NLP as a Life Changer
The room was filled with a charged atmosphere in anticipation of what was to come while people introduced themselves over morning coffee. What was this excited and eclectic group of people - coaches, an engineer, a retail manager, high school students and others - gathering for? NLP training. What is NLP training you ask? It is an acronym for neuro-linguistic programming, a set of techniques allowing you to reprogram your mind and body. Or as Roger Ellerton, one of the trainers and author of the book Live Your Dreams: Let Reality Catch Up, says it is a program for making a better life for yourself and others. Roger's description certainly describes my personal experience well.
My conscious mind brought me to the course to learn new tools to help me in my life coaching practice to give my clients a faster and better experience in their quest for a better life. While I did not realize at the time, I believe it was my subconscious mind that drove me to take this training. It knew I badly need life changes; I just simply had not yet learned to communicate effectively with my subconscious mind. The NLP training allowed me to connect with my subconscious which had reams to tell me once I became receptive.
Did NLP help make my life better? Absolutely! Early on in the program my wife said to thank the trainers for "giving back her husband of many years ago" and my kids chimed in with "can you take this course everyday as you are so calm and understanding." When one of my daughter's friends remarked, "wow I wish my dad was so cool and calm and so much fun" I knew something was happening; this was on day three of a seven day program. Contrast this to only a short time before when family, friends and colleagues were constantly urging me to relax and start enjoying life. How did these changes occur so quickly and completely?
The primary difference between NLP and other forms of wellness development methods is that it is not nearly as focused on the past but primarily on creating a now and a future that you desire. It is also based on the premise that people are not broken, that they have arrived where they are on their journey by the choices they have made. This becomes very powerful when coupled with the principle that people have the resources within themselves to alter their lives to the point of creating the life of their dreams.
Over the years I had become overwhelmed by my work, my play, and my relationships or just about anything I did. Overwhelmed was my normal state in life. While usually performing competently and taking leadership in all I did, I just kept adding more and more to my responsibilities. President of this, vice-chair of that and so on. I was running totally on an urgency mentality and nervous energy to get more done with no time to notice the present. No matter what I did I felt the need to do more. An apparent upward spiral was, in reality, a downward spiral; a crash course. Does this sound familiar? Odds are that it does in this world of "more with less" and our need "to be productive". NLP can help with both of these maladies, while at the same time vastly improving our lives.
One of the techniques we learned early on was called anchoring. This is a technique based on classic conditioned response; a trigger brings on an outcome. A positive example of this would be that each time you smell pumpkin pie you have fond memories Thanksgivings past with family and friends. Another example might be "Every time she looks at me that way I get angry." We used NLP methods to create a positive response to a trigger. We established a trigger point, such as a knuckle, to invoke a calm and happy response; simply by touching that knuckle the state occurred. This is a technique I still employ with great success as I prepare to deliver a speech from a place of calmness.
The anchor became an important tool in our learning as calmness is a precursor to good learning. Another technique that worked particularly well for me was one called "swish pattern". I used this one, taking less than five minutes, to stop drinking Sprite light containing aspartame to having a glass of cold water each time I see a can of Sprite or even an ad for one. This was an established habit replace by a beneficial one in less than five minutes; I did this in early July and have not had a sprite since. Imagine how many habits you could change in a short time, such as replacing smoking with good health perhaps?
About day five of the seven day program I developed a mild dis-ease. As the day progressed the mild dis-ease gave way to extreme physiological and psychological stress. The experienced trainers and their aides recognized the signs and assured me that this was a very positive sign and that a major breakthrough that would change my life forever was about to occur. As we went through more exercises the tension continued to build until I reached a point where I said "I don't want to play anymore." I was assured that I was the one guiding the process and I would move forward as and when I was ready; to rest and observe if I wanted. I continued although only participating halfheartedly. When practicing a technique called "time line therapy" my partner Pete made me feel very safe and comfortable. During this exercise I realized my driven, compulsive and overachieving tendencies that lead to my feeling of being chronically overwhelmed were formed during childhood. People I held in esteem often told me that I was inadequate or to lower my expectations. I responded by making sure I accomplished more than any of them and at a higher level than those who told me I couldn't. Armed with this knowledge I am now free to choose what I do. I now choose what I devote my time to based on value to myself and others; I no longer need to prove myself to anyone. I am who I am and that's OK. This has given me an incredible power in creating the life of my dreams. I am no longer overwhelmed. I am "here in the now" with anyone I am interacting rather than planning what I do next. Not only did I get what I wanted for myself, but I got a gift I can share with my family and friends. Am I perfect yet? Not by a long shot, but that is OK too, I am who I am. I do not need to prove anything to anyone nor do I need the approval of others or to prove anything to them. That is my definition of personal freedom. The first line of the Introduction in Roger's book is "How many of us live our lives according to other's expectations?" I am afraid far too many do; I am very happy to be one who no longer does. What's next?
You recall my feeling of dis-ease that I mentioned having on day five. The more I think about this the more I realize that dis-ease is only a hyphen away from disease. My next challenge is to use NLP to achieve levels of health that are even greater than those I enjoyed as a youth.
I discovered things about my life that I had not known at the conscious level. Discovery is interesting, but the real value is that NLP allowed me to quickly learn how to change my life so that I no longer run on auto-pilot. I am the pilot of my life. The subconscious mind that brought me to the course for healing was successful. The conscious mind that brought me to get a tool set to help my clients is also well satisfied. The course was an incredible life changing experience for me and those I come in contact with. Thank you NLP Partners - Su Thomas, Roger Ellerton and John Sweetnam; I will be back.
Author: Bill Wright is a life and career coach and certified NLP Practitioner specializing in helping educational and training professionals develop life balance leading to increased satisfaction and reduced burnout. He is a member in good standing of the International Coaching Federation. His book from Burnout to Balance to Brilliance™ for Educators is due out in May 2011. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.mycoachbill.com.