Sports Applications of NLP

This may be a strange way to begin a blog article about how NLP can help improve your sporting performance, but I used to hate sport. My family aren’t huge sport fans so I didn’t really grow up watching any, and I was gangly and uncoordinated as a child and teenager, so was rubbish at playing sports myself. Add to that, most of the people I knew at school, who were good at or interested in sport, were your typical “jock” types who would bully and pick on me for being rubbish. It is no wonder that I quickly developed a very powerful limiting belief that sport was rubbish and for dullards.

This limiting belief lasted until my early 20’s when I discovered NLP. I became fascinated with what makes one person exceptional and another mediocre, what makes someone who can act at the peak of their ability most of the time and someone who can’t. I quickly discovered that nowhere is this more powerful and important than in sports. I started working with friends and friends of friends to help them improve their sporting performance, whether that be golf, long jump, cycling, football or martial arts.

Although psychological tools have been used in sports performance for decades, sport psychology has exploded in recent years with everyone suddenly realising the importance of your mental ability in your sporting performance. At the highest level of sport, it is rarely physical ability that decides who will win, it is who wins the mind game.

NLP may have begun in the early 70’s by studying therapists, but very quickly its methodology was applied to a broad number of fields from business, to eduction, to even the military! NLP can help you overcome the self doubt, nervousness, anxiety and lapses of concentration that keep you from performing at your best. It can help you accelerate your learning ability to master skills quickly and easily and allow you to act at the peak of your potential when it really counts.

Here are just SIX of the many ways that NLP can help you improve your sporting ability:

1. Tap Into The Power of Your Imagination

This is the cornerstone of working at your peak – using your imagination to work for you, not against you. Studies have suggested that “imagining an action and doing it require the same motor and sensory programs in the brain.” In fact, by just imagining doing strength-training exercises participants increased their muscle strength by 22%, compared to 30% among those who physically did the exercises. So the difference between thinking about ‘doing’ and actually ‘doing’ it is only 8%!’

When translated to real-life scenarios, research shows that many of the same benefits exist for imagined or physical actions. By just mentally practising a skill you achieve similar levels of accuracy as those who physically do it.

In Practice:

Many people I have spoken to have said they have tried visualisation and found that it did nothing. The problem with using the word “visualisation”  to describe this process is that it     forgets the other four senses. So people just focus on getting the picture in their mind right     and don’t pay attention to anything else.

Take some time to really imagine carrying out a specific element of your chosen sport (kicking a penalty, starting the sprint, etc), really take the time to SEE what you see, HEAR     what you hear and FEEL what you feel. If it helps, at this stage, take up the posture, don’t actually physically mimic the process but getting into the starting posture can help. You will probably notice the muscles you use for this technique subtly tensing.

As you do it, intensify the process, make the pictures bigger and brighter, the sounds louder     and the feelings more intense.

2. Learn From Sporting Greats By BECOMING Sporting Greats

NLP originally began by “modelling” the behaviours of excellent therapists, to find the “difference that made the difference”. We can use this same method to understand what makes top sports people stand out and learn how to do it ourselves.

In Practice:

Think of a sports person you admire for a particular technique. Imagine them doing it, perfectly. If you can, watch them do it over an over again until you have a really good visual     image of all the details. Now close your eyes and, in your minds eye, see them in front of     you doing this technique, run it through in as much detail as you can, slow it down, pause it     at important points and really pick up ALL the detail. Then, when you are ready, step into     them and BECOME them. Take up the exact posture that they have, notice every little detail, think how they think and mime the technique as they do it. Continue to to do this until you are doing it exactly the same way as they do.


3. Stop Choking, Getting The Yips and Break Through Your Personal Best

Do you find your skills are top notch in practice, but when it really counts you choke?

Most people are aware of the levels of Four Stages of Competence developed by Noel Burch:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

In a related idea, Timothy Gallwey, the Godfather of modern coaching, lays out in in his seminal work ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’ his idea of “Self 1” and “Self 2”. “Self 1” is the ego-mind or “teller”, while “Self 2” is the body. “Self 1” instructs, “Self 2” acts.

When we perform at our best, we are Unconscious Competent, we don’t have to think about what we are doing. We don’t need or use “Self 1”. However, when we find ourselves in an important situation (the penalty kick, the serve at match point, the winning putt), we feel we need to really concentrate, we really need to think about it. But that means “Self” 1 tries to tell “Self 2” how to do something the latter already knows how to do. We become consciously competent, we become LESS COMPETENT!

In practice:

The key here is to distract what Timothy Galway called Self 1 (your conscious competent self) to allow Self 2 (your unconscious competent self) to do what it already knows what to do really well. The best sports people don’t choke, as they trust Self 2 enough to not let Self 1 get in the way.

Self 1 tends to manifest itself in “self talk”, we start running a commentary in our heads of what we should be doing. Although this can be useful in some context (“commentary driving” is a well known advanced driving technique), it isn’t in this situation, so we need to do something to shut down that self talk. To do this, you simply need to say something nonsensical instead (in the same way that mantras are used in meditation to quieten the mind).

4. Enter Flow States At Will

‘Flow’ (as all the cool kids call it nowadays. I remember when it used to be called “The Zone”!), is defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as “…the holistic experience that people feel when they act with total involvement.” It is that mental state you go into when you are performing (and helps you be at your best). You feel like you are just a passenger (in a good way) in the situation.

The difference between the winner and loser in a sport is dependant on who can enter a ‘flow’ state at the RIGHT time.

In Practice:

Your brain is highly efficient, it looks for the simplest way of understanding or do things. One of the ways it does this is to bundle experiences together. If two things occur at     the same time, it tends to treat them as related. Say you are in a particular mental state (happy, sad, anxious, excited, etc) at the same time as some form of discrete sensory stimulus takes place (a certain sound, smell, etc), our brains will treat them as related. This means we can “capture” a state by intentionally carrying out a sensory based action (a gesture, posture, phrase for example) whilst in that mental state.

So, the next time you find yourself in a ‘Flow’ state, consciously take the time to carry out a specific action, for example, squeeze your finger and thumb together, pump your fist, etc., in order to relate this action with the wanted state. Then next time you need to enter a Flow state you just need to repeat this gesture.


5. Turn Negative Experiences into Powerful Learnings

We have all had bad days, when everything seems to go wrong. No matter what we do. What tends to happen is we dwell on everything that went wrong and get hung up on all the errors we made, but sometimes those terrible performances can be some of the best learning experiences.

With NLP we can discover what the difference was when you were having the worst performance of your life and when you were unbeatable. This knowledge will allow you to play at the peak of your ability when it really matters.

In Practice:

NLP can be described as the study of the “difference that makes the difference”. You need to compare that terrible experience with your best. Your skills don’t suddenly evaporate overnight, the difference is what you were thinking and feeling at that time.

When Anthony Robbins worked with Andre Agassi, he got Andre to give him two tapes – one of the best tennis match he ever played and one of the worst. He then watched them both with Andre and asked him specific questions about what the difference was  – what he was feeling and thinking in each match.

Have a go yourself with an experience where you felt you did not do your best and find the differences.

6. Learn Faster and Tweak Your Skills

NLP allows you to break down, in a very easy step by step way, the mental and physical aspects of your skills. It can help you recognise the elements that are missing, what you need to do more of and what you need to change, to rapidly improve your skill level. Once you can map out the sensory steps of the skill or technique you can use that to inform and improve your own performance or teach that skill to someone else.

In Practice:

Ask yourself how you know what you are doing is working. What is the test you are using to let you know that you are doing it right. Once you have effectively defined your “test” you can see what resources your need to succeed.


To learn more about how NLP can help you break through your limitations and be at the peak of you ability please see my “Sports Applications of NLP” workshop, or contact me to discuss one to one or in house coaching and training.

Corporate or Government Contracts: The Holy Grail?

Yesterday I posted a link to an article in the Independent about how Capita have been accused of allegedly abusing it’s position as training provider for central government.  That, along with the publication of my latest NLP Demystified series “Your Professional NLP Practice Demystified” got me thinking about that supposed holy grail of any trainer or coach – the contract with a corporation or government institution.

One of the most common questions I get from people who want to set up as NLP trainers and coaches is what I think of corporate and government contracts, if they really are the holy grail people think and, if so, how to get them. So here is my take.

Firstly, you have to think whether you actually want one! There may be a belief that a big corporate or government gig is the holy grail, the cash cow, that will make you rich and successful, but sadly it isn’t true (as we will see).

Here are a few things to consider:

(Note: I have used the word “company” to denote both a corporate or government contract for brevity and ease of reading).

Might is Right

If you contract with work for reasonably large company, you will be expected to abide by their terms and their their contract. You may want to charge £35 an hour travel, stay in 5 star hotels and be paid upfront, but if their terms are 90 days and only pay 43p a mile and £50 overnight expenses, thats what you have to accept.

There may be additional clauses in the contract too, so you will have to pay very careful attention, like who owns the rights to the course or coaching package you deliver, anti-competition clauses (not being allowed to work for anyone they deem as the competition) and all sorts. You have to be really on the ball and sometimes even employ a lawyer to go through it all (which eats into profit).

The company know they can go elsewhere and find a trainer or coach who is willing to agree with their terms, so they have all the power in the negotiations. I have walked away or turned down corporate gigs (or mainly government ones) as the hoops they wanted me to jump through really weren’t worth the amount they were going to pay me. Which takes me to my next point…

It’s Not as Lucrative as You Think

Day rates used to be high (most trainers I knew were on £1000+ a day, most coaches £150+ an hour) and there used to be a lot more work to go around, but that has all changed. Yes, there are some trainer and coaches who can still charge that (me included), but that is because they have a reputation, references and a track record. If you are just starting out you won’t get anywhere near that, unless you are very lucky or have the right contacts (it really is all about the contacts, see below).

Supply has increased significantly, demand has fallen and the process has become much more complicated and time consuming with more third parties, paperwork and processes (tendering and such) to go through to get the gig.

Unless you have a strong reputation you will earn about £200-£500 a day for coaching or training, which may sound a lot, but you won’t be working every day (on some occasions you may be lucky to get a day a month).

“All Your Eggs In One Basket”  – Lack Multiple Streams of Income

I have known a number of trainers who have gone bust because they put all their eggs in one basket and taken work on from just one company. All of a sudden that company has not renewed that contract and they have been without an income and scrabbling round trying to find work. Most of the BIG contracts (the ones that pay well) are almost full time jobs (see below) and you will take up all your time, meaning you are running the risk of not diversifying your income. Other trainers I know have worked through agencies (see below) and all of sudden the agency has cut their day rate or work has dried up, again meaning they struggle to make a living.

What is much more important than chasing that big cash cow contract which will give you a perceived sense of security (but not real security), is to build multiple streams of smaller incomes so you are not overly reliant on just the one.

Almost a Full Time Job?

If you are contracted to just one company as an external coach or trainer, you are essentially working for them without all the benefits of actually being employed! No sick pay, no holiday pay, no redundancy.

If you want the security of big contracts you may want to consider whether being self employed is the right thing for you. Maybe you would be better off getting a full time job doing what you do. For example, many organisations are now actually employing in-house coaches as it is much more cost effective for them than using external ones (another reason that there is less work to go around for external coaches and trainers!)

How to Get A Contract

Still with me? Still want to go for corporate or government contracts? Lets have a chat about how you actually get them.

It used to be about supply and demand. A company wanted a coach or trainer and would look for one. They would contact a few, have a chat, get a quote and then decide which one they preferred, it was all very straightforward. If you had a good reputation and were easy to find and put yourself out there a bit,  you would tend to get approached fairly frequently (that was how I got all my in-house contracts back in 2007!) There were agencies and tendering back then too, but because NLP and coaching was less known, the scope for that was very limited.

Nowadays a large proportion of in-house work is through agencies or a tendering process.

1. Tendering

I used to have a rule of thumb that if someone wanted me to tender for some work, I would refuse to do it on principle. I was (and still am) very skeptical of most tendering processes. It was once summed up to me by a procurement manager that I knew as “ Cost first, quality second”, so they would often employ substandard and or inappropriate trainers or coaches as they were the cheapest and then get terrible feedback from the delegates!

This is still the case, if not worse! More and more companies are asking for you tender for work. Tendering used to be reserved for very large contracts but the threshold has been lowered by many companies meaning almost all training and coaching programmes have to go through this process now.

This, to be honest, is a nightmare for individual freelance coaches and trainers. Tendering in itself is a very specific skill set, and is time consuming and costly processes (incidentally, in some cases, you used to actually be able to charge to submit a tender. You can’t any more). Add to that the fact that trying find a tender is a nightmare! Most tenders are listed on specific websites that charge you a (not inconsiderable) fee to join and be alerted of any tender you may be interested in. So, you have to find the websites where the appropriate tenders are listed, join, pay the fee, search for any tender you may want to go for, complete bid and then hope that you get awarded the contract. It is a long, drawn out  process that most trainers and coaches are ill-equipped and ill-prepared to do.

Which is why you finding the rise of the agency model…

2. Third Part “Agencies”

The way companies such as Capita tend to work, is they are experts at the tendering process and at building contacts. What they are not experts at is delivering the training or coaching package. For that they will have a network of third party trainers and coaches that they will draw on to deliver the packages they have successful bid for. Sometimes they will already have people on their books that can do it, other times they will need to find someone (it is not uncommon in my experience for such companies to bid for work they cannot yet deliver and then, if they win the contract, scrabble around trying to find someone to do the work).

Which means they may contact you out of blue (as I have been on several occasions) when they have won a contract and don’t have anyone to deliver it, but more often than not they will have a banks of trainers and coaches to draw upon.

If you are going to go down the agency route there are a few things to bear in mind:

1) Most agencies specialise in a particular business sector – legal, finance, etc  – and not in the training or coaching packages. Which means you will need to sign up to a number of them to get a broad range of work (this also reduces the risk of putting all your eggs in one basket – see above).

2) Your training fee will be a lot less (in my experience up to 50% less) than if you work directly with a company. You will earn around £300 when first starting out.

3) Some pay expenses, some don’t, so make sure you clarify that before accepting work a long way away.

4) Don’t think you can use them to get an initial contact and then re-negotiate directly with the company once you have built a relationship. Many of these agencies have an anti-competition clauses meaning you cannot work with any company directly that they have an relationship with.

If you are happy to accept the lower day rate and more restrictions (not always in exchange for more regular work) this may be perfect for you, especially if you are not comfortable with selling yourself or lack the contacts. I know of trainers and coaches who work almost exclusively through agencies as they feel more comfortable with that than touting themselves out and they are very happy.

I must make it clear that I am not against these sort of agencies, I am signed up to a few myself. But what I do have an issue with is a number of agencies that have cropped up who have taken advantage of the fact that more companies are tendering for work and most individual coaches and trainers lack the knowledge to be able to bid. Many of these are too small for the larger agencies to bother with. So what they do is get the tender then offer the work out to anyone they can find, for a meagre sum and pocket the lions share themselves. This bluntly is a scam. I have been approached by a number of such companies who offer a laughably low day rate. Sadly they, more often than not, find someone desperate enough to accept the work. It is a real shame.

Please be very careful when working with agencies and make sure you only accept work or approach ones with a track record, references and good reputation.

3. Direct Contact and Referrals

My recent experience in trying to make direct contact with anything more than an SME, is that you will hit a wall of bureaucracy, requiring a tendering process, or they will be outsourcing their training to the one of the agencies.

Of course, even with all these additional barriers to entry it is still possible to get “straight in”, this is most commonly for shorter training or coaching programmes though (where a tendering process is just not cost effective). You may be contacted because they have heard of you and your reputation, or you have been either mentioned or specifically referred by someone (this is how I still get around 75% of my in-house work nowadays).

Or you could focus purely on SME’s, they tend to have a more straightforward process for in-house training (but a smaller budgets).

This is why having contacts is so important (see “Your Professional NLP Practice Demystified”), if you don’t have any relevant contacts yet, you need think of ways you can run in the same circles as your prospective clients. Business clubs, events and networking organisation are good things to consider. Join professional organisations and go along to their workshops, seminars and event. Offer to do talks to organisations. Remember, if you are going to these to avoid the direct sell, it is about building contacts (it is also a long game, you may not see any fruits from your labour for some time, but I have had people contact me years after).

LinkedIn is also a great place to build contacts, but that really is a topic for another post!

Closing Thoughts

This may, in places, sound a bit of a cynical post. That is probably because I really wanted to highlight the pitfalls that most people don’t know of. The world of in-house training has changed a lot since the “credit crunch”. No doubt some of these changes will be permanent and some only temporary until things settle down (it is hard to believe it has been 7 years and things are still in a bit of flux). I am certainly noticing that direct contact from companies as increased in the last few months, mainly for sending employees on my open training courses (where the agency or tendering model aren’t appropriate).

You hopefully now have some more knowledge and choices about what you can do to get company contracts and are more aware of how it works.

I wish you the best of luck.

Your Professional NLP Practice Demystified

The latest book in the NLP Demystified series is out now –  It is in fact a (long overdue) updated version of my best selling guide that has been around in various guises since 2008.

You can buy it now on Kindle and paperback (for the first time) here:

So, what’s new in this edition? Well, as I say in the Preface:

What is new in this edition?

I have hacked the marketing section out and started again. In fact, there is LESS in there now than there was.

Gone is the part about Search Engine Optimisation, Pay Per Click and getting to the top of search engines. Gone is the section on building a mailing list, gone is the section about Social Media, gone is the section on press releases and giving talks. Gone are the ‘Four Keys’.

Why? Well, for a start it was horribly out of date, and secondly (and most importantly) it was too generic and the strategies I was offering simply did not scale. It did work when I wrote it, but now, because everyone is doing it, and the supply of coaches, NLPers, and so on has massively increased it is extremely hard, if not impossible to be heard over everyone else shouting. So you have to do something else. And, I appreciate that (hopefully!) there will be a number of people reading this book and implementing the strategies in here.

It felt impressive to have lots of pages packed with information and I cringed as I deleted page after page of the work I had carefully crafted. But that went against my philosophy of demystification and simplification.

I need to give you something that is scalable, that you and others can do and you all get successful. So I have given you a new strategy, a simple strategy, one that can get you from zero to clients very quickly and easily (and cheaply) indeed.

So , inside you will find:

  • How to decide on your niche, trading name and promotional material.
  • A crash course in marketing essentials.
  • The very first strategy you need to do to get clients.
  • How to get clients even if you know nothing about marketing or HATE the idea of selling yourself.
  • How build a professional looking website at no (or very low) cost.
  • The essential set up required to make your business a success.
  • A simple, but complete business plan.
  • Essential questions you need to answer before you even think of starting out.
  • The common mistakes to avoid!

I have also added a load of additional resources that you can download, including:

  • An Excel financial plan spreadsheet pre-filled with all the formulas so you can get your figures straight.
  • A workbook of all the exercise in this book for your to print out and work through.
  • A pdf of the marketing and business structure flow chart.
  • Market research and customer questionnaires.
  • I will even throw in a pdf version of the 4th edition of this book, so you can see what I have cut out!

You can buy it now on Kindle and paperback (for the first time) here:

(NOTE: If you bought the previous version of this book on Kindle and want the latest version, all you need to  do is delete and re-download it!)

Can You Help Me?

As usual I am offering PDF review copies for anyone who wants to write a review on Amazon, their blog, website or facebook page, please get in touch and I will email you a copy (again, this isn’t a “free” copy of the book! But a copy sent in exchange for a review!). I would also appreciate it if you notice any glaring mistakes or errors – the book has been thoroughly proofread by me and a third party, but mistakes can sneak through – please let me know so I can rectify them asap!

You can buy it now on Kindle and paperback (for the first time) here:


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In this random and unscripted episode of my VideoBlog I discuss how I tell my trainees to assume I am lying to them! Why do I do that? Well, NLP is an attitude that led to a methodology that left behind a trail of techniques. One of the main attitudes to bring to NLP is that of curiosity, to explore and test and check everything. By telling my trainees to assume I am lying to them (and I use that language deliberately, as it is emotive and entertaining and creates a more powerful state that just telling them to “check what I said”), it encourages them to be curious. If you become curious about NLP you are using the attitude of NLP on NLP, you are doing “Meta-NLP”! Curiosity is also a great stepping stone to motivation – “I wonder what happens if…?”. Not enough people are really curious about NLP and that has led to it become stale and errors creeping into the model. So I urge you to assume I (and everyone else) is lying to you and check what they have said for yourself!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! The offices are now closed until 5th January 2015. I will respond to all bookings and enquiries then.


Train NOW Pay Later

Pay In 6 o r 12 Easily Manageable Monthly Instalments With PayPal

I appreciate that NLP training can be a significant investment, especially if you are funding the course yourself. Therefore I always do my best to make it as easy as possible for you to be able to attend. For all the courses (excluding the Coaching Applications of NLP) you can pay in 6 or 12 easily manageable monthly instalments (depending on the course). To make it even easier for you, you only need to have paid the first instalment as a deposit before the course.

So you don’t need to have paid the full investment before you attend. You can train now and pay later.

How It Works

It is exceptionally easy to take advantage of the Train NOW Pay Later offer, all you need do is follow the steps below:

Step 1

Go to the page of the NLP course you want to attend and select the “Pay Deposit” button next to the course date.

Pay Later Step 1

You will be redirected to PayPal.

Step 2

Enter your PayPal login details and complete the set up on PayPal. Once you have completed it you should be returned to the Thank You page. If you are not, either click the “return to site” link, or click here.Pay Later Step 2

You will receive an automated email from PayPal letting you know that your reoccurring payment plan is set up. I will receive a copy too.

Why PayPal? PayPal is one of the most widely used, secure and safe ways to make payments on the internet.

Step 3

Click on the booking form link:

Pay Later Step 3

Step 4

Complete the online booking form.

Pay Later Step 4

Once I have received it, I double check everything that you have sent to make sure it is correct and will contact you within 5 working days with a Booking Confirmation email. You will receive Joining Instructions approximately 7 days before the start of the course.

If you have ant questions about the process, please contact me here.

Your Career Survival ToolKit

“Being able to learn faster than your competitors is the only sustainable competitive advantage.” Arie de Geus

The world of careers has changed completely. The idea of a job for life or even a career for life ended a long time ago, but right now even bigger changes are taking place. In this post ‘economic crisis’ world of fast evolving technology you need much more than the normal skill set to survive and develop in business. You need the skills and strategies that give you the edge over your competitors.

You need a career survival toolkit!

What Is NLP and How Can It Help You?

NLP is so often sold as either some wishy washy self help “think good thoughts!’ type training or as an alternative therapy. In actual fact it is so much more than that, with its roots in cybernetics, systems thinking and cognitive psychology, it offers some of the most pragmatic skills and strategies available to improve your thinking.

It gives you the essential toolkit you need to survive in the modern business world.

Increase Productivity, Focus and Flow

The management consultancy firm McKinsey found that executives in “flow state” – often called the “Zone”, where you have increased awareness, focus and speed of thinking – are five times more effective than their peers. NLP looks at your mental state and teaches you to control and change you state at will.

Vastly improve Your Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

Thinking, in particularly critical thinking, could be simply described as a process of asking yourself and answering questions. To get a better answer, you need a better question. NLP gives you better questions.

Speed Up and Improve Decisions Making

“Intuition is recognition” – NN Taleb

By clarifying purpose and helping you understand what drives your decision making, including your cognitive biases, NLP can help you develop your intuition. This means you will making faster, more accurate decisions that will lead the greater success.

Accelerate Your Learning and Skills Acquisition

NLP was never a therapy, it was a teaching tool. It looked at ways to help people learn better behaviours and thought processes. These ideas have been applied directly to education and developed such things as the “NLP Spelling Strategy” and can be used to help you accelerate your learning ability.

It allows you to “model” people who have excellent skills and abilities and learn those skills yourself.

This is the closest you will get “uploading” skills, like in the Matrix.

Improve Your Creativity and Lateral Thinking

NLP has modelled such geniuses as Walt Disney, Nikola Tesla and Mozart, and uncovered the structure of creativity. By applying these strategies you can think of new solutions and create brand new, better ways of doing things. It will also, if you so wish, improve such creative skills as painting, musicianship, etc.

Make You a Much Better Communicator, Compelling Speaker, Persuader and Negotiator

Two of the most powerful models in NLP are communication models. They will help you ask better questions, create more compelling persuasive arguments and help you gain rapport quickly and with more people.

It is not surprising then that a recent survey suggested that up to 75% of Bluechip companies are looking for NLP as core competency in their staff.

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NLP training has been carried out by Barclays Bank, British Gas, nPower, Jaguar Land Rover, Johnson Controls, House of Frazer, John Lewis, Severn Trent Water, Natural England and the NHS to name just a few.

How Do I Get This Toolkit?

The best way to learn NLP is by attending an NLP Practitioner training course. To see my upcoming dates, click here.

Optimisim is a Skill
There is currently a trend on Facebook of listing three positive things a day for seven days. I really like that idea. I am fairly convinced that Optimism is a skill and we can teach ourselves to be more optimistic. And since optimists tend to be healthier and live longer (as well as being less depressed, stressed and have better coping skills for hard times) it is a skill that is well worth learning.

Here are some simple ways that you can train yourself to be more optimistic

1. Look For The Positive

Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) is a process that trains us to alter our biases to what we pay attention to (it was the one of the subjects of a recent Horizon episode “The Truth About Personality” with Dr Michael Mosley ). If we habitually pay attention to the negative this will effect how we feel. So practice paying attention to the positive, the happy and the meaningful.

2. Be Grateful

“If you can’t enjoy what you have, you can’t enjoy more of it.” Richard Bandler

Bradley Cooper, the Hollywood actor, says that he starts each day by listing things he is grateful for. And if it is good enough for him, it is good enough for us all! Start the day by looking at the positives you already have in your life. Once you practice gratitude for a while you will start to notice that the things you are most grateful for are the simple things.

3. Keep A Journal

It may be interesting and useful to keep a note of these two things in a diary or note book. This serves two purposes;  you can track your moods and state of mind more accurately and, if you find yourself being a bit down in the dumps, it can act as a reminder or a trigger to change your state.

4. Be Mindful

I have been practicing meditation and Buddhism for around 20 years so it is nice to see that psychologists have caught up with 3,500 years of Buddhist thought! Mindfulness has been the hot topic recently. Studies have suggested that by developing a regular mindful practice (you do not need to sit cross legged on a mat staring at your navel to be mindful) you can reduce symptoms of depression, chronic pain, anxiety disorders and OCD. It can also reduce stress, lower blood pressure, treat heart disease and improve the quality of your sleep.

It can even make physical changes to our brain, resulting in brain changes that may be protective against mental illness.

5. Be Compassionate

When you harbour ill thoughts about someone, or get angry and annoyed with someone (or everyone!) the only person you are actually making feel bad is yourself. So, it is better for you (and for the world around you) to be understanding and compassionate.

Being compassionate is not about being a drip or a push over. It is about acknowledging that we are all doing the best we can on this crazy planet.

Make the effort to be polite and well mannered. If you make the effort to be nice to people around you, you will feel nicer yourself.

6. Smile

When we are happy we smile and when we smile we are happy. Studies have shown that simply by smiling our brain releases the same cocktails of neuro-chemicals that we would release if we were actually feeling happy. So plastering a big fake smile your face you will start to feel happier and soon that fake smile will become a real one.

7. Relax

Our body and mind are one system (or at least, interconnected systems), what happens in one effects the other. Psychological stress can manifest itself in physical ways, in the same way that illness or injury can have a negative affect on our mood and psychological wellbeing. So, relax your body and your mind will follow. For a full relaxation primer, please click here.

8. Change The Picture

When you are in the depths of a negative, pessimistic thought (and the same goes for a positive, optimistic thought), we get so wrapped up the content that we rarely pay attention to the fact that we are seeing the pictures in a particular way.

Fritz Pearls, the Gestalt Therapist and major influence on NLP, recognised that the pictures we create in the “cinema of our mind” are coded by our emotional state. So by changing the pictures you can change your emotional response to them.

If you find yourself indulging in negative thoughts, step out of the pictures, make them black and white, push them further away or make them smaller. If you are recalling a good time, make the picture bigger and brighter, step into it and relive it as if you are back there now.

9. Change What You Say (and How You Say It)

There is an old saying that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”. So, pay attention to how you talk to yourself, are you constantly muttering and moaning? Putting yourself down? In a bad tone? Change the voices. When criticising yourself change the voice to someone who you think talks nonsense. Make the effort to say nice things to yourself in a nice voice (maybe don’t do this out loud, you may get some odd looks).

10. Finally, Accept the Bad Times

We tend to pay attention to what is different. if something is the same all the time we stop consciously noticing it (it is a process known as habituation). If it was sunny all the time, we would soon stop appreciating it. The bad experiences are what make the good times feel so good. So if you find yourself going through a dark patch for awhile, be mindful of it, don’t fight it, accept it as the natural ebb and flow of life.

This post contains edited excerpts from my forthcoming book “How To Think”.

5 uses of the meta model
The Meta Model may have been born from the field of therapy circa 1971 to 1973, but since then it has evolved and been developed to be used in a variety of different context, here are just five of it’s most powerful:

1. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking can be defined as “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.”

One could say that the main purpose of the Meta Model is to encourage critical thinking and to get a person to consider and explore their thought process, thereby helping you create more clear thing skills.

2. Coaching

Probably the main use of the Meta Model outside of therapy is within the field of Coaching. Michael Breen, the NLP Master Trainer, who has been one of the key people in updating the Meta Model, uses it primarily in the field of coaching and corporate consultancy. The Meta Model gives the coach an excellent tool set, in addition to whatever coaching model they are using, to help the client evaluate their own thinking.

3. Problem Solving

As Einstein said “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

The Meta Model provides an excellent way to change your level of thinking – to think about how you are thinking, thereby finding solutions to seemingly unfreeze the problem. You can linguistically reconstruct the problem into a more meaningful statement.

4. Teaching and Training

According to the Critical Thinking Community, “the oldest, and still the most powerful, teaching tactic for fostering critical thinking is Socratic teaching. In Socratic teaching we focus on giving students questions, not answers.”

Using the Meta Model as template to explore how the student is coming to the conclusion they are, what evidence and presuppositions they using and asking them to explore alternatives.

I use the Meta Model to foster a Socratic style of learning within my NLP and Coaching training courses.

5. Sales

A lot of people think the secret to sales is to have the “gift of the gab” – knowing the right things to say to convince someone they really need what you are selling. In actual fact a good sale person will take the time to understand the clients needs, requirements and limitations – knowing the right questions to ask.

To learn more, take a look at “The Meta Model Demystified”, available now at Amazon.

closing the loops
When I was young one my favourite TV shows was The Rocketeer. The re-run was shown in the morning during the school holidays and I would religiously tune in. Each episode always ended on a preposterous cliffhanger that was resolved in the first moments of the next episode, but still it kept me coming back every day to see what happened. The idea that leaving a story unfinished, or a loop open, compelled people to return for the next episode has been well used in Hollywood for years!

Our brains hate unfinished material. They keep the story or activity open in our minds and desperately try to close them off. This is why you will find people who have hectic lives tend to be stressed and seem overwhelmed. They constantly interrupt a process and so their mind is trying to sustain all these open and unfinished routines.

It is one of the many theories about why we dream – to help us to close all the loops that we have opened during the day. We understand the world through metaphor and a dream is an extended metaphor that we use to attempt to organise and “file away” all those incomplete tasks, half told stories and unfinished activities.

When Richard was asked to develop a stress management program for executives at a Fortune 500 company in America, the first process he introduced was to get them, at the end of the day, to open and close every drawer or cupboard in the room, close down their computer properly, lift up and put down the telephone, etc. This seemingly odd behaviour was designed to make sure that all the physical processes they had started through the day and which had maybe been interrupted would be closed off.

The key to reducing stress and feeling less overwhelmed is to make the effort to keep as few loops open (tasks unfinished) as possible. Do one thing at a time (multitasking is a myth) and remain mindful and present throughout the day. Be aware of anything that you have not finished and take some time at the end of the day to “close off” these tasks. Whether that is to finish them off or make some meaningful plan to continue at a later date.

Contains excerpts from “Nested Loops Demystified” available now at Amazon.