[Article] Where do limiting beliefs come from?

Using NLP in coaching, I often find that the greatest barriers to a client’s success are in their own head. The term ‘limiting belief’ refers to a belief that limits a person’s perception of their world in a way that blocks important outcomes and possibilities.

For example, if a person believes, ‘I am not very clever’, that will impact their behaviour in many situations. They may avoid speaking up in meetings, consult other people before making decisions, feel intimidated by people who appear intelligent and even shy away from opportunities for promotion. This is obviously a limiting belief.

What may be less obvious is all beliefs are limiting.

We create our own limiting beliefs as part of our natural process of making sense of the world. Beliefs begin as a decision about the way the world works or our own place in it. Inevitably, many of these decisions are made in our accurately labelled ‘formative years’.

We also continue to acquire beliefs as we progress through life.  It’s called learning from experience.

Suppose you buy a second-hand car from the dealer up the road from you. I’m going to imagine it’s a Ford Focus (with apologies to all concerned). To begin with you like the car but then it starts to develop faults and more faults. It ends up costing you more in repairs than you paid to begin with.

What do you learn from this experience?  Here are few possibilities:

  • Never buy another car from that dealer
  • Never buy another second-hand car
  • Never buy another Ford Focus
  • Never buy another Ford
  • Never buy another American car
  • Never buy another car – switch to a bike instead
  • Never trust anything mechanical (Or as a friend of mine says, ‘If it’s got tyres or testicles it’s trouble’)

Or do you take a different view?

  • Never buy another car without investigating it thoroughly
  • Consult your petrol-head brother before you buy again
  • Always get your car on a lease arrangement
  • Get a job that provides a company car

Or perhaps…

  • I was just unlucky.  These things happen occasionally.

Or even…

  • I was just unlucky.  I’m always unlucky. (Ouch!)


So, which one becomes your new view of the world in the light of this experience? Oddly enough, it depends on your existing view of the world.

For example, if you already believe that most second-hand car dealers are not to be trusted, this experience will simply reinforce that point of view.

If you believe there is no difference between one car and another of the same model, you may end up boycotting that particular model or marque. It depends on the extent to which you generalise – which is a metaprogramme preference.

Notice that the first list of possible decisions revolve around a perception of, ‘you can’t trust a ________.’  These kinds of ‘learning insights’ are all expressions of a passive point of view. In NLP terms they’re ‘at effect’ rather than ‘at cause’.

If a person is ‘at cause’ they will make decisions that reflect their own part in the experience. If I’d done this differently, I‘d have got a different result – hence the decision may be about adopting a different process for choosing a second-hand car or bringing in someone more knowledgeable.

The final two possible decisions I listed avoid making any generalisation and reduce the incident to a one-off. The first, the ‘shit happens’ perspective assumes that it will probably never happen again.

The second, by contrast, is particularly powerful because it is an identity-level statement. This may be a one-off in relation to a second-hand car, but this decision focuses on the self and makes sense of this incident as part of a long history of other occasions when they have been unlucky. Can you see how this kind of belief becomes self-perpetuating? If you believe you’re unlucky, you’ll notice every tiny incident that could be an example of your bad luck. Without that belief you’d probably not even notice them.

Beliefs breed beliefs. So it’s not surprising that for many people, the turning point in a coaching programme is the point at which they’re able to leave behind some old, limiting beliefs and go forward with a different point of view.

It also explains why new ideas that appeal to you can sometimes be hard to bring to life. We sometimes see this on the NLP Practitioner programme. If someone has long-held beliefs that they are unlucky or stupid or undeserving, those beliefs will be challenged by learning NLP techniques that offer the opportunity to move forward and gain greater choice in life.

Sometimes the way this is rationalised is along the lines of, ‘I can see it works for other people, it just doesn’t work for me’ or ‘It will only work for me if I put in lots of effort and struggle really hard’.

I’m always on the lookout for this kind of thing so we can avoid it taking hold and make sure everyone forms a constructive and useful point of view about what they are learning.

Ultimately, we have choice about we believe to be true.  Especially when we use NLP!

[Video] The RTM Protocol

RTM stands for Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories. This is a treatment primarily for people suffering from PTSD and it was developed some years ago by a team working in the US, led by Dr Frank Bourke.

If you’ve done NLP, you would recognise the constituent parts of it, but it’s the way that it’s been put together that makes it so clever – it’s very precise and it’s very thorough and it gets incredible results.

Click here to visit the official RTM Protocol website.

[Article] Get out of your mind

Since I’ve been spending most of my time at home of late, and as I live alone, I’ve been spending a lot of time in my own head. It’s inevitable when you’re alone, that attention tends to be internal. In the absence of someone to talk to, most of us talk to ourselves.

That’s ok. It’s also beneficial to spend time in the privacy and solitude of your own mind if you spend most of your time with other people. The time to ‘digest’ our experiences helps with long term memory and enables us to learn.

But how much alone time is too much?

I figured I was spending too much time in my own head when I notched up the following demonstrations of absent-mindedness in the space of a few weeks:

I completely forgot about a telephone call I had planned with a colleague. It was in my diary but I hadn’t looked at my diary. Embarrassing!

I woke up one morning to discover I had slept in my contact lenses. Messy!

I was bagging up food to go in the freezer and realised I had no idea of the date. No idea. Scary!

Now, before you conclude that I’ve entered the early stages of dementia, just ask yourself if you’ve done more of this kind of thing of late too. I’ve asked a few people and the answer has always been yes.

It’s because a lot of us are spending too much time in our own heads. We have a reduced connection to the here-and-now and reduced awareness of the passing of time.

The antidote?

Get out of your mind and come to your senses! (That’s built on a quote from Fritz Perls – ‘lose your mind and come to your senses’)

You can ‘come to your senses’ via any activity that requires you to engage with the external world. Go for a walk and pay attention to what you see and hear. Get in the kitchen and start cooking or baking, pay attention to the recipe, to the ingredients, to the taste. Talk to another person. If you can’t do it ‘in person’ then the phone is ok, but give your full attention to what the other person is saying. Avoid doing other tasks as you chat.

You get the idea? Paying attention to what you can see, hear, feel, taste or smell brings you out of the conceptual world in your mind and grounds you in the here and now. Notice the date and time while you’re here…

Feel free to post in the comments with your own indicators that you’ve been in your head too much.

[Video] Guided Tour of Brilliant Minds Online Academy

Recorded at the launch of the Brilliant Minds Online Academy in May 2020, in this video Dianne takes a group of clients on a ‘guided tour’ of the courses available. You see the overview of the programmes, hear Dianne’s explanation of the content and you also see example modules from each. You get a thorough understanding of what’s on offer.

Click here to check out the Brilliant Minds Online Academy for yourself.

[Video] Fairness

As well as being the F in the SCARF model which you’ve heard me talk about on numerous occasions, fairness is a topic that seems to be quite current. I’ve been hearing people talk about the experience of furlough in their organisation and, at the beginning of lockdown, there were people whose colleagues were furloughed and they were not…

It got me thinking about what we mean by fairness.

[Article] Maximise your influence

In his book ‘Human Motivation’, the researcher David McClelland identified three main types of motivation:

Achievement motivation – means that a person is motivated by their own achievements.  They are competitive, either with themselves or with others and they like to see steady improvements in their achievements.

Affiliation motivation – means that the person is motivated by affiliation with others.  They like to belong to a group and to have good relationships with the people around them.  They enjoy contributing to other people’s happiness and wellbeing.

Power motivation – means that the person is motivated by their own power to make things happen.  They want to ‘make a difference’ and to influence what happens around them.  They don’t have to succeed at everything, but they do like to be in on the latest developments.

McClelland goes on to say that most of us are motivated by a combination of 2 or 3 of these types of motivation.

With my NLP/LAB Profile hat on, I’d say that we’re probably motivated by different things in different contexts.

Whichever way you look at it, there’s going to be a majority of us that are motivated by Power – or Influence if you prefer – at least some of the time.

So, how DO you gain influence?

If you’re trained in NLP, you’re probably already ahead of me.  “Easy”, you say. “To gain influence with another person, you just need to be in rapport.  Then you can lead the other person to do what you want them to do.”

That’s true, if what you want them to do is slow down, stand up, be quiet or hand you a newspaper.  Those kind of simple behavioural leads work very effectively.

But what if you want the other person to give you a pay rise, fund your professional development, vote for you in an election or recommend your services to their network?

If the other person is going to be making a conscious decision, your influence strategy needs to be more comprehensive.  This is where your knowledge and expertise comes in:

Expertise + Rapport = Influence

The person you want to influence is much more likely to follow your lead if they believe that you ‘know your stuff’.  If you are a trusted source of reliable information and guidance, then the other person will follow your lead much more often.  And this can only happen if you not only DO know your stuff, but you can also explain your thinking clearly to someone who doesn’t share your level of knowledge.  Without patronising.

And notice, Influence is not the same as Control.

When you have influence with another person, it doesn’t mean that they will ALWAYS follow your lead.  It means that they will often do so.

When you have true influence, if the other person doesn’t follow your lead, they have clear reason why and those reasons do not detract from your influence at another time.

So, how do you gain influence?

If you want long-lasting influence, you work at two things.

  1. Your knowledge, expertise and ability to communicate your thoughts
  2. Your rapport skills

I’m sure you can think of people you know or have seen in the media, who have great rapport skills, great communication skills but very short-lived influence because they didn’t know enough or were driven by unusual values.

Equally, you can probably think of people you turn to with complete confidence because they have given good counsel over a number of years.

Which one do you want to be like?

[Video] LAB Profile and Learning

Today I want to show you how you can apply the LAB Profile to the whole subject of learning. What’s been happening in recent times is that many people have been discovering lots of different methods of learning, with virtual methods obviously coming to the fore. Some people seem to really thrive on that and others are finding it difficult. And some of this is probably related to two important LAB Profile patterns…

If you’d like to know more about the LAB Profile and learn how to use it yourself, click here to find out about the LAB Profile training we offer.

[Article] “So, NLP – is it a load of b******s, or what?”

Some experiences will stay with me forever.  Back in 2002, I participated in a residential ‘meet the buyer’ event. It was my first time at this kind of sales opportunity and I was keen to make sure I gained a return on my investment.

With that in mind, I’d studied the advance information about the buyers who would be present and made notes for the scheduled one-to-one meetings across the two days. All well-prepared, I settled in to enjoy the speakers, the company and the general conversation.

At dinner after the first day of meetings and speakers, I found myself sitting beside someone who was very definitely on my target list. He represented a technical organisation that employed some of the best brains in the industry and I just knew that our style would suit them.

I’d already come to the conclusion that talking business over dinner wasn’t a good idea. Added to that, this person was showing signs of being a fairly introverted personality type and wasn’t joining in much of the general chat around the table. I initiated some fairly low-key conversation with him and soon we were chatting away very comfortably.

I enjoyed his company and had forgotten that this man was one of my main targets for sales. Probably a good thing!

The following day we had a pre-planned meeting scheduled and as I took my place at the table allocated for the two of us, he launched straight in with,

“So, Dianne, NLP – is it a load of b******s, or what?”

If I hadn’t warmed to him over dinner the previous evening I might have been offended at that. I was a little alarmed, I hadn’t banked on my prime target already being anti-NLP.

So I took a deep breath and began,

“I don’t know. Maybe if I tell you some of the ways we use it…” he nodded and I continued with my description of some of the client projects we’d undertaken and the results they yielded. I talked a bit about some of the individuals I’d coached and brought through mental blocks or difficult emotional baggage, concluding with,

“So, does that sound like a load of b*******s, or what?” Being nicely brought up I would not normally have used such language to a client (and my mother would be very shocked to know I had) but in the spirit of maintaining rapport I knew I had to mirror the language.

To my immense relief he smiled and said, “No, not at all”.

As a result of that meeting, I coached several of his business leaders over a period of about four years. A great outcome, but I’ll never forget that opening line.

Some while afterwards (as is often the case) I thought of a much better response I could have given:

“Is NLP a load of b******s? Yes, it is.  It’s the dog’s b******s!!”

[Video] Digital vs In Person

When the UK went into lockdown and we all migrated our meetings onto Zoom and Teams and various other platforms, one of the things I said was that there was perhaps one good thing that might come out of this. If we were all forced to use these virtual media, then we might get a better sense of what they’re good for, and what they’re not so good for.

So here we are, some months down the line and we’ve certainly had a go at all sorts of things online. What do we think?

[Article] Dealing with criticism

I’m often asked about how to give feedback. It’s much less often that anyone raises the issue of how to deal with receiving feedback, especially when it feels like criticism.

Last week someone posted a comment on the Brilliant Minds blog, in which they told me that they had been reading/watching my blog posts for some time and that I seemed to be saying the same things over and over and didn’t have any new ideas.  (They also said they were going to unsubscribe, so I don’t expect that person to be reading this!)

Do I care? Yes, of course I do! I like to think that I’m giving my readers high value material every week. It’s true, there are some common themes, but that’s just to remind you – and me – of the success factors that never go away.  The things we have to keep doing all the time.

So yes, that comment stung a bit.

Have you ever noticed that you have a better memory for the critical comments than for the supportive ones? Most of the trainers I talk to about this agree that one negative comment in a pile of glowing feedback can easily ruin a weekend! That single dissenting voice in a crowd of fans is the one that claims – and keeps – my attention more often than not.

So why is it?

Criticism tells us we didn’t get something exactly right. It tells us we have room for improvement. Maybe something to learn. The emotional sting that goes with it is a marker that keeps the memory of the criticism alive until we have answered the critic and restored our sense of our own abilities.

But have you ever felt robbed of your confidence or energy by a critical remark? What do you do in the face of feedback that festers in your mind and fosters a feeling of failure?

One of my friends showed me a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which he used to bolster his ability to ignore the critics and refocus on his own purpose:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Great quote, right?

When I get criticism I do three things:

Firstly, I consider whether or not I think the criticism is justified: entirely, partly, slightly or not at all. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but respecting someone else’s ‘map of the world’ doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. I find it’s best to do this once the first sting of the criticism has faded. In NLP terms, it’s easiest to do this in a meta-position, a dissociated state.

Secondly, I decide what action to take. It may be that I want to answer the critic in person; I may decide I want to improve my performance in some way; occasionally I might decide to stop doing something. This decision is important because that’s how I move on. Once I’ve decided how to respond, I’ve made use of the feedback and I can forget about it.

Thirdly, I take action and monitor the results. Sometimes, one person makes a criticism that speaks for many other people as well. In those cases, the actions taken might create a wave of positive feedback. Sometimes the critic is a lone voice and no-one else notices the changes I’ve made. One way or another, the results of my actions form useful feedback.

In reflecting on how I handle criticism, I’m reminded how important it is that managers in particular know how to give feedback in a constructive manner. Badly-prepared feedback can end up as brutal criticism and can de-motivate a person for hours, days or weeks, depending on their ability to deal with criticism.

So, next time you feel like criticising someone, stop and think. What do you actually want to achieve? What’s the best way of going about it?

And if all else is irrelevant, remember what your mother used to say (well, mine did anyway), “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut”.

[Article] Choice and control – a window on my world

The time had come. I had to make a plan, make some decisions, get the ball rolling. I had already put it off several times and I knew I was only going to create a bigger headache if I left it any longer.

The question – how to deliver NLP Practitioner training in 2020?

Let’s step back a few months. In February I ran Module One of a programme that was intended to carry on to June. In March, I put it on hold. We were in lockdown, it just wasn’t possible. And it was a small group so we needed everyone involved if it was to go on any further. Could we have carried on using virtual technology? With hindsight, maybe we could, but at the time it didn’t seem practical and I was assuming we could resume our ‘in person’ sessions fairly soon.

Four months on, it still wasn’t clear to me whether running workshops at my usual venue was going to be possible. And if it wasn’t, was I willing to adapt NLP Practitioner to be delivered on-line? I had a lot of questions…

Firstly, would the hotel be open? Would it be COVID-secure? Would they be open to conferences and events or just leisure guests?

It turned out that they are open, they are accepting conference bookings and they have very good COVID protocols in place.

Secondly, assuming the hotel could support us would people come to a course?

I rang around a selection of HR Directors and canvassed opinions. They were diverse – predictably. Some said yes, if the venue was safe to open then they’d allow their staff to come to the course. Others said it was academic because their business had suffered financially and they had to ‘tighten their belts’. Others said they were staying in lockdown for now. One had an embargo on all travel.

Thirdly, how easy would it be to deliver NLP using virtual means only?

I’m a Master Trainer of NLP. I can be flexible. Virtual delivery might not be ideal, but it’s way better than nothing. I have a good e-learning platform and some capability with zoom. I’m okay about talking to a camera. How hard can it be?

But still the questions persisted. What I really wanted to do was to deliver the training ‘in person’ at the hotel, the way I usually do. It just didn’t seem that it would work. What if there was a second wave and a second lockdown?What was the fall-back position? Was I just being a Luddite and refusing to accept the inevitable?

I knew I had to commit to a plan so I sat down with a large sheet of paper, my ubiquitous coloured pens and a large mug of tea and started to empty my head. Within 20 minutes the decision was made.

I realised that I had many options about to deliver NLP Practitioner training in 2020. There was only one option that was entirely under my control and gave me the chance to do a really great job for my clients. The virtual option. It’s the only way I can make a plan and know that nothing will get in the way of it.

So here’s the plan:

I’ve fixed the days in the same pattern as the original programme. Module One is three days, Modules Two-Four are five days each and Module Five is the two days for assessment and certification.

However, the days will not be eight-hour marathons on zoom. It will be a ‘blended learning’ approach with some material available for self-study and some done ‘live’ on zoom. I’m still working on the exact programme and it’s going to take a while to get everything in place, but I’m enjoying the challenge. It’s been a while since I‘ve designed a major programme like this and it’s a great opportunity to re-visit the content and re-evaluate the exercises and examples.

If you’d like to join in, you can get the details here: https://www.brilliantminds.co.uk/executive-nlp-practitioner/


You don’t have to commit to the whole programme, you can sign up for Module One and then see how you feel about carrying on to Module Two.

You’ll find the details for Module One here: https://www.brilliantminds.co.uk/module-one/

[Article] When the first flush of enthusiasm wears off

We’ve all done it.  Started the year, month, week or even the day full of big plans and enthusiasm only to find that the goal was more challenging than expected and that the initial enthusiasm wasn’t enough to carry us through to successful completion.

What to do then?

Here are some thoughts about how to stay productive and how to succeed at the difficult things.

1. Start with why

Simon Sinek was right.  You have to start with WHY.  Why are you undertaking this project, task, goal, job or contract?  Many years ago, as a member of a voluntary organisation I undertook the preparatory training of all the incoming chapter Presidents for one year.  As part of the training weekend I gave them each a bright yellow card.  The heading at the top read,

“The reasons I am taking on the role of President:”

I asked them to complete the card and to take it home and put it somewhere special.  “There will come a day when you ask yourself – Why did I agree to do this? That’s when you go and get this card and study it” I told them.

It worked.  The organisation saw fewer mid-term resignations than usual that year.

Your turn.  What are the goals you’ve got bogged down with, the tasks you’ve lost enthusiasm for or the projects that have slid down to the bottom of the priority list?  Ask yourself, “What are the benefits I will see when I succeed at this?”  “Why did I originally want to do it?”

Sometimes, the world has changed so much since you made the plan that it’s no longer relevant to pursue that outcome.  More often it’s simply a matter of remembering why it’s important and you’ll rekindle the enthusiasm.

2. Know your preferences

Do you prefer to focus on one thing at a time or are you more productive when you have multiple projects running?  It’s important to know this about yourself.

Linked to cognitive styles and your preferred hemisphere, there’s a real personality difference here.  Left-brainers usually prefer to work on one project and see it through to the end before starting the next one.  Right-brainers often do better with multiple projects and regular shifts in the type of work.

If you’re more left-brained and you find yourself running out of motivation for a task or project, you might regain some enthusiasm by re-visiting the overall plan.  The complete story will usually be more exciting than the particular bit you’ve reached right now.  Seeing how each stage sets up the next and the way the result build up to the successful conclusion is often all that’s needed to get a left-brained thinker back on track.

If you’re more right-brained in your approach, you may find that switching to another project and doing something completely different is the way to stay productive.  If that’s the case for you, you may find it helpful to plan a period of time with two or three major projects running concurrently.  When your enthusiasm for one begins to ebb, you can switch to another and give yourself a change of pace or style for a while and still work on important tasks.

3. Plan your rewards

When you achieve a significant goal or complete an important project you may feel that is a reward in itself.  That may be true.  However, if you are finding it tough to sustain the level of activity that will get you the results you want, consider building in some form of reward.

For example, you might plan to reward yourself when the whole project is done.  The reward could be some time off to make a trip somewhere enjoyable.  That doesn’t have to mean an exotic foreign holiday – it could simply be an afternoon in the local park or a weekend visiting a special friend or relative.  This can then serve the dual purpose of rewarding your achievement and relaxing before you start the next big thing.

Perhaps more usefully, you could build in more regular rewards for achieving smaller tasks that contribute to your overall goals.  A half-hour break for a cup of coffee and a chat with a colleague might be a good reward for something that’s had you focused at your desk for 2 hours or more.  Treating yourself to some new music or a movie could be the reward for making a series of phone calls or selling a certain amount of products.  Setting aside an evening to spend on a neglected hobby or to meet up with a friend might feel like a good compensation for reaching a milestone in your major goals.

The important thing to consider is what makes you feel good.  What would you enjoy looking forward to?  What would motivate you to stick at the current task so that you could complete it and enjoy your reward?

4. Don’t suffer in silence

There are times for all of us when we feel overwhelmed by either the amount of work we’ve taken on or the challenging nature of that work.   When that happens, you may be inclined to hunker down and try to work through the problem on your own.  That doesn’t always work.  In fact, most people find that once they get into that state of feeling overwhelmed, they become less and less productive.

So what’s the answer?  Talk to someone.

If you have a coach, that’s easy.  Your coach is on your side and will help you think through the difficulties and re-focus on the important tasks.  That kind of conversation will break you out of the overwhelm and put things back in proportion.

If you don’t have a coach, talk to a friend or colleague you trust.  (And make a note to find a coach for the future!)  Two heads really are better than one and sometimes just the process of explaining your difficulty to someone else will begin to make it clearer to you.


…and finally


If you’ve done all of the above and you’re still not making any progress, call it a day.  Go home, relax, do something you enjoy and accept that you’re not perfect.  Recognise that you can begin again tomorrow and the fact that today wasn’t as productive as it could have been isn’t the end of the world.

The real secret of success is not to give up.  In NLP we say, ‘there’s no failure – only feedback’.  George Bernard Shaw put it more eloquently:

“In a good cause there is no failure, only delayed success”