As an NLP Master, I’m obviously a fan of this “mind training” methodology. I’ve been around it long enough to appreciate its subleties, complexities and simplicities. (Read: What is NLP)
But it wasn’t always like that. My first exposure to NLP was a real combination of disappointment and complete awe.
I had just picked up a new consultancy contract and was in Borders having a mooch around. An NLP book started glowing brightly from the business section. “Look at me! Look at me!” I went over to look and found Sue Knight promising me not only successful business but also successful living.
Well, I wasn’t going to turn that down. What better way to to test out NLP than by making myself be wonderful in my new job!
The Swish Technique “Fix”
In Reeta style, I rushed the book home, flicked through it and settled down to read. The book is full of tantalising exercises and very quickly I came across “The Swish”. I had no idea what it was but was enthused to give it a go with regards to my new job.
The exercise had me imagine how I wanted to be and anchor it to something I’d see every day just before entering the office.
Easy! I mustered up all my confidence, positivity and “can-do” energy until I could feel my entire body just bursting with sunshine. I decided to anchor this to the green door leading into my work building.
The Swish is a mind exercise where you do a series of super-fast switches of one thing with another. For me this was visualising the green door and immediately switching it for that “wonderful in my job” feeling. The idea is that when you do it like this the mind believes that what you are doing is actually true and the next time you see the green door, the mind is already “trained” to give you that great feeling.
Theoretically my anchor should make me feel like I’m bursting with sunshine every time I see this particular green door.
I went to work the next day eagerly anticipating the magic awaiting me at the door. To my dismay nothing happened. All I saw was a green door. No harps, no fireworks, nothing. It was just a plain green door in need of a lick of paint.
What a waste! Nothing to do but approach work the good old-fashioned way.
Months went by and turned into a couple of years. I did exceedingly well in my job. Had promotions, liked my colleagues and enjoyed going to work every day where I could do no wrong. It was all very nice but also all very normal. I was used to feeling good, why would things be any different?
Then we moved buildings.
I became dissatisfied and wanted more from my job. I couldn’t seem to settle. My eyes hurt. I found myself pointing out flaws in ideas without suggesting an alternative. I didn’t enjoy coming into this office which was modern and stark. I wanted to go back to the old building which had been more comfortable.
Yes, you’ve guessed it. The NLP “green door” Swish was no longer being activated. But back then I had no idea because I had forgotten about that exercise a long time ago. It took a few months before I made the connection and by then I had already told my manager that I would not be renewing my contract.
I was a bit shocked actually. Shocked that NLP had worked so effortlessly without me even having to have been aware of it. And shocked that NLP was such a temporary “fix” built on such shaky ground that a simple office move would collapse my behaviour.
Differentiate Between the Core Issue and Symptom
As I’ve always been interested in psychology and even then had a good grounding in behaviours, I was able to analyse the situation and work out that the real problem I have in corporate offices is the lighting. What I should have done is address that need, perhaps with a daylight lamp and used the NLP to reduce the negativity I have associated with being stuck indoors.
The clue perhaps was in my bringing in so much sunshine when I was doing the original Swish.
The “green door” fix was fun – not so much at the time when I didn’t even know it was working. But afterwards, when I saw how it had worked. The long-term solution is less glamorous. It involves analysis and facing things I don’t want to face. A bit boring too… lighting, is that it?!
The long-term solution needs precision first to find out what the real issue is. The advantage is that you’re NLPing a core issue and not simply the symptom.
I realised I needed a mentor, someone who could answer my questions and help me learn about NLP deeply. I got myself onto a proper full-syllabus, residential NLP course and learnt NLP from the ground up, slowly and thoroughly over the course of 18 months or so. I learnt that mastery in NLP lies in the groundwork, the things you have to uncover, isolate and identify before pulling out a technique from your bag of tricks.
NLP is not just about the techniques. NLP is a way of thinking, processing and allowing yourself to work the way you’re meant to work.
You don’t necessarily have to identify The Thing, a sense of it is often enough and the process of analysis can be surprisingly fast. Yet although it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time, it does take mental energy and focus.
Sometimes people don’t have the mental energy or focus to do things the thorough way. And that’s when a temporary quick-fix can be helpful. If it is used as a kick-start to get you moving while you sort out the real stuff in the back.
Whether or not you use NLP, do you have a way of identifying when you are using a quick fix?
PS: Check out Sue Knight’s NLP at Work: The Essence of Excellence, 3rd Edition (People Skills for Professionals) It was my introduction to NLP many years ago and it’s still going strong now.