[Article] A Good Read

I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. My older sister says she taught me to read as soon as she learned, which would mean I was not yet three years old when the mysteries of the written word began to be revealed to me.

Whether or not that’s true – and you and I know that early memories are far from reliable – I do remember reading aloud fluently to the teacher in my first week at school, and wondering at the others around me who stumbled and mumbled and made no sense of the words on the page.

Perhaps that’s why I’m a compulsive reader. I read everything. Books, newspapers, junk mail, the back of the cereal packet, billboards, road signs, public notices, planning notices and menus. Very little passes under my eyes without being read.

And novels. Everything from Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy through JRR Tolkein and George RR Martin to Bernard Cornwell, Iris Murdoch and Margaret Attwood.

For me, there isn’t much that beats the pleasure of a good book. I love to lose myself completely in a story. As a child, I used to read under the bedcovers at night. As a student, I would reward myself for ploughing through academic papers and text books by stealing an hour to read fiction.

An unhealthy obsession? A waste of time? A distraction?

Actually, I think not. (Well, I wouldn’t be writing about it if I thought it was a problem, would I?)

A large part of the learning we do as human beings is learning to live in social groups. We live in interdependent societies and unless, as individuals, we are able to cope with other people we are at a disadvantage.

Stories are part of the fabric of human history. Every culture and civilisation has its myths, legends and stories of everyday folk. These metaphors of everyday life teach us about others and – less obviously – about ourselves.

In NLP the power of metaphor has been demonstrated over and over again. A great story slides under psychological defences and engages directly with the deeper levels of the mind. What seems to the conscious awareness to be ‘just a story’ is taken much more personally at the below conscious levels.

Metaphor delivers subtle learning and intuitive insight. Reading offers a glimpse into the world of the writer – not just in the invention of the story, but in the use of words. Every writer puts together the language in their own unique style, giving the reader a privileged insight into the workings of the writer’s mind.

This is my justification – if I needed  one – for a lifetime of reading fiction and a dining room full of books:

Reading a novel gives the reader an alternative view of life. However divorced from current reality the story may appear to be, it speaks to our essential nature and leads the reader to explore new possibilities and different perceptions. It fills out our understanding of what it means to be human.

So, what have you been reading over the summer?

[Article] Motivation re-visited

Every business leader wants their people to be motivated. Preferably to do what the leader wants them to do!

There have been a lot of wise words written – and backed up by research – about what motivates people. In NLP we’re also interested in how people are motivated. That is, we look at the thought processes that create motivation.

You may be familiar with the idea of Towards and Away From motivation.

Towards motivation is the kind of motivation that is focused around the positive benefits of a particular course of action. “If I do this, I get something I want.”

Away From motivation is focused around avoiding something undesirable. “If I do this, I’ll avoid something I don’t want.”

Because of this, some people regard Away From motivation as negative and less effective than Towards motivation. But the point is, both ways of thinking produce motivation – they create the drive to do something.

It’s been pointed out to me that Away From motivation peters out once the worst has been avoided. That can mean that someone using an Away From motivation strategy can end up not achieving very much – just avoiding a lot of problems!

I’ve often been asked how to change a habit of Away From motivation for one of Towards motivation.

And yet…

Some of the most successful and goal-oriented people I’ve met are Away From motivated.

I started digging a bit deeper to figure out how that works.  And this is what I discovered:

It’s all to do with the time frame someone uses.

If you are focusing on the present, then once the immediate problem or discomfort ends, the motivation will run out. If you are focusing on the future, it’s a different matter.

A lot of very successful people are driven by the need not to fail in achieving their goals. That need to not fail keeps them working hard until the goal is achieved.

In the same way, Towards motivation that is present-oriented will have you lounging on the sofa, eating chocolate or drinking beer – because it feels good now!

Towards motivation that is future oriented will keep you working towards your goals, even if it’s painful today, the rewards will come tomorrow or next week or next month.

The key to success is not in the style of motivation you habitually use, it’s in the time frame that gets most of your focus.

[Video] Introversion and Extraversion

I’ve always been interested in personality types, in fact I did part of my degree in Personality Psychology. So to start to explain what personality is all about is quite a big task. But there are some aspects of personality that are quite easy to spot, and if you can spot them they can be helpful in explaining some of the reasons why people behave and react differently from you in given circumstances. Just having an appreciation of some of those differences can really help in getting the best out of your working relationships with colleagues. One of the most obvious dimensions of personality is that of introversion and extraversion.














[Article] Learning for adults

Very few of us are taught how to learn. As a small child learning is as natural as breathing. The world is full of new experiences and objects to discover and we are constantly adding to our store of knowledge, skills and memories.

We go to school and the process continues, except that now we are surrounded by other children and we’re all supposed to be learning the same things at the same time. Some thrive in this environment and others find it challenging. The amount we learn varies.

At the end of ‘full-time education’ we celebrate. No more lessons, no more homework, no more exams! Fantastic!

And then, after a little time or a lot, we realise that we still have a lot to learn…

So, as an adult, how do you learn? There may be opportunities to attend a class and learn as part of a group, recalling your schooldays for good or ill. More than likely, a lot of learning goes with your job – you learn from experience or from a colleague. Maybe you hunt out information on the internet – ‘Google is your friend’ people say, or ‘Just YouTube it’ (when did YouTube become a verb?)

All very well, but do you know what actually works for you? What makes it easy for you to absorb new information, assimilate new experiences or extrapolate from one incident so judge what might happen in the future?

Here’s a way of finding out:

Take some time out, probably about half an hour. Equip yourself with pen and paper and some form of liquid sustenance and get out of your normal environment – somewhere you can have some uninterrupted privacy.

Write a list of 5-10 things you have learned as an adult, that you learned easily and enjoyed learning as well as finding the resulting knowledge or skill valuable.

Divide the list into knowledge and skills – there might be different factors involved that it would be useful to see.

For each one, write down the process you went through to learn it. Recall as much detail as you can. What motivated you to start learning this? How did you go about it? How did you know when you’d ‘got it’?

Take a break, enjoy your liquid sustenance and the knowledge that you have successfully learned all this.

Now, look at the processes and seek out the patterns. Are there some common factors in what motivated you to learn? Are there patterns in the way you went about it? Any common features? How do you test your learning?

From this, you can probably figure out your own strategy for learning, which means that next time you have something new to learn, you’ll know the best way to go about it!

Everyone learns in their own way, at different speeds, at different times for different reasons. However you do it, is right for you. The important thing is to keep learning.

[Video] Available Resources

One of my favourite presuppositions of NLP says that people are doing the best they can with the resources they have available, and the reason I like that is because I find it useful in lots of different circumstances. The NLP sense of the word resources includes not just the tangible resources that you might have; like time and budget and so on… it’s also your personal resources. So things like your energy and enthusiasm, your knowledge, your dedication – all of your internal abilities…

[Article] 7 keys to successful planning and goal-setting

1. Think BIG!
If your goal isn’t a challenge and doesn’t represent an important achievement for you it’s unlikely that you’ll be motivated enough to sustain the effort required to complete it. Forget all that SMART goals stuff about ‘realistic’ and ‘achievable’. That pattern was devised for setting goals for other people who work for you in a big organisation. All the research shows that people set much more challenging goals for themselves than the goals others set for them.  It’s all to do with choice, I think.

2. Look at your whole life.
If you only have goals and plans for your working life, that’s where you’ll tend to spend all your time. If you have important goals outside of work, they will focus attention outside of work as well. If you want a balanced life, make plans for all aspects of life.  Remember to include your nearest and dearest in the planning for goals that affect your life outside of work.

3. Get clear about why each goal is important to you.
Your values drive your behaviour so your goals need to connect with your values if you are to take the necessary actions to achieve them. If the goal isn’t really important, it’s unlikely you’ll achieve it unless it can be done quickly and easily – and where’s the satisfaction in a goal like that? For each of your goals, ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?” and “What will that do for me?” Keep asking the questions until you’re clear about what each goal means to you.

4. Work out how you can achieve the goal.
Or at least, what are the first few actions you can take that will get you started. Sometimes the entire path isn’t clear at first, so don’t allow that to be a barrier to getting started. Identify the best way to make some initial progress and plan in time to work out the later steps as you go along. You may not know how to do something, you may need to do some research or take lessons to learn a new skill, but there is always something you CAN do to get going.

5. When you make your plans…
Set aside specific time slots to do the activities that will move you closer to each of your goals. This could be a regular time of the day, week or month, depending on the goal.  If your life doesn’t lend itself to lots of routine, simply make a list of the amount of time needed for each activity and then allocate each activity to a specific time each day, week or month.  The key here is to make sure that you are making regular progress towards your goals.

6. Write your goals down and keep them somewhere you will see them often.
In your diary or time planner, your wallet, as a reminder on your phone or tablet or a poster on the wall of your office, kitchen or favourite place to think. Some people like a visual representation of the goal, others prefer the words. Experiment to find out which is most motivating for you.

7. Build into your plan plenty of time for ‘standing back’ and taking stock of your progress. 
As well as reviewing the plan, amending it and also celebrating your successes along the way. You’ll need to keep track of how well you’re doing if you’re going to sustain the activities for a big, long-term goal. Equally, avoid checking progress so often that you can’t see any changes. Keep the intervals long enough that you can see you’ve achieved something every time.