dynamics such as these show problems with perceptual position misalignment. And this is a clue for you, by the way, to notice issues that you might want to handle with other patterns before continuing a process.
As for the stronger sensory elements, look at sub-modalities as well. You are looking at what drives the person toward the non-assertive behavior. Do not just assume that the sub-modalities have to be from the known driver sub-modalities (size, location, etc.). It could be any type in any modality. Be thorough in your investigation of sub-modalities in this step, because that might determine the success of the whole procedure.
Assess what stops the assertive behavior.
Notice any ways that an impulse to be assertive is stopped. One way to derive this is to simply mention two or three assertive behaviors that might apply to the situation. Then ask, “When you think of doing this, what happens?” The person is likely to describe a dominant rep system, such as the kinesthetic sense of feeling fear in their stomach, along with some thoughts. Help the person express these thoughts and develop them into specific beliefs such as, “If I asked for that, it would mean that I was a needy person. People like that are disgusting.” (Notice the nominalization regarding disgust. Who is disgusted, and why?) Clarify the ways that stopping assertiveness can be useful.
List ways the assertive behaviors can be useful.
Develop with the person a list of ways that one or more of the assertive behaviors can be useful. Make sure that this list appeals to the broadest possible spectrum of values that the person holds dear. Make sure that this includes as many selfish motives as possible, as well as any ways that the results of their assertive behavior would benefit any people or groups that the person feels are deserving. For example, if self care makes them more productive, they will be able to contribute more to the world in the long run. Also, their medical bills will be lower, so they can contribute more to their favorite cause. Be sure to include the pleasure of experiencing an assertive state that is free of guilt or other causes of shyness. As you are doing this step, be sure that you are using each element to foster a state of confident assertiveness in the person.
Another issue to consider is morality and ethics. Your client might have other parts that object such a stream of thoughts, making oneself more important in one’s eyes. Allow these parts to speak up and use the Parts Negotiation pattern is needed to make sure they do not interrupt in the rest of this procedure.
Expand the assertiveness state.
Bring the person’s attention to the ways they are beginning to experience an assertiveness state. This includes any rep system elements, including thoughts. Ask elicitation questions, such as—What do you see, hear, feel? Elicit sub-modalities as well, and maintain a high level of sensory acuity. Note which rep systems are most compelling, and of the thoughts, which values expressed by the thoughts are most compelling. Begin future pacing by, for example, asking the person to imagine carrying out assertive behavior buoyed by this state and fully expressing this state. What kind of posture, gestures and facial expressions would be expressed?
Again, if you maintain a high level of sensory acuity, you would notice their posture, gestures and facial expressions and give them verbally as feedback to your client in order to prove that the process is already working. Include a fantasy of people reacting very normally and favorably to this behavior in order to reduce the fear and create positive expectations on the subconscious level. Since tone of voice is so important in assertiveness, have the person imagine the vocal tone, volume, and pacing that are likely to gain cooperation and make the assertive requests. Again, bring up the positive feelings that go with the assertive state and behavior. Be very supportive of these feelings, and help the person amplify them. Use the sub-modalities that were most influential on this specific client.
Go through the timeline, generating examples of assertive behavior.
Have the person go through their timeline, thinking of many examples of assertive behavior. This includes any times that the person expressed an aspect of the assertive behavior. For example, they may feel badly about having said something meekly, but if they used the right words, have them focus on this very intently. The purpose of this is to modify the person’s self concept into that of an assertive person. This way they will have a greater expectation of being assertive, more permission to be assertive, and better competence at being assertive. They will also express assertive cues such as body language that set expectations in others. This will cause people to respond in ways that elicit more assertiveness in the person.
Diminish the images of non-assertive behavior.
Bring the person’s awareness back to their images of not being assertive. These images may include memories and fears. Ask them to send those images behind the assertive images. Ask them to imbue the nonassertive images with the qualities of the assertive images. For example, if the assertive images have a more lively, colorful quality, have the person modify the nonassertive images to have that quality. Have them do the same with other modalities and sub-modalities, such as vocal tone and accompanying thoughts. Move unassertive feelings to the same location as the assertive feelings, and modify the unassertive feelings to match key aspects of the assertive feelings. Continue making these adjustments until the person feels very congruent with assertiveness, even though these unassertive elements were being processed.
Go back to future pacing, asking the person to imagine carrying out assertive behavior in various situations. Be sure that they bring the assertive state into the situation, and that their future images have the qualities of the assertive images that have been developed. Ask the person to give you feedback over the coming days or weeks about any changes in their behavior that have to do with assertiveness or anything else that they think is important.
Enhance your ability to establish rapport and to model excellence. This technique builds a useful “second position” with another person. This skill is key in modeling others and for becoming intuitive in understanding the internal experiences of those you model. Here’s a quote about Mirroring and Rapport from the book NLP: The New Technology of Achievement, by NLP Comprehensive, Steve Andreas and Charles Faulkner:
“Fitting in is a powerful human need. We all have many examples of these behaviors, because we do them already. They are all based on some form of being similar, familiar or alike. Finding ways to be alike reduces our differences, and so we find the common ground upon which to base a relationship.”
Select the subject.
Select someone for a conversation. Don’t tell them that you will be mirroring them.
Conduct the conversation while mirroring the person.
During the conversation, ask their opinions on various topics. Mirror their physiology, including factors such as the tenor and cadence of their speech, and body language such as gestures. Do this subtly. If you need help maintaining the dialog, use active listening. This involves showing that you understand what they are saying by rephrasing their contributions. Beginning with a phrase such as, “You mean…” or “So you’re saying…” As you mirror, add elements such as their breathing as much as possible. Notice how you feel as rapport between you two develops.
Exercise your rapport: Test your intuition and understanding of the person.
Test your ability to understand through rapport. Try out your intuitions about what they are saying. Can you guess their opinion before they express it? If you agree, try expressing the opinion yourself, and see how this affects rapport. If you express the opinion in a less certain manner, the person may gain pleasure from holding forth to reassure you that the opinion is correct, and demonstrate their mastery of the subject. This helps establish you as a positive anchor. Highly effective rapport can gain information about the other person that you can learn to pull out of your subconscious, making you feel as though you are psychic. This is very useful in modeling.
Exercise your influence by shifting your attitude and physiology.
Test your ability to influence others through rapport. Try shifting your attitude and physiology (e.g., breath pace, facial expression, and body language) in what you consider to be a desirable or possible direction. For example, shifting from a resentful or angry state gradually into a more constructive or powerful state. If you do this with some care, the other party is likely to shift with you. This has enormous value in areas such as sales, leadership and coaching.
Explore these skills of “pacing and leading” in your relationships. Think of situations in which you could use these skills to improve your personal life or career performance. Notice what outcomes you get, and refine as you go.
Transform self sabotage into success. By discovering the positive intent behind a negative behavior or attitude, you can release tremendous energy and positive commitment. In his outstanding book Sleight Of Mouth: The Magic Of Conversational Belief Change, master trainer and famous NLP developer Robert Dilts says:
“At some level all behavior is (or at one time was) “positively intended.” It is or was perceived as appropriate given the context in which it was established, from the point of view of the person whose behavior it is. It is easier and more productive to respond to the intention rather than the expression of a problematic behavior.”
Define the problem.
Briefly state the problem with enough detail so that it is clear in your mind. It may primarily be a situation, personal problem, or a challenge. Focus on defining the unproductive behavior. Get clear on why the behavior is not useful.
Reveal the Underlying Motives
Take a few moments to relax, breathe deeply and lay back. Now, go inside, imagine your mind has special internal messengers. In NLP, we call them “parts.” These are parts of your personality, which have characteristic tendencies or habitual behaviors.
Find the part that is responsible for generating the unproductive behavior. Bring this part into awareness as though it was a complete personality. Remember that a part is an aspect of you. It is a collection of aligned motivations.
A part is like a little personality inside of you. In order to be aligned and successful, you must not work at cross purposes with yourself. This requires negotiating or working with your parts. Now imagine that you can do a role playing game with this part. Ask the part what it wanted to have, do or become, through the negative behavior or attitude. What value or benefit was to come from this. Ask directly, “What did you wish for me to accomplish by doing this?”Take as much time as you need to imagine and listen to the part’s responses.
Get to the core motives.
Keep asking “why” and “what” questions to clarify the motives. Recycle each answer into a new question. Continue this until you feel that you have gotten to the core motives. You should identify a core belief along with the core value and core reasons for the behaviors or attitudes that, at first glance, seem to be unsupportive of you.
In any coaching or therapy, momentum is very important. By momentum, we mean that a productive process is taking place at the correct tempo. Since NLP relies on state management, much of the time, and since states are dynamic processes, the pace of the steps in the intervention must be maintained. This key and basic move can allow you to move in a number of directions. It is an excellent set up for a reframe, for reprocessing, and as part of a hypnotic induction. In this pattern, we ask a simple question, “How do you know that you…” and guide the client into experiencing the sense modalities that make up their knowledge. This converts knowledge into something that can be questioned, added to, reformulated, deducted from, and made more dynamic.
It can help identify illogical thinking that the client can begin to question on their own, thus “owning” their experience with no incentive to resist the therapists “agenda.” It is an excellent gateway to body awareness patterns, because the senses are, well, senses. It helps the client become less attached to their mental narrative, acting somewhat like oil for a squeaky hinge. This is one of those sub-patterns that I mentioned in the introduction. It is a fragment of a larger, strategic series of moves. You’ll get some additional ideas about what to do with the results later in this section.
Client: “I feel like such a complete loser.”
Therapist: “How do you know that?”
Client: “Well, it’s pretty clear when you have friends that…”
Therapist: “Wait, I mean, how do you know that you feel like a loser. How does it feel?”
Client: “Totally awful, I feel like giving up.”
Therapist: “Where do you feel that in your body? Where is the main center of that feeling, of the emotion or intensity?”
Client: “Well, really, it’s like my stomach is twisted up.”
Client: “I just can’t do it. I can’t face him, much less make any sense.”
Therapist: “As you think about doing that, or, I mean, not doing that, how do you feel if you were looking at him and trying to make sense?”
Saying “or, I mean, not doing that,” helps to forestall an objection such as, “But I can’t,” so you can maintain your momentum. Also notice the use of conjugations, mixing, “how do you feel,” an “if” phrase, and, “trying to make sense.”
Client: “I would shut down. I really hate him.”
Therapist: “So if you’re facing him and shut down, where is that feeling of being shut down? Where do you feel it mostly?”
Client: “All over. I just want to turn and go.”
Therapist: “So there is a motivation to action, to move, to escape. What is that like?”
Client: “Oh, well, I would probably feel panicked. Either that or start yelling at him.”
Therapist: “And where is the center of that feeling? Your heart? Your throat?”
Client: “It just moves right up through me from my heart.”
Erickson used words called conjunctions, words such as “and” in pacing and leading. He linked the pacing with the leading in a way that made it all seem to belong together, and this gave his leading commands a lot of impact. Consider this example. (The >> symbols set off the embedded commands.) “As you experience this training, and wonder how >>you will apply it successfully, you hear the sound of my voice providing the information so that >>you can enjoy mastery.” The pacing was that you experience this training, and that you wonder how successful you’ll be.
This last bit about wondering can inspire a transderivational search for anything you are wondering and any ways that this training may make you feel challenged.
Bringing up any doubts that you have about yourself and then embedding the command that “you will apply it successfully” is a mild anchor collapse as well as trance reinforcer. Nonetheless, the statement that “you are wondering” is also pacing your actual experience.
Then I said, “You hear the sound of my voice providing the information.” which is still pacing. I finished with “so that you can enjoy mastery.”
Giving the purpose of the information doesn’t seem like leading, but as you probably noticed, it is really a command to enjoy mastery.
That is leading disguised as a simple statement about information.As you can tell, we are not only training you on a simple technique, but showing you how you can blend several techniques together.
With experience, NLP practitioners’ skills become so multilayered that they rely on their subconscious minds to do most of the work. When they listen to transcripts of their own work, they can be surprised to hear how many techniques they are actually using at the same time. I say this because you can trust that this will happen for you as well. Remember that Milton Erickson had some very serious impairments, including pain and dyslexia, as well as delayed development because of polio.
Learning is the process of acquiring new thinking patterns and behavioral capabilities. In NLP, a learning strategy is the syntax of steps one takes in order to learn. There are many learning strategies, of course, and some of them are not very effective.
Effective learning works within a feedback loop, or the T.O.T.E. model in NLP. In order to define a learning strategy, we would need to identify and organize the usage of representational systems (rep systems) a person is using in order to learn effectively. More importantly, we should identify which representational system gets the most use during the learning session. This is modeling in essence, but on a much smaller scale than other skills. The reason that people differ as to what learning strategies are most useful to them is that people are different! I am not surprised that I could do so well in literature in high school but almost failed in math. My literature teacher spoke in a language that made sense to me. She spoke using visual predicates mostly and she used every metaphor she could in order to explain a theme. My math teacher, however, was a very stubborn kinesthetic oriented person. She spoke of numbers in the dullest way, and the only explanation she had as to why an arithmetic rule works as it is, was, “that’s the way it is.” However, it was my responsibility to develop a learning strategy that would help me with math. Apparently I didn’t, because I almost failed in that class.
My best friend in high school, though, had exactly the opposite experience. She was thrilled about math classes, couldn’t wait to solve those complex trigonometric problems, and her aversion to literature classes was well known. She had a very different learning strategy than myself. The problem with both us was that we used the SAME strategy (each one respectively) on two different subjects. I used my successful literature learning strategy in math, which proved to be ineffective, and she used her successful math learning strategy in literature, and again that has proven to be the wrong approach.
The purpose of NLP is to elicit as many successful learning strategies as possible, so that you will always have the freedom and flexibility to move from one to another according to whatever is more effective for your outcome. The development of the awareness and ability to elicit your own successful learning strategies is called “Learning II” in NLP. It means, “learning to learn.”
The more you know about your own successful learning strategies, the more effective you will be in using, modifying and improving your capabilities.
This technique will help you uncover the syntax you’re using to successfully learn something. You can also use it, of course, to model another person’s learning strategy and try it out for yourself.
Select the learning subject you were successful in.
Any subject you’re good at will do just fine. If you find it much easier to learn literature, as I did in high-school, for whatever reason, write that one down.
If it’s math, history, general knowledge, logic, languages, or whatever else, make sure you have only one subject in mind.
If you can’t find a specific subject that you’re good at, chunk down to micro-skills.
Search your past experience for times in which you learned anything fast and effortlessly.
List your goals and outcomes.
What were your outcomes in regards to this subject? What were your goals when you approached the learning of this subject?
What was your evidence procedure to know that you have completed successfully the outcome in this subject? For example, if your strongest subject was math, How did you know you were successful in achieving an outcome?
Was it the passing of an exam or simply the solution of a math problem within a given time?
List the actions you took.
What were the actual steps you took when you started working on achieving this outcome?
Did you do anything unique about this subject, that you did not do for other learning outcomes?
Problem solving activities.
As with any learning opportunity, problems and challenges are always present and might disturb our learning.
What did you do in order to solve minute-to-minute problems that interfered with your excellent learning mode?
Consider which rep system you used the most.
Look back at your answers to the steps above and see if you can notice which representational system you used the most.
Elicit your rep system’s syntax.
Use the following questions to elicit the actual strategy you have used.
Refer to your answers to the previous steps, of course, since you’ve already done most of the groundwork there already:
What has stimulated you to learn effectively?
Did you see, hear, feel, or otherwise sense a cause?
Perhaps you digitally said something to yourself (inner voice), and if so, what is the content of that message?
How did you represent your outcome for learning this subject in your mind?
Did you visualize an image of yourself “knowing” or “excelling an exam”?
Did you visualize an image of yourself associated or dissociated (i.e. Did you see your notebook or did you see yourself looking at the notebook)?
Did you remember the outcome as an image from past successful events?
Did you say the outcome to yourself, and if so, how did it sound?
Did you feel the outcome or sense the assurance that this outcome is about to be reality?
If so, how did it manifest itself in your body?
How did you know that you’re making progress (evidence procedure)?
Did you perceive external visual information (physically) or internal visual information (imagination)?
And what was it exactly?
Did you need to hear that you’ve made progress (perhaps a teacher congratulating you for accomplishing a task, or your parents being proud that you got an “A”)?
Was it something you said to yourself or something that another person told you?
Which actions did you take for reaching this outcome?
Did you analyze, organize, re-organize, talk to yourself, have intuition, visualize, touch, sense, discuss, listen, move, draw, watch, take notes, or feel certain emotions?
Was it in any combination of the above?
What was the syntax or order of these actions in respect to the actual process of achieving the outcome?
How did you respond to minute problems? You can use the long list above (analyze, organize, re-organize, etc.)
What other questions could you ask yourself to complete this strategy and make it as accurate and close to reality as possible?
Notice any improvements to your ability to learn the subject you chose.
Learn to create a light, momentary trance in yourself and other people for various uses. When your conscious awareness is focused entirely on internal experience, NLP refers to this as downtime. The downtime state is a subset type of trance phenomenon, and can help initiate or deepen trance. It can help you manage an interaction as a brief, light trance as occurs in a transderivational search. Many techniques are used to stimulate downtime, and they are used not only to produce trance, but also patience, introspection, and receptiveness. Uptime, on the other hand, refers to a more worldly state of awareness that emphasizes external awareness that is effectively informed by internal awareness.
Restrict your environment
Arrange a distraction-free environment, because this pattern requires focus.
Internalize Focus with Rep Systems
Direct your attention inward, attending to each of your internal representational systems (the sub-steps below will help you). Attend to each of the modes as fully and as separately as possible.
a. Notice your audio sense, including your inner voice, the sound of any memories or fantasies that arise. Remember something, and focus totally on the sounds involved.
b. Direct your mental focus to the visual mode. Include memories and fantasies that arise. Choose a memory and focus all your awareness on the visual aspect.
c. Attend to the emotional and physical senses as they arise for a while. Now think of a memory, and direct your attention to your emotional and physical feelings as they occur in the memory. Notice the difference between those feelings compared to what you feel ABOUT the memory, and what your body physically feels right now as you recall the memory. For example, how hard is the surface you are on right now?
d. Become aware of tastes. Come up with a memory of eating something tasty. Notice that you have various senses involved in the memory. Focus your mind entirely on remembering the taste. Notice how taste is more than one sensation, since much of what we associate with food has to do with its consistency, such as chewiness.
e. Shift your awareness of this memory to smell. Notice how you can separate taste and smell.
You can anchor the experience of downtime. A good way to do this is to fold your hands and, as you experience all rep systems more fully, gradually increase the pressure of your palms pressing together. Once you have established palm pressure as an anchor, try using it for patterns requiring internal awareness, or with creating a basic trance or awareness meditation.
You can get better with internal sensory awareness by doing the above tip, and focusing on rep systems in a sequence. For example, imagine running through an imaginary sequence of behavior, rotating through the above rep systems. You could first try this on a simple task, such as walking. Notice what rep system is your weakest one, and do this exercise additional times with your focus on that system. To enhance your ability to integrate your senses, go through this exercise while practicing the attendance to all systems at once. You might start with rotating through very rapidly, or explore blending them much as you would adjust sub-modalities.
Update a behavior that has not been re-evaluated, but that is not working optimally, or is dysfunctional.
Select a behavior that needs to be updated.
Choose a recurring behavior pattern that causes some kind of bad outcome. An example: attracting people who violate your boundaries (like someone who shows up to your birthday drunk and starts a fight—it ends up being all about them instead of your birthday).
Elicit the limited beliefs that are part of the behavior.
What beliefs encourage this behavior, or limit you from alternative behaviors or outcomes?
Example: “Believing” that you should ask “Why?” over and over instead of coming up with a solution such as setting definite limits with a person who violates your boundaries.
Think of a negative outcome of this behavior.
What is a bad outcome of the behavior that has a lot in common with other bad outcomes of the behavior?
In other words, it is a fairly predictable type of a bad outcome. For example, having a special day ruined by a person that you have not set limits with.
Compare the negative outcome to a worse potential outcome.
Think of something that is even worse, and that actually could have happened as a result of your behavior pattern, but didn’t happen.
Identify positive things that resulted from the negative outcome that you identified in step three.
Although the negative experience from step three was unfortunate, ask yourself what positive outcomes you can identify. For example, you may have discovered which one of your friends is the most insightful, because they clearly saw what was going on.
Or perhaps you have gained a lot of knowledge through experience that, once you have put it into action, will constitute tremendous wisdom that you can use to enhance your life and the lives of others.
Express the positive intentions underlying the negative behavior.
Your behavior pattern is based on positive intentions of sort, despite the bad outcomes that have been resulting from it.
Clarify these positive intentions and find a way to express them. They are worth writing down.
Come up with positive intentions of the other people involved, even if they create negative outcomes or intervened in a way that you did not like.
Discover the positive significance of the bad outcomes.
What meaning can you take from the bad outcomes that have come from the un-resourceful behavior pattern?
For example, you may have realized that you have some very good resources that, once they are used for the right purposes, will serve you well. You may have realized that there are limits to your stamina or capacity for boundary violations that are worthy of your respect and assertive protection. You may have realized that, once put into action, this wisdom will prevent a tremendous amount of suffering.
Re-experience the negative events while in the positive insight state.
Connect fully with the sense of wisdom, putting any feelings of hopelessness or cynicism aside for now.
Realize that this is a positive state. Imagine taking that positive state through the memories you have of those bad experiences, seeing them from a new, resourceful perspective.
Mark and store the wisdom gained from this pattern.
Take all the good energy of the positive state, and everything that you have learned from these experiences, and imagine transporting this to the place in your mind where you store the elements of your wisdom.
Tag them in some way that makes them available to you when you encounter situations for which they are relevant, so that you can prevent bad outcomes and generate excellent outcomes.
Over the next days or weeks, notice any ways that the problem behavior changes. For example: Do you have better ways to prevent the typical bad outcomes that would come from the behavior?
Example strategies might include being more effective at managing the expectations of others, being more realistic about what you can do, sensing risk factors early enough to take evasive action, and responding more objectively to a situation by keeping things in perspective.
Create resource states in people who tend to focus on the negative or disabling aspect of a situation. This technique utilizes the tendency of negative and resource experiences to have a great deal in common. They seem quite different because their differences are in the foreground of our awareness. This technique is a good example of creating resourceful states by linking to them from un-resourceful states. This technique is good for people who are too caught up in a negative reality because it works with sensory representations that are shared between the problem state and the ideal state. This technique is unique in that it does not focus on the foreground, or “driver” sub-modalities, as you would with the Swish pattern and others. It’s also for this reason that you should work slowly and methodically through the steps and note your client’s abreaction to the process. With the approach of the F/B pattern, you do not have a fight for dominance between the two foreground experiences.
Many practitioners find this technique to be a gentle and almost magical experience. In my own private practice, the clients who have experienced this process reported it has been one of the most self-comforting experiences they’ve ever had. When their focus changes from a limiting or limited frame to a resourceful perception, you can tell it in their eyes and their posture. Relaxation is one of the immediate benefits of this pattern, but it is also just the beginning of the wonderful results it brings about.
Chose a limiting response.
Choose a clearly definable situation in which you have an automatic limiting response.
An example of this is flying in an aircraft when this causes panic attacks.
Notice your foreground and background awareness.
a. Notice your foreground awareness.
As you imagine this experience, notice what is in the foreground of your awareness. What aspects are you most aware of at the time that you experience your limiting response?
The panicking air passenger may be aware of the sound of the engines revving up in preparation for take off.
Check all rep systems and sub-modalities for what is standing out.
b. Notice your background awareness. Notice what is in the background of your awareness.
What are you not typically very aware of during your un-resourceful automatic response?
These must be things that are not limited to the situation, or that you might experience in a situation in which you have a very resourceful response.
Typically, you focus on the most pleasant body sensations that you can find, such as the aliveness of the soles of your feet, or the color of the walls.
Select a counterexample.
Find a good counterexample to your un-resourceful response.
This will be a time when you could well have had the un-resourceful or limiting response, but you did not.
For example, memories of flying without panicking would provide counterexamples.
If there is no counterexample, you want to find the closest situation that you can.
For example, if you have been in a bus or a train relaxed, not feeling anxious at all, then you have a good counterexample because of the similarities between the interior of a plane and that of a bus (seating, other people, length, engine sounds, jostling).
Associate into the experience.
Explore the foreground and background of the counterexample.
a. Explore the foreground of the counterexample.
Discover the aspects of this experience of which you are most aware, that is, that are in the foreground.
Intensify the positive experience and anchor it. (We’ll call this anchor A1.)
Foreground experiences may be things like a curious internal voice, or a dissociated image of the environment, or a sense of desire for the engine to wind up because it means that you are going to move forward.
b. Explore the background of the counterexample.
Get in touch with the features that are in the background of both situations (this is the common ground experience).
This may range from body sensations such as the soles of the feet to similarities between the external perceptions.
Associate the background and the foreground feature of the counterexample, and connect this state with the foreground of the original situation.
Weld a strong association between the background and foreground feature in your counterexample situation.
You can do this by focusing on the background feature and firing the A1 resource anchor.
Now connect this with the foreground of the original situation. You can use suggestions to accomplish this.
For example: “The more you attend to the feeling of the soles of your feet, the more you can experience how your curious internal voice becomes louder and clearer.
And as your awareness shifts to the environment of the bus and its engine, increasing speed, you more easily maintain an image of the inside of the airplane.”
As you can see, we are linking the common background and the positive state with the foreground of the situation in which you had experienced a limiting response.
Focus on the common ground experience of the original experience.
Return to the original experience, and focus on the common ground experience that you found in (4b).
For example, you could place yourself back into the airplane as the engines are beginning to rev, and focus your awareness on the soles of your feet and the color of the walls there.
If this does not improve the limiting response, then try one of these strategies:
Option 1. Find a more powerful fitting counterexample, and repeat the pattern from step (2a). Or…
Option 2. Return to step (2b), and strengthen the association between the common ground elements and the background features of the counterexample.
Focus on the foreground features of the original situation from step (1a). You should experience the positive state from your counterexample experience.
You can use instructions such as:
“Now you can place yourself into the seat in the airline, actually focusing your full attention on the sound of the engine and the sense of acceleration of the plane.”
Win the battle of will power and succeed with inner alignment. Eliminate self-sabotage and liberate energy for commitment and innovative problem solving. Enjoy the pleasures of life, knowing that you are leading a balanced life. This happens when your parts are working together effectively. A part is a constellation of motives and attitudes, and can be largely subconscious. It may be irrational according to your consciously-held standards. It includes a state that you can recall experiencing and associate into when needed.
Select the behavior.
Select a behavior that you feel is detracting from your success or excellence, and that represents two aspects or parts of you.
Identify the parts.
Determine what part primarily supports this behavior and prevents alternative behaviors.
Also identify the part that creates your concern about this behavior. This second part is expressing your distress at not achieving something or at being poorly aligned with your higher values.
Specify the outcomes that the parts desire.
Describe what each part wants. Think in terms of outcomes. You can identify with (or associate into) a part, and speak from its point of view to get a rich expression of outcomes in terms of VAK, values, and situations that trigger the part. Do this for one part at a time.
What outcomes does it promote?
This can include positive outcomes, even if it is failing to produce them. Don’t assume that a part actually intends to produce negative outcomes. They may merely be side effects. However, if there are gains (like avoiding effort or confrontation of some kind) from the negative outcomes, then that is a clue as that the part may be causing (or at least failing to pre-vent) these negative outcomes.
Identify the meta-outcomes that the part is contributing to.
As you’ll recall, a meta-outcome is a higher-level outcome. For example, if a part wants an outcome of eating carbohydrate-rich food before bedtime, the meta-outcome might be that it has learned that this will reduce your anxiety from having unstructured time at night, and even help you sleep. If you thought the meta-outcome was to make you fat, this is probably actually an unintended out-come.
On the other hand, some people feel vulnerable when they lose weight. In that case, the meta-outcome of getting or staying fat would be to feel less vulnerable, and perhaps attract less interest from the opposite sex as an immature means of being protected from child abuse that actually ended a long time ago.
Create inter-part understanding.
Make sure each part understands the positive values and roles that the other part is responsible for.
Convey to each part how their behavior interferes with the activity of the other part, and how this lies at the heart of the problem.
Negotiate an agreement.
Negotiate an agreement between the parts. Start with a question such as, “If the other part agrees to refrain from interfering with you, will you refrain from interfering with the other part?”
Get an internal sense of the response. Work with these parts until they reach an agreement.
The better you understand the needs that these parts fill (by understanding their positive intentions and roles), the more effective you will be at facilitating this negotiation.
Seal the deal.
Ask each part for a trial period during which it will commit to cooperating. Also, get a commitment to signal you if it is dissatisfied for any reason. That will be a point at which negotiation will be needed again.
In the coming days and weeks, see if your problem behavior improves and if you have new, more resourceful behaviors. Notice any ecological problems or other nuances that require you to do more parts negotiation. Notice if there are any additional parts that need to be involved in negotiating on this issue.
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