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I walked into the kitchen and saw my wife sitting at the breakfast bar, staring into her coffee. Over the past couple of weeks, I had noticed that she had been a little more introspective and less engaged with everyday activities. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down beside her, saying nothing but sitting so close to her that we were almost touching.
After a few minutes of silence, she looked up at me and demanded, “What?” As tempted as I was to explain that I had said nothing, I took a sip of my coffee, looked into her eyes and asked her what she had been thinking about lately. After a huge sigh, she told me she feared being hurt by the wild seabirds if she tried to help those that were entangled in fishing line or had hooks in their beaks. It turns out that she wanted to be a volunteer with the Seabird Rescue Volunteers but had heard so many stories about injuries, especially eye injuries, that the volunteers had received during rescues that she could not think of anything else.
Changing how we think can remove self-limiting beliefs and empower us to take action in our lives that will create the satisfaction we yearn. NLP has a great model for changing our thinking from unresourceful to resourceful and involves just 3 Steps. It is all about creating alternative futures. Empowering futures requires empowering thinking and action; this requires empowering motivation.
Choosing What Thinking to Change
Before we can move through the steps of change, we need to be clear on what it is that we want to change.
For my wife, it was her fearful thinking about the dangers presented by the very creatures she wanted to help. She knew what she wanted, but her thinking prevented her from motivating to action. Based on the stories she had heard from current volunteers, whenever she thought of rescuing a bird, she saw their huge beaks, jabbing at her eyes or latching on to her fingers. This thinking was blocking her progress. Her need to intentionally motivate required a change in her thinking about the danger and the outcomes.
Now that we are clear on what thinking must change, we can proceed. It is important to remember that in most cases, we only wish to be the person we would like to be and, in practice, we fall a long way short of the pure desire that is required for our outcome. Now it is time to apply the alternate futures process to change your thinking.
Step 1 – List the Reasons Change is Necessary
To shift your thinking, it is vital to understand the why. In this first step, the idea is to make a list of all the reasons you consider this change of thinking to be necessary. Your list may include ‘Away From’ items such as avoiding health issues as well as ‘Towards’ items such as being able to run a marathon. When I asked my wife about her reasons for wanting to change her thinking she listed quite a few, this list is just a few of them.
- She would be able to help distressed birds
- It would connect her with a network of like-minded people
- She would feel better about herself•
- It would allow her to raise the awareness of others about the issues
Once she began making this list, the ideas really started to flow.
Step 2 – Imagine the Future if Your Thinking Does Not Change
Now that you are clear about the reasons to change, it is time to imagine the future that would exist if you did not make the change; this process is called Future Pacing. Imagine, in detail, the consequences of not making the change you are considering. Focus on the negative outcomes that you will inevitably suffer in the future. It is crucial to be as specific and detailed as possible to ensure you can see, hear and feel what it will be like to not achieve your goals.
For my wife, the future without change was quite upsetting. She saw larger-than-life, full-colour images of injured and tangled birds. She heard the pitiful cries of their distress, loud and very, very close. She spoke of feeling quite disappointed about who she was and of her sense of helplessness; She did not like this future.
During this stage, do not avoid the possibility of these negative things happening. If you remain unmotivated and do not change your thinking, these are real possibilities. Face them. Feel them. Move into an imagined future in which these are real. What’s life like for you?
Before moving to step 3, take some time to clear your head. Distract yourself for a minute or two so that you can break free from this thinking.
Step 3 – Imagine the Future Where You Did Change Your Thinking
In this step, we repeat the process of step 2 with one major difference. This time your vivid, future vision is all about the difference you will experience having made the change. Once again, be as specific and detailed as possible to ensure you can see, hear and feel what it will be like to live in a world where you have achieved your goals and are now living a deeply satisfying life.
This future presented many positive outcomes for my wife’s stuck state. She saw the suffering of distressed birds would continue and understood she could not possibly help them all. However, in this future, she had skills and knowledge that allowed her to be part of the solution. Being able to help ease suffering, being inspired and motivating others as a part of a community of like-minded people, and having a stronger sense of self-worth were also mentioned.
Now that you have worked your way through the 3 steps, it is time to allow yourself to be absorbed in the feeling of immense gratification and satisfaction that results from your future prospect back in the here and now.
Feeling the Future Now
If this process plays out as it typically does, you will experience your level of motivation to change increasing immediately. Your mind and body will have responded to the contrast in outcomes. You will be more motivated! In fact, it will be impossible not to be more motivated in the moment if you follow these instructions.
My wife experienced this transformation and began her volunteer training within the week. She learned how to mitigate the danger and to be a powerful advocate and influence on the fate of distressed seabirds. She has been on multiple rescues since we had our chat and is now a highly active member and cannot imagine her life without this wonderful community group.
NLP Practitioner Training provides us with the processes and skills to adjust our limiting beliefs and to enhance our thinking, which will enable us to achieve our goals and live more satisfying lives.