As you know, I am now nearly two months into my new life.
It sounds weird saying that, but that’s how I see it.
I have changed!
There are so many things that I am doing differently:
- Eating a healthy vegan diet
- Exercising regularly
- Stopped drinking and smoking
- Meditating every day
- Writing a book
That’s not bad for 8 weeks. I’m pretty proud of myself and I still actually reach over my shoulder and give myself a solid pat on the back every day. (I really do!)
But, the most fundamental change is not the things I am DOING (although they are very important!)…
…it is how I am THINKING that has had the biggest impact.
How do I know that?
Quit simply, I have tried before to make changes in my life. Usually on January 1st! LOL 😉 And every time, I managed around ten days before I would get disheartened and fall back on my old ways.
Sound familiar? I’m sure many people have had that very experience – possibly many times.
The difference this time is that as well as doing the right things, I am also thinking the right thoughts. That might sound like some form of self-indoctrination to you?
I was very suspicious of this at the start, but I had heard so many stories of people getting dramatic results from following these approaches, that I thought I’d have to have a closer look. After all, just trying hard to do the right things obviously hadn’t been enough to change my life in the past.
So I decided to try something different…
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
Now I am by not a real expert in this. However, I do work in education and have a good background in research, psychology and human development, so I already understood some of the key principles behind NLP.
I started by reading “The Secrets of Being Happy” by Richard Bandler and Garner Thompson. They are pioneers in NLP and I have to say that the book is a great read.
It has a good balance of the theory behind this approach and practical advice that you can follow to make changes in your life.
The main idea behind NLP is that our brains are plastic and we are able to reprogram them to have more useful thoughts. This is something that I was sceptical about at first. As a man in his 40s, I know how easy it is to get stuck in my ways and I assumed that my views and attitudes were firmly set.
It turns out I was wrong.
This is why I now know that change is not only possible, but now I understand how my mind works, it’s a conscious choice completely under my control.
That’s such an empowering thought! The idea that we can simply will ourselves to think differently and then take consistent action to achieve that change is very encouraging.
The book really is excellent, and I am not going to give a detailed breakdown of everything in it. But there are a number of activities that show you exactly how easy it is to alter your perspectives.
NLP in a Nut Shell
I had two big take-aways from reading this book and looking into NLP more broadly:
1). We can change our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and responses to be more positive and helpful to us.
This does not mean that we ignore the truth of a harsh, uncaring world and go through life like a grinning idiot, pretending that everything is fine and dandy.
It’s actually about not being blinded by preconceptions, past experiences, fear of the future, ingrained faulty beliefs and cultural programming.
2). The language we use not only demonstrates our thoughts and beliefs, it actually helps CREATE them.
This has had them most profound impact on me. I am now constantly monitoring the words I use when I speak to people. Am I being positive? Do my words show confidence and an expectation of success?
But it’s not only the words I speak to the world. I am also carefully monitoring the words I use in my thoughts. I’m sure we all have some sort of ongoing internal monologue that acts as a running commentary on the world.
What My Brain Used To Tell Me
“What is he doing? I don’t trust him. He must be trying to cheat me. I always get cheated by other people because the world is uncaring and evil. There’s no point me trying to do that, because I’m no good at this. I will just fail and every one will laugh at me. There’s no point in doing that. There’s no point in doing anything. It’s all just a pointless waste of time. I’m bored. I don’t know what I’m doing here etc…”
Sound familiar? I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has moments like this. Not every day, but variations on that theme played out in my head fairly regularly.
I’m not saying that I never have these thoughts now. But the thing is, I now notice when I do have negative and unhelpful thoughts and I use strategies to question my assumptions which help me to realise how negative and inaccurate much of my thinking had become.
I try to build spirals of upward positivity now – I take action, get some good results, feel better and more confident, take more action and feel even more confident etc.
So What’s My Head Saying To Myself Now?
“I am making real progress and I feel proud about that. Making a real effort to change is a challenge, but I am rising to it and showing real grit and determination. Pro-actively changing my life is making me feel truly alive, engaged and I have motivation and genuine hope for the future. I will succeed because I am doing the right things and thinking the right thoughts. I like being me again and life is good!”
I’m sure you see the difference. The interesting thing from my education perspective, is that both monologues adopt some linguistic tricks that help support their arguments. You will see logical connectives like ‘because’. Half the battle is noticing both WHAT you are saying as well as HOW you are saying it.
If we use language to persuade ourselves of our point of view, then surely it’s best to choose a good point of view? I don’t see that as any kind of negative indoctrination at all. It’s just about being aware of what we are thinking and saying and choosing to think and speak more helpfully.
I hope that helps to give you a taste of NLP and its benefits. Now check out the book!
Cheers for now,