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“It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it
It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it
It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it
And that’s what gets results”

I have that song going around and around my head. And you probably have too now. You’re welcome. If you haven’t, well, I have embedded the video below (I am that kind).

You see, it’s not just what you do, it’s also the quality of the effort of what you do. Micheal Breen does a really good example with shaking hands. Someone who just holds on a little too long (I am sure you have met them…).

Sadly this is something I am all too aware of. One of the reason I got interested in NLP was that I was a shy person who had no idea how to really talk to anyone. I would either sit in silence or ramble on and on and on and on and on to fill the uncomfortable silence. NLP was an excellent way of both improving my mental state (and therefore not feeling so shy), and teaching me better ways to communicate and build rapport.

The problem is I misunderstood a key tenant of rapport – there is a golden rule that is often talked about, and that is “we like people who are like ourselves”. I got stuck on the word “like”. I thought to be effective at communication everyone had to like me. I had to stand under a shower of unadulterated praise.

I would do all the “right” things when it came to the content of my communication, but I would put too much effort into it to get people to LIKE ME! And I would act like an over excited puppy. This over eagerness to please, and the desire for positive feedback, had the exact opposite effect to what I was after – people didn’t like me, they actually found me irritating. I didn’t do this every time, but I tended to do it when I felt it was important that the person liked me (oh the irony).

Very slowly I realised 2 things:

1. Feedback was a major issue. I was lacking sensory acuity (a fancy term for paying attention AND knowing what to look for). I struggled to read people, so I would demand overt feedback that the communication was working (that I was being “liked”). If I didn’t get the feedback I was expecting or hoping for, I would ramp up what I was doing in an effort to get that feedback (either say more things, or ramp up my state and say things louder and faster and with more animation).

2. But the most important thing that it took me much longer to finally discover (far too long), is that often, if you aren’t getting the results you want, you need to tone it down not ramp it up. In a strange way the secret was to not care too much (in the politest possible interpretation of that phrase) about whether the person liked you or not. I would often do that strange thing that if I was talking to a group of people, most of whom seemed engaged, but one person was not giving me the feedback I expected (or craved?) I would home in on that one person and start ramping up the puppy dog to get the response I wanted. This, of course, would have disastrous effects. Not only would I have the exact opposite effect on this one person, I would lose the rest of the group as well!

Anyway, why am I going on about this now? Well I still, to this day, mess these things up (I am only human). I have recently been reconnecting on LinkedIn with some old (in some cases very old) contacts. And with one contact, in hindsight, I realised I went all “puppy dog”. I did all the right stuff (I think), but I was way too enthusiastic in my replies. So if that person is reading this, this is a public apology for getting a bit carried away (it would be funny, wouldn’t it, if the person I thought I had been a bit overly enthusiastic with thinks it was fine and someone else thinks I am talking about them?!).

The picture is of my dog when she was a puppy.

One of the most common questions I get asked on my NLP Practitioner trainings are “Can I use NLP on myself?” My answer is always “If you don’t use NLP on yourself, you have no right using it on other people.”

In NLP the first person you persuade, manipulate and help change is yourself. You should not treat NLP as a bunch of stuff you can do to other people (this is the most trivial and base application and if that is your attitude you will often not progress very far), but as a behaviour upgrade on yourself.

And the place to start that is with your state. Your state dictates your behaviour, the choices you make and the way people interact with you (forget all those fancy language patterns, if you are an in appropriate state it won’t count for snuff…).

This is something I recently have been working on myself. When I run a training course, I spend so much time making sure the group was in the right state, focusing on them, that I often forgot about looking after myself and my own state. I would wear myself out and when I completed the course I would often crash and feel ill. Sometimes I would crash part way through a course and “self medicate” with sugar and caffeine to keep myself going.

I was doing totally the wrong thing and running a training was like doing 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. I had to change something if I wanted to carry on, otherwise I was going to kill myself!

So I started making a concerted effort to manage my energy and state better. Yes, I did some NLP jiggery-pokery, installing some anchors into myself and doing some sub modality work and self hypnosis (we’ll get to that).

But that will only take you so far. I had to look broader, I had to totally redesign how I went about approaching a training. I needed a brand new “training state” strategy. Ironically, I had spent so much time concerned with the content and the structure of the training course I had neglected my own state.

The first thing I did was change my diet. Rather than surviving on the sugary biscuits and coffee that I usually consumed (which not only gave me the wrong type of state – twitchy and slightly hyper – but also, after a few days of consuming them, gave me a very upset stomach, which again, put me in the wrong state), I started packing healthier snacks – nuts, protein shakes, fresh fruit and porridge. Which not only was better for my digestion (and my health in general), but gave me a more sustained and manageable energy release.

Next, rather than not meditating, doing Tai Chi or exercise whilst running a training (as I didn’t think I had time – the truth is, I didn’t have the energy) I started doing more.

Then, finally it was about taking all that preparation and using in front of the group. I took an idea from Michael Breen that he talks about; 5%, where you just go in 5% more than your audience and slowly crank it up, rather than going in full on and wearing yourself out! I also took an idea from Taoism about applying only 4 ounces of pressure (this, of course is a metaphor, not about pressing the attendees). All this took a bit of time to calibrate effectively. I would sometimes drop back into the old ways when I wasn’t paying attention and start to ramp up the state too much, or get myself too worked up, but by being mindful and utilising anchors, I slowly changed my delivery state strategy. Now I feel much healthier and don’t “crash” as much any more. This should also come across in my training delivery, helping sustain the appropriate state in the group.

Of course, like any new skill or habit, you don’t stop there, it is about constant tweaking and calibration.

If, every morning when you woke up, you were given £86,400.00 to spend in the day with the one condition that you cannot keep any of it, and any remaining balance will be removed before another £86,400.00 was given to you to spend the next day, what would you do with it???I am sure you would do your very best to make damn sure that you spent as much of it as possible wouldn’t you?

But how much time do you waste each day? You see, you wake up each morning with 86,400 seconds to spend each day, no role-over, no refund, no ability to accumulate. How many of us plan our day to make sure we spend as much of that as possible without wasting it (even when we are asleep we need to make sure we get the best possible sleep). How many of us design our day to be how we want it to be, to spend that 86,400 wisely?

Here are just a few tips to help you get started Designing your Day…

State

Like everything in NLP, we start with state. For 2 reasons:

1) State dictates behaviour: The “better” (or maybe the more appropriate) your state the better you will act, you will make better decisions, interact and communicate more meaningfully and focus more on what you want.

2) Really, if you think about it, state is all there is. The things we choose to do are things we decide (consciously or unconsciously) will either move us away from a bad state, or move us towards a good state. Often the things we choose are wrong, but that is something we can only learn from experience and tuning in more fully.
Before you do anything else, decide what state you want or need to be in.

Gratitude

One of my favourite ways to start the day the right way and get in a good state from the get go, is to a little bit of a “Gratitude List”.

Those of you that are familiar with the Law of Attraction or have seen “The Secret” will know about these I am sure. They maintain that to “manifest” what you want, you need to be accepting of what you have.

Even if you don’t like the idea of the LOA or the Secret and find a bit “New Age” or just downright nonsense, and are put of the idea of doing a “Gratitude List” because of it, then know that the actor Bradley Cooper does one every morning. And if it is good enough for him, it is good enough for me.

All you need to do for a “Gratitude List” is think of a list of things you a grateful for right now. Keep it simple, to help, ask yourself these 2 questions: What would I really miss if it was taken away, not sort of be inconvenienced by, but really miss? And, what, if I was handed my dream life right now, wouldn’t I change?

Give it a go for a couple of days and see how that changes your state.

There is Only Now

I have been interested in meditation and Buddhism and the concept of “present moment awareness” for nearly 20 years. I knew, on an intellectual level that there is only now, the past has happened and the future may never be, but it wasn’t on the meditation cushion that I suddenly grasped this concept emotionally, intellectually and fully, but driving the car one day.

It was one of those lovely early spring days, the sun was low and bright and I could feel the heat through the window, the daffodils were out and the cherry blossom on the trees. I was listening to a song on the radio (I can’t recall which one) and eating a cheese roll. Then idea suddenly struck me that if I died in that very instant it wouldn’t be so bad, I was feeling really good. That may sound a bit morbid I know, but bear with me. It struck me that everything that happened in the past was irrelevant, it was just a memory, a story I tell myself from time to time and any plans I have for the future are simply to continue to feel this good. It is all going to come to an end at some point and if I felt this good when it does at least I will go out on a high.

Since then I have resolved to “feel as good as I can in the present moment”. This is not an excuse for hedonism or shirking responsibilities, in fact totally the opposite; even though the future is not guaranteed it is probable, so you have to take into account how you will feel after this moment. With time, I have found I am less likely to indulge in excess with anything. Spontaneity, it turns out, requires adequate preparation. To feel as good as you can you have to plan ahead.

Most Important Tasks First

On a practical level of organising your time more effectively, one of the most ubiquitous lessons for GTD (Getting Things Done by David Allen) is that you do the most important tasks (MIT’s) first, before getting bogged down in more mundane and time consuming tasks of lesser (or worse, no) importance. Of course, what “important” is depends purely on your own interpretation of the word and, I find, changes on a regular basis. Never be afraid to junk something you thought was important once you start it because you find it just isn’t any more (or at that current moment). The more you focus on getting the MIT’s done the more you will find that the lesser tasks, the “make work” and the things you used to think were of some sort of importance will drop by the wayside. You will be doing less, but getting more done.

The problem with much self help or self improvement is it’s focus on goal setting. The problem with that approach is you spend your entire life future facing. And life doesn’t happen in the future, it happens in the now.  By focusing on designing your day, your still getting things done, but training yourself to focus on the here and now.

Well, it is the end of January, and I am betting that most people who have bothered to make New Years Resolutions have given up! Sadly, achieving a new goal, target or desire is deceptively simple (simple is very different to easy!). Drawing mainly from my experience of professional sports people, athletes and coaches, below are three of the most common reasons I have found for people to fail, and how they can be avoided.

1. Directionalise Your State

There is a reason NLP bang’s on about state so much. State dictates our behaviour, if we are in a good state we tend to make better decisions, are more motivated, more creative, etc. If we are in a bad state, we make rash decisions, loose motivation and so on.

Working with professional sports people I have noticed a common correlation with those that are successful; forget the stick! We tend to think the best way to motivate ourselves is the “carrot and stick” method; reward the the positives, and punish the negatives.

The problem with this is when you “punish” the negatives (get in a bad state, “beat yourself up”, etc) you just associate that bad state with activity itself and it erodes confidence and motivation.

What I noticed with professional athletes, when they are practicing, is they feel good every time they do something right (no matter how small) and feel NOTHING when they don’t. It is that simple.

It also elevates the boredom if you congratulate yourself (get in the good state) every time you make a gain, a step towards your goal. No matter how small.

Practice really feeling good (totally overdo it to begin with to get used to it) when you succeed in moving towards your goal and feeling nothing when you don’t. I appreciate “feeling nothing” is hard. You need to focus on the nuances of the bad feeling and change it in some way to reduce it. Make it smaller, quieter, change the voice, spin the feeling the other way, or just relax and take a break for a few minutes and do something else.

2. Start Small

Go for the easy gains. The simple things to complete. This gets you started in the right direction; of succeeding and completing set tasks. Break the big goal down into smaller chunks and work on one at a time. If you try and do too much all at once you will most probably overwhelm yourself, feel bad (see point one) and stop.

This actually creates a habit of “quitting” the process, which means you are actually more likely to quit in the future (think how many times you have had something you want to do but each time you start it you quickly give up. What do you think this is teaching your brain to do each time you start?). Success leads to more success, no matter how small the success is to start with.

3. Do Less

If you are struggling to reach your goal do less. It may seem counter intuitive, but if you are not getting anywhere, doing more may just overwhelm you and lead you to giving up (see step two). Break it down into smaller chunks, smaller pieces, smaller targets. It is better to do something small for a few minutes several times a day than trying to find a large chunk of time once a week. This will keep your interest up and, if you deliberately limit yourself (stop before you get bored or tired, preferably when you have achieved a good milestone), you will find you create a good “store” of anticipation, which is a great motivator.

Hello and welcome to 2013. As is usual at this time of the year, the news is full of stories about New Years Resolutions. Some are cynical pieces about how we are bound to fail (the average Resolution lasts just 2 weeks apparently), some more positive about how to succeed.

I have written before about how I am quite a fan of New Years Resolutions. I know that every day is technically a new year (and you should really aim to do something every day to positively change your life, no matter how small), but there is something quite powerful about the idea of a new calendar year and a new start. It is good time to assess and reflect on what you have and what you would like, and start to plan towards it.

So, why do most resolutions fail? Over exuberance can be one reason; diving in and trying to do it all at once and wearing yourself out. Lack of a clear goal and plan is another. But I would like to suggest another, deeper reason why people tend to fail; People do the wrong thing for the wrong reason.

Purpose

We do things for one reason; to feel better. It may be to move away from physical or emotional pain, it may be to move towards pleasure, it may be something totally different depending on how you perceive the world. The problem comes when we make some form of judgement about what that SHOULD be from some, often external, source. Once we starting placing a criteria of what we MUST have to make ourselves happier we are bound to fail.

State

So, ask yourself “Why do I want to make the changes? What is the purpose?” You may think it is to lose weight, have more money, whatever, but it isn’t really, it is to create a certain mental or emotional state. What do you want to feel? Does the activity you have chosen create that mental or emotional state? Or does it (as is often the case) actually create totally the opposite state?!

I had a client awhile ago who came to me because she wanted to go swimming on a Saturday morning but couldn’t get out of bed. After asking her a few questions, she discovered that she didn’t really want to go, she had fixated on the swimming as an action that would make her feel less stressed and more relaxed, but ironically, the activity was making her feel more stressed! So I worked with her to generate some alternative activities that would create that state instead. Problem solved.

Begin by not focusing on the external behaviour, but the internal mental and emotional state that you want that behaviour to create. If the external behaviour you have chosen isn’t creating that state then find something that does!