When most people try to change habits, they fail. Regardless of their intentions, they simply do not understand how the bad habits and lifestyles have formed, so they try to use pure will power to change – and this only works for a slim few.
Think of the times you decided to cut out a bad habit. For example, to stop smoking. Most people fail. And the reason most people fail is they see themselves as “smokers”. All of the internal dialogue (those thoughts in your head) are about you being a smoker. So, even as you try to stop smoking, your mind sees you as a smoker. You can hear this in the words you use; “I am TRYING to stop smoking”, “I don’t smoke AS MUCH”, etc.
As soon as you change your point of view (a reframe) and convince your mind you are a NON-SMOKER, then you will have a much easier time of breaking the habits. Your body and your mind want to be congruent (in harmony), so if you physically crave a cigarette, and you believe you are a smoker, you will smoke. Reframe the mind (I am a non-smoker), and the body will follow (I no longer crave a smoke).
This principal applies to all human habits and interaction, not just smoking and health and fitness. To give you a better shot at transforming your body into what you want, we first have to start retraining how your mind views you, food, and exercise. To do this, we are going to use some techniques taken from NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), and more information is easily found online. We will discuss a few easy ways of creating mental states to help you change your current behavior into more desired behaviors (in this context losing fat, getting in shape and for a few, building muscle).
Some of you, as you read these parts, are going to internally talk yourself out of believing that your mind and your body works this way. It does work this way, and if you can put aside disbelief and do the exercises and tasks you will have a much better chance of obtaining your goals.
Skip this section at your own peril.
Set Your Goal
It is not enough to say “I want to lose weight”, “I want to be leaner” or even, “I want to gain muscle.”
A goal must be specific and measurable (and I would even say achievable). For example, I started at 203 pounds with 27.3% body fat ~ 55.4 pounds of fat. I wanted to be at 10% body fat and still weigh 200 pounds.
So my goal is to lose 35.4 pounds of fat (10% X 200 pounds = 20 pounds; 55.4 pounds – 20 pounds = 35.4 pounds of fat loss) and replace it with 30 pounds of muscle.
A note of caution: If you are a female, please focus on body fat % more than your actual weight. As you exercise, your body will literally weigh more, even though you might be smaller than someone who weighs the exact same, but has twice the body fat levels (bone and muscle are denser than fat, thus they take up LESS space, but weigh more than fat). Trust me here, if you are not trying to add lots of muscle, stick with lowering body fat %.
Write the goal down. Read it every day.
Set a Deadline
My deadline was 120 days. Why did I pick 120 days? I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I knew that even missing by 30 days would have me looking great for lake season.
Add the deadline to your written goal. Put the goal in your wallet or purse. Read the goal every day. This plays into the mental exercises you are about to learn.
Realistic Goals and Deadlines
“Lose weight without diet and exercise!”
“Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!”
“Lose 10 pounds this weekend!”
Lot’s of marketing folks making lot’s of claims. “Sell the sizzle”, as I have heard. And you know what, some of the claims are true. All of the above can be achieved. The problem is HOW they are achieved.
The body is 70% water. If you want a fast way to drop 10 pounds, cut out all fluids for a day or two. Now – DO NOT DO THIS. It is extremely unhealthy, and we don’t want to focus on body weight, we want to focus on losing body fat and/or gaining muscle.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the largest and most respected health, medical and exercise organization in the world, has established guidelines for healthy weight loss. In their position statement on “Proper and improper weight loss programs,” they recommend a weight loss goal of one to two pounds per week. In terms of body fat, for a 200 pound person, that is 0.5% to 1% of fat loss per week. If you are impatient, this may seem like a slow process, but this approach is safe and helps ensure you will keep the body fat off.
What You Know
There is a big difference in knowing what you should do, and doing it. Later, we will make sure you know the “what to do” part of looking like you should. Right now, we are going to focus on the “doing it part”.
You Are Either Wired For Success Or Failure!
Your mind has two components: The conscious and the subconscious. The conscious mind is the rational, logical, analytical, thinking part of the mind. The conscious mind is constantly taking in information from the five senses, then it uses logic and reason to analyze the inputs and comes to conclusions about whether the input is true or false. The subconscious is the part of the mind responsible for storing data (memory), for automatic behavior (habits), reflexes and autonomic functions of the body such as digestion, breathing and circulation.
It’s important to note that unlike the conscious mind, the subconscious mind does not “think.” It is entirely deductive in nature, which means it works like a computer. All the data programmed into your subconscious “computer” through the conscious is accepted and assumed to be true. It doesn’t matter whether the data is actually true or false. The subconscious unquestioningly accepts everything that reaches it. It then carries out the programming you have entered into it.
Suggestions given under hypnosis or affirmations repeated during deep relaxation are ways to access the subconscious mind. Another way to penetrate the subconscious (although much slower) is through repetition (why affirmations and visualization doesn’t work great all by themselves). Everything you hear, see, say, read or think repeatedly will eventually filter into your subconscious mind.
We will be exploring some NLP techniques that help you reprogram your subconscious as fast as possible. And this can be used in more areas than fat loss, diet and fitness.
You Have Already Programmed Yourself
Most people have good intentions, but they unwittingly allow their subconscious to work against themselves by focusing on what they don’t want (yes, this is the think positive aspect). And, as author Louise Hay wrote, “The more you dwell on what you don’t want, the more of it you create.” Think negative enough (repetition) and you will get what you think about.
Here are a few examples of negative statements and self-defeating questions:
It’s not fair that everyone else loses weight except me.
I can’t lose weight no matter what I do.
I wish I could lose this last ten pounds.
Why is it so hard for me to lose weight?
I have a slow metabolism.
I am a hard gainer.
I just don’t have good genetics.
I don’t want to be fat anymore.
I don’t want to be skinny anymore.
I wish I could get rid of this gut.
I don’t have the willpower to get lean.
I don’t have time the time to workout.
I don’t have the time to eat like that.
I hate being fat.
I’ll never see my abs.
I hate cardio.
I hate lifting weights.
“Do, or do not! There is no try!” – Master Yoda
You talk with yourself all the time. It has been estimated that you think around 50,000 thoughts per day, and many of these are the same thoughts you have already had, with a large percentage of them being negative about yourself.
To have freedom from these self defeating habits, you have to:
1) Realize that you really do talk to yourself all the time
2) Realize that most of these thoughts are negative
3) Learn to replace negative thoughts and habits with more productive thoughts and habits
Notice, in #3 I didn’t write more positive thoughts. You can have a bad attitude and still achieve your goals. Let’s say you wanted to open a door. The door is marked “pull”. You could be the most positive person in the world, but if you “push” the door, you are never getting in.
Just think about this. You, pushing against the door all day saying to yourself:
“If I just push a little harder, the door will open.”
“This door is going to open, I can just feel it.”
“Never give up, just keep pushing”
Or, you can simply see the door says “pull”, be negative since you like to “push” – and open the door to get to your goal.
Now, I believe in being positive, but please understand; I don’t care if you are positive or negative. I just want you to get to your goal. That’s it.
So, let’s look at some ways of controlling our behavior and subconscious.
Visualization and Affirmations
This is likely the most discussed and widely known behavioral tool (so we won’t spend much time on it alone). It definitely can work, especially when coupled with some of the basic NLP techniques you will learn.
For me, the visualization part is easy. My 16 year old nieces started calling me “tubby”, and when I focused on what they saw, I had to agree. After deciding to change, I went online to look for photo’s of the male physique with body parts that I wanted my body to look like. These photo’s are what I choose:
I studied the photo’s 1-2 times each day, seeing those bodies as mine. Then I added my affirmations while “swishing” (more to come on this soon) the image of myself with the desired images: “My body is changing for the better everyday”
“I will power through today’s workout and overcome all barriers”
“I will surpass all personal bests today”
“The food I am eating will shed fat and help my muscle grow”
Do this as often as you feel like, but at least 1 time in the morning, and 1 time in the evening.
NLP – Neuro-Linguistic Programming
The bedrock principle of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is that any action, behavior or emotion can be changed instantly as soon as a person’s “State” can be changed.
Now here’s the tricky part, what do NLP practitioners mean when they use the word, “State?” State is made up of two things, your physiology, which includes your posture, facial expression, movements, vocal tone, breathing, blood sugar level, and overall fitness and health condition.
The other element of State is called the person’s “Internal Representation.” Your Internal Representation is made up of how you perceive and what you believe about the things your senses signal to you. This means it can include your beliefs about yourself, your abilities, the type of person you are, and what you can or cannot do. It can also include things like your belief system, like whether you believe the world is fair or is out to get you.
Now let’s make this practical. Let’s say you are usually very shy and have difficulty carrying on lively conversations with strangers. However, tonight you are planning to attend an important party and you want to improve your ability to engage in lively conversations, even though the room will be full of strangers.
There are two ways you can change your state in order to greatly improve your conversational style. The physiological way would be to walk into that room and act “as if” you were the most engaging person on the planet (fake it till you make it principle). You might stand in front of a mirror for a few minutes and straighten your posture, hold your head erect and talk to the mirror “as if” you had a personality much like the President of the United States.
By doing this, by acting “as if” you were this kind of person, your physiology, along with your breathing, posture and movements would immediately change your state, which would result in an immediate change in your behavior.
Now the second way to change your state is to change your “Internal Representation.” You need to challenge and utterly defeat the belief you have about yourself being shy and an awkward conversationalist. In fact, you need to turn that belief around so that you believe you are an excellent conversationalist.
You could do this by remembering a time you actually were in a situation in which you were engaging, friendly, outgoing, interesting and humorous. And guess what? That situation does not have to be just like the setting you are going into now. Perhaps the previous situation you recall, was when you were teaching a class full of children, but you “turned on” your personality so much that they loved every moment of their time with you.
You then bring the emotions of that previous situation and move them into a new representation you create for yourself. In other words, you use the emotions from another time and place and create a new internal representation to help you with this new setting.
NLP is a collection of marvelous tools, all designed to help you change your actions by changing your state.
Next you will find some easy to use NLP tools to help you change your “state” and in turn, change your behaviors.
The term reframing designates a communication technique which has origins in family systems therapy and the work of Virginia Satir. Milton H. Erickson has also been associated with reframing and it also forms an important part of Neuro-linguistic programming. In addition, provocative therapy uses reframing with an emphasis on humor.
Another meaning or another sense is assigned by reframing a situation or context, thus we see a situation in another frame (literally, another point of view). A frame can help change a belief or limiting belief (what limits our view of the world). If we let this limiting belief go or change it’s context, new conceptions and interpretation possibilities can develop to replace the old limiting belief.
Psychotherapists trained in the reframing by communication attempt to let scenes appear in another point of view (frame) so that someone feels relieved or is able to deal with a traumatic situation better.
An example of this is the reframing of the role as a passive victim (“the cravings overcomes me”) into an active role, from which different decisions than what has been decided so far can be made (“the cravings motivate me to remove myself from the situation”). Other examples are to experience a reinterpretation frame other than the negatively noticed behavior (“I eat when I am stressed”) into a positive (“exercise reduced my stress and I eat less”), or a sensitization going by “a well meant” behavior releases negative effects with the target object.
Anthony Robbins wrote, “A signal has meaning only in the frame or context in which we perceive it.”
For example, if a person is resting in bed and hears his bedroom door open, that exact same noise will have two totally different meanings to him and evoke drastically different reactions depending on whether (1) he is alone in a locked house, or (2) he had previously invited his friend over and left the back door to his house unlocked.
According to Anthony Robbins: If we perceive something as a liability, that’s the message we deliver to our brain. Then the brain produces states that make it a reality. If we change our frame of reference by looking at the same situation from a different point of view, we can change the way we respond in life. We can change our representation or perception about anything and in a moment change our states and behaviors. This is what reframing is all about.
For example, say a university or college student breaks his leg during summer vacation. He is devastated, because he can no longer play tennis and golf with his family and friends. A few days later, he realizes that he now has the quiet, alone time to learn how to play the guitar, something he had always wanted to do but had been too busy to attempt. He then discovers he has a great aptitude for music and becomes a decent guitar player by summer’s end. One year later, he changes his major to music. After graduation he embarks on a successful music career. Years later, his friends recall how unfortunate his leg fracture was that summer, and he says, “Breaking my leg was the best thing that ever happened to me!” From then on, whenever he is disabled by injury or illness, he recalls the lesson and is far less despondent over his temporary disability than he otherwise would have been, as he takes the opportunity to do something novel.
This is the story of famous singer Julio Iglesias, who had a promising career in soccer playing for Real Madrid, but an accident left him semi-paralyzed. At the hospital, a nurse brought him a guitar, and that’s the beginning of a very prized singing career by the Guinness holder of “most albums sold in all languages”.
Six Step Reframe
The six-step reframe is a pattern for discovering unwanted habits and behaviors developed by John Grinder, the co-founder of NLP. It involves:
1) Identifying the context where the unwanted behavior pattern occurred,
2) Establishing unconscious yes/no signals,
3) Confirming that the behavior has a positive intent,
4) Finding a number of ways of fulfilling the positive intent,
5) Selecting the best of the possible alternatives generated in step 4,
6) Checking that the selection is ecological, that is, it is acceptable to the individual and in relationships to others.
NOTE: The main purpose of a 6 Step Reframe is to establish — set up —bridges (channels of communication) between your unconscious and conscious mind, even between specific parts of the unconscious and for you to install in a belief that your body and brain accept and act upon.
Bandler and Grinder developed the six step reframe technique from their study of Milton Erickson (ideomotor signals) and Virginia Satir’s work with parts. They included it in their book “Frogs into Princes”.
When we are young, we try out different behaviors and some of them work. We keep the ones that work, even when times change and those responses may not be the most useful ones. Throwing a tantrum at 4 might get us what we want, at 44 it probably won’t work so well.
Behind every behavior is a positive intention – this is one of the basic NLP presuppositions. Motives drive behavior. Our brains do nothing without some (usually unconscious) purpose.
I have read that fitness experts state that something like 75% of overeating or binge eating is attributed to emotions. And 99% of emotional eaters do not even recognize this aspect of themselves!
Food (or drugs, alcohol, etc.) has been known to give comfort, people resort to emotional eating as a way to overcome or handle certain negative emotions such as anger, boredom, stress, sadness, low self-esteem, nervousness, fear and anxiety. As issues or stress pop up, people focus on eating “comfort” foods to give them temporary relief from the issue at hand. But remember, one of the presuppositions for NLP is all negative self behavior has a root in a self desired good outcome.
Emotional eating is being used as a sort of emotional protection by our unconscious mind. This is just an example, but one that has been proven true over and over…
A person gets their heart broken in a relationship. This might happen only once, or it might happen several times. The input to the unconscious mind is, “If I’m in a relationship, then I get my heart broken.”
Since one of the unconscious mind’s jobs is to protect us, the unconscious motivates us into a behavior that will stop us from getting our heart broken again by keeping us out of relationships. And that behavior for many people, is to get fat! To reiterate: The actual intent of the behavior is to prevent suffering from a broken heart, the behavior itself is getting fat.
As a result, when a person eats emotionally, they find that they lack the motivation to stick to their weight loss program… even if they believe that they are committed to their fitness plan. Sometimes they are able to get started and lose a few pounds; but after a short while, they feel compelled to overeat and put the weight back on.
And to make matters worse, as soon as emotional eating gets a person off track and results in more weight gain, another negative emotion (guilt) creates stress, which adds fuel to the fire and makes the person overeat even more.
So how do we change from where we are, to where we want to be? Glad you asked!
The swish pattern uses rapid-fire submodality shifts to associate two mental constructs so that one automatically leads to the other. Basically you switch out reality for your goal to help yourself believe in your goal.
Bob wants to get in shape. His only problem is he loves ice cream and an ice cream truck that drives by him every day at noon. So far, every time Bob’s seen the raspberry-vanilla ice cream cone printed on the side of the truck, he’s felt he had to buy one.
Bob realizes that one way to change his behavior is a swish pattern. He closes his eyes, and pictures the raspberry-vanilla ice cream cone right in front of him. He puts an image of himself with the body he’s always wanted off in the distance. Now he pushes the cone off to the horizon and snaps the picture of himself into its place as fast as he can.
After doing this a few times, he brings up the image of the cone. Before he can think about it, the new image of his ultra-buff body pops into his head.
Now when Bob sees the ice cream truck, he instantly remembers this image. The thought of buying ice cream no longer even occurs to him.
Procedure – Regular Swish
The swish pattern is one of the simplest bits of submodality work. The idea is to rapidly swap the submodalities of two representations (images, sounds, or feelings) so that the first becomes a stimulus for the second:
1. Create a close-up image of the stimulus. This should be a specific object or scene from the outside world. Since this will act as a trigger for the new behavior, it should be seen through the user’s eyes. i.e. Picture what you currently look like eating one of your regular meals.
2. Create a distant image for the desired response. You want to move towards this idea image, rather than experience it as if it were happening now, so it should be seen as though you are an outside observer seeing yourself.
3. Now, after you have the image – one of you looking like you do up front, and the new you in the far distance – Swish the two images – rapidly push the stimulus into the distance, and bring the desired response right up to your face. For effect, you can actually make a “swish” sound as the images pop into place.
4. Allow the images to settle for a minute in their new places.
5. Clear your mind and go into a neutral state.
6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 until any thought of the stimulus leads directly to the response.
NLP’ers tend to swish visually, as it has the best effect on most people. In this case, we’ve used distance as the varying submodality, but you could swish with size, brightness, color, or just about any other submodality or set of submodalities that impacts you. You can also swish in any rep system (auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) – anything will work as long as it is vivid.
So now we know how to change a negative thought that leads to action into a reframe and a swish to change our behavior. By adding an anchor, we can literally feel a bad habit coming on (eating wrong) reframe and swish it into a positive, and anchor the new behavior.
Anchoring is reminiscent of Pavlov’s experiments with dogs. Pavlov sounded a bell as the animal was given food. The animals salivated when they saw the food. After some parings of the bell and the food, the bell alone elicited salivation.
Anchors are stimuli that call forth states of mind (frames as thoughts and emotions). For example, touching a knuckle of the left hand could be an anchor. Some anchors are involuntary. So the smell of bread may take you back to your childhood. A tune may remind you of a certain person. A touch can bring back memories and the past states. These anchors work automatically and you may not be aware of the triggers.
Establishing an anchor means producing the stimuli (the anchor) when the resourceful state is experienced so that the resourceful state is pared to the anchor. For example, touching the knuckle of the left hand when the resourceful state is experienced to pair the two events.
Just to make sure you understand the resource state and the anchor, I will share a classic example of an anchor triggering a resource state. When I was 16, I was driving too fast in the rain, rocking out to “Here I Go again” by WhiteSnake. At this point I slammed into the back of a stopped car. When I hear that song now, I always remember that rainy evening and the pain I felt after hitting the car.
Activating or firing the anchor means producing the anchor after it has been conditioned so that the resourceful state occurs. For example, touching the knuckle of the left hand after the anchor has been established so that this action produced the resourceful state.
Now you can create anchors that produce resourceful states (help you feel and overcome limiting beliefs) at will.
Automatic Unconscious Anchors
We are affected by anchors throughout our lives and go into a good mood or a bad one … feel motivated to do one thing or to do another … feel confident and resourceful or the opposite. We are responding to anchors, but we may not know what they are.
These anchors have been built up accidentally. In fact, we often think that our mood has nothing to do with anchors and that our moods occur by chance. Usually though, our mood is a reflection of anchors that have been triggered to recreate our frame (state of mind).
Designer anchors are what you should want to learn to do. You use them to produce the state of mind or mood you need for a given situation. You enter the gym feeling powerful and ready to work. You control your diet. You turn on the enthusiasm you need to do a task.
First of all we will assemble the ingredients for anchors and then give the whole procedure for establishing your designer anchors. You can use any resourceful state, but here we will use ‘being calm and relaxed’ as the example.
The Resource State
You have all the resources you require to achieve whatever goal you want. This is a presupposition.
You can recall any memories when you have experienced the required state. Recall them vividly and you recall the state. So you can recall any memories of being extremely calm and relaxed to get the resource (actually feeling calm and relaxed) for your anchor. This is literally remembering and visualizing a time and place when you were extremely calm. The more vivid the memory, the better.
You might recall being calm and relaxed at the beach with a warm sun kissing your body for example, or from a time when you were at home or enjoying your leisure time.
To vivify the memory:
Recall a time when you were calm and relaxed. As you go back to that time now step into your body and you are seeing now what you see in the memory, hearing now what you heard in the memory, and feeling now what you feel in the memory. Make this memory as vivid as possible. Try to smell what was around you in the memory. The more senses you engage, the stronger the emotions tied to the frame.
Even people who think they have no resourceful memory can find such a memory perhaps in a different context.
I have never felt that way …
If you cannot recall a situation where you had the resource you want to anchor, you can get the resource by imagining yourself in a situation where you had that resource.
Everyone has the capacity to empathize with another. When listening to another you may have experienced the emotions and states that they felt when they had the experience.
Types of Anchors
Anchors can be visual, auditory or kinesthetic.
You can use visual anchors to anchor the resourceful state. You can use external or internal anchors. For example, you could use a figure on a bracelet to anchor being calm and relaxed. The external anchor always has to be there for you to use. You may find it relaxing and calming to view a certain landscape, but unless you can carry it around with you, it is of limited value. You can however use an internal image of the landscape to anchor your resourceful feeling.
Most visual designer anchors are internal. Some examples of visual anchors are:
Symbols. For example, you could use a circle as a symbol for being calm and relaxed and anchor this to your state.
People, such as a trusted friend or mentor … or even a person from history or current affairs.
Various objects and landscapes can be used as anchors for being calm and relaxed. For example, you could imagine:
A teddy bear
Puffy white clouds sailing on a blue sky
You can use a sound as an anchor. Like the visual anchors, sounds can be internal or external. Many people have used whistling as an anchor – they whistle when they feel afraid!
You can use an internal voice as an anchor. For example, you could anchor the phrase ‘Calm and Relaxed’.
Examples of kinesthetic anchors are:
Imagining a comforting hand on your shoulder
Making a circle with the second finger and the thumb
Touching yourself on the hand or other unobtrusive place. You can choose a point and treat it like an acupressure point – pressing on it to fire the required state.
My favorite is number 2 and I anchor strength and power by making a circle with my left hand’s thumb and middle finger.
Visual, Kinesthetic and Auditory Anchors
You can use a combination of anchors such as seeing a certain symbol in your mind’s eye. Hearing something said – for example, Calm and Relaxed. And Press your hand in a special place.
1. Decide on the state you want to anchor. For example being calm and relaxed.
2. Choose an anchor (or anchors) that you wish to trigger the resourceful state.
3. Recall a memory or imagine a situation where you can experience the state. So recall or imagine a time when you experienced the state (described above).
4. Activate the anchor or anchors when the experience is vivid and you are in the desired state.
5. Release the anchors when the experience begins to fade. If you keep applying the anchor when the experience is fading, then you will anchor a drop in calmness and relaxation.
6. Do something else – open your eyes … count down from 10 to break state and distract yourself (go to a neutral state).
7. Repeat the steps several times, each time making the memory more vivid. This is not actually required when the anchor is established at the high point of the experience. However, you can strengthen the anchor by establishing it at the high point of several such experiences.
8. Apply the anchor and check that the required state occurs.
9. Future pace the situation where you want to experience the desired state. Fire the anchor to check that it creates a sufficiently resourced state.
10. Check the anchor the next day to ensure it is a permanent anchor.
The anchor (or anchors) should be fired in exactly the same way every time you link them to the resourceful experience.
Anchor at the high point of the experience containing the resourceful state.
If you do not experience the state when future pacing and especially if you experience anxiety, then stop applying the anchor. (You will anchor the negative state!)
There is a knowingness which makes anchoring work that is established by the unconscious mind.
You can strengthen the anchor by repeating the above process over several days and weeks.
If you are in a situation where you experience the desired state in reality, then you can reestablish the anchor to that situation.
Additional NLP Tips
Some Neuro Linguistic Programming perspectives on changing behaviors:
1) It can often be difficult to simply extinguish a behavior. But it is usually not too difficult to replace a behavior by an alternative one that you find more attractive.
For instance, if you discover a better way to drive to work, the first morning or two you may forget and still go the old route, or maybe start to turn in the wrong direction and then have to correct yourself. But within a week or so the new habit will have become as automatic as the old one used to be.
2) Verbal self-instruction is usually not an effective way of getting oneself to remember to do a new behavior. Repeatedly telling yourself “Tomorrow morning, remember to use Oak St instead of Grove St,” for instance, will probably not work all that well.
What usually works a lot better is mental rehearsal, which in NLP is called “future pacing.” There is usually one little key piece that needs to be changed in order to change a behavior. Mental rehearsal is most effective when it ties this behavioral chunk into a cue that one can rely on being present (an anchor for example).
For instance, one doesn’t really need to mentally imagine going through the entire drive to work. It’s only one key intersection that’s important. If you realize that you always notice the Safeway (the anchor) when you get to that intersection, then you just have yourself practice seeing that Safeway and then turning left instead of right.
A post-hypnotic suggestion is basically this same sort of thing.
Instead of using a cue that already exists in the environment, sometimes people like to create artificial anchors for themselves, such as tying a string around a finger to remember something specific.
In changing behavior, instead of merely making suggestions to yourself for a desired behavior, it is much more effective to “future pace” yourself by mentally taking yourself through the new behavior (see Swish Pattern)
3) It is axiomatic in NLP that the process the brain goes through to perform an overt behavior is not very different from the process for an “internal behavior” – cognition or emotion. Consequently, the rules are basically the same whether the habit one wants to change is an action, a thought, or even a feeling.
For instance, the NLP Swish Pattern is claimed to be highly effective in dealing with nail biting. The undesired behavior in this case is an action, but the replacement behavior is a visualization. As the subject sees his fingers approach his mouth (the cue), he has learned to have a mental image of an ideal self come to mind – “The you that no longer has a problem with nail biting.”
4) It is a good idea to be as precise as possible in identifying an unwanted behavior. For instance, you can ask yourself something like “When you say that you keep thinking about X, does that mean that there’s something that you often say to yourself, or something you hear said in another person’s voice, or is there some image that keeps coming to mind?”
Sometimes it can be sufficient to change the tone of an internal voice even though the actual words remain the same.
5) Static visualizations or simple repetition of affirmations are not very effective. It is better to use dynamic patterns with these techniques that teach the mind to move quickly from a cue to a desired new behavior.
6) In many respects the brain operates very fast, so in order to teach a subject a new pattern it is essential that they go through it very quickly – often in a matter of a second or so.
This is essential in many NLP techniques such as the Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure and the Swish Pattern. You need to keep pushing yourself to go through the pattern even faster.
7) There is a tendency to think of the word “reinforcement” as referring to things which the subject finds desirable. In fact, especially as concerns the internal level, what seems to be true is that the mind is drawn toward intensity, whether the subject identifies it as pleasurable or painful.
In particular, for most people the mind will be drawn to images that are bright, large, and close rather than to dark, small, and distant ones. Loud sounds are likely to be more compelling than soft ones. (Other “submodality” distinction such as pitch, rate of speech, sharpness of focus, and three dimensionality, are more likely to vary from individual to individual.)
8) When a certain threshold of intensity is reached, however, the mind reaches overload and shuts down to a particular stimulus. This is the basis for the behavioral technique called “flooding.” NLP has a refinement of flooding called the Compulsion Blow-out. Some NLPers claim to have been successful in using the Compulsion Blow-out with full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder.
9) In order to learn an external behavior – for instance, lifting in a certain style or even training at a high intensity – it is often useful to have you imagine or watch someone who is very good at that behavior (called modeling). The subject then changes his “internal movie” by replacing the image of the other person by an image of himself behaving in the same expert way. As a final step, once he can easily visualize himself doing the desired behavior he can “step into” (or “associate into,”) the image and imagine actually performing the new behavior.
Change Your Setting
As you learn what to do, and what not to do, there is one more piece of motivational and behavioral information you may want to implement.
There once was a gentleman riding on an old, rustic train lumbering through the plains of Harambe, Africa (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida) when he noticed a majestic lion sitting on a rock on top of a hill, in perfect view.
“Aren’t we lucky the lion is out,” he mused to the “ranger” on the train with us.
“He’s always out there, sitting on that rock,” the ranger responded.
“Really?” the gentleman said. “How do you get him to stay in that exact spot?”
The ranger just smiled.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the closer teens live to places where alcohol is sold, the greater likelihood they will binge drink and drive under the influence. On a certain level this may seem obvious. But it’s important. Parents tell teens not to drink. Schools tell teens not to drink. Television ads tell teens not to drink. The law prohibits teens from drinking and prohibits liquor stores from selling to teens. And still, if the liquor store is within walking distance of where the teens live (about half a mile) they will be far more likely to drink. And drive drunk.
Because, to a larger extent than you probably realize, your environment dictates your actions.
It would be lovely to think that we make our own choices and follow through on them, without being too influenced by things around us, but all you need to do is read a little bit of Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Eating to realize just how much our actions are determined by our environment. Brian did a series of fascinating studies that suggest the reasons we eat have little to do with hunger and a tremendous amount to do with the subtle cues that drive us.
For example, if you use a big spoon, you’ll eat more. If you serve yourself on a big plate, you’ll eat more. If you move the small bowl of chocolates on your desk six feet away you’ll eat half as much. If you eat chicken wings and remove the bones from the table, you’ll forget how much you ate and you’ll eat more. If you have a bowl of soup that never gets less than half full, you’ll eat more. And the more people you eat with, the more you’ll eat.
So don’t fight yourself to change your behavior in the midst of the wrong environment; just change the environment. In the case of food, using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate might be all the diet you need.
Marketers already know this. It’s why you get so many catalogs over the year. Of course you could go to their website to shop. Or just use the catalog you already have on the counter. But no, they’ll send you another one two weeks before Valentine’s Day. Or Halloween. Or Christmas. They know when you’re thinking about buying something and they’ll make sure that, just as you have that thought, hey look, a catalog.
In your company, think about what you want people to do and whether the environment around them supports the behavior.
A client was complaining to me that his receptionist was not warm and friendly with people when they walked in. Guess where the receptionist sat? Think bank teller. That’s right. The receptionist sat behind a glass window! Don’t send her to communication training. Just remove the glass.
A friend of mine, the principal of a school in Boston, wanted to increase student engagement. They should talk to each other, he lamented, not just the teacher. He came up with a great solution. He didn’t send out memos. He didn’t retrain all the teachers. He didn’t print posters and hang them in the classrooms. Instead, he rearranged each classroom, placing the chairs in a semicircle, so the students were facing each other as well as the teacher. Voila.
If you want your employees to talk with each other, knock down the walls. If they sit in ten different countries, use Skype and a video camera permanently attached to their computer so there’s no set-up time and it’s always sitting there, impossible to ignore. It makes a world of a difference.
In the case of food and fitness, you will likely need to clean out the pantry. Food that isn’t on your diet should go. If you have kids, or a spouse, this can be a bit of a chore – so clean out the foods YOU like and eat. My kids now prefer our diet, and eat more healthy food than junk food – just because it is in their environment.
Oh, and the lion that sat so royally on the rock at the top of the hill, day in and day out, for all the park visitors to see?
It turns out the rock he sat on was temperature controlled. It was warm on cold days, cool on hot days. No need to train the lion or tie him to the rock or hope he likes the view. Just make the rock a place he wants to sit.
AlphaX is a C level executive and unconventional philanderer who specializes in self development, human behavior, and seduction. He has been a writer for Askmen.com, SoSauve.com, ReturnOfKings.com as well as having been interviewed for Double Your Dating Interview Series by David DeAngelo, on the Advanced Dating Techniques DVD as well as the Cliff’s List DVD series.