Monday, 15 September 2014

Motivational seminars or peaceful retreats: what if it’s not either-or?

Personal development. Happier living. Successful achievement. Learning. Some people like pump-you-up motivational seminars and action-oriented coaching for these things. Others swear by peaceful retreats. Shall the twain never meet?

I just finished spending a fantastic weekend with advanced hypnosis speaker Michael Perez as a guest of the equally talented Nina Madden, talking about brain function and how knowledge of functional neurology can lead to less haphazard and more systemic, targeted hypnosis.

During this conversation, Michael talked about his knowledge of functional neurology—how it is made up of mutually inhibiting subsystems. Before you think I’m talking about some kind of inner civil war in which these subsystems fight and clearly needs a peace settlement, let me point out that one such pair is sleep and wakefulness. You wouldn’t want to sleep all the time and you’d die if you were awake all the time. You also wouldn’t want to be perpetually half-asleep and half-awake either, just as it would be horrible to be half-hungry and half-full all the time. So, it’s not about holding these systems in static, oppositional balance. A functional neurology works in cycles.

Let me introduce two words to you: “stress” and “phoria”.

In brain terms, stress doesn’t mean freaking out, it simply means the brain at work; driven by motivation to manifest something. That’s where we’re moving to where we’re going rather than resting where we are. Phoria is the brain at rest.

Now let me introduce you to two prefixes: “eu-” (simplistically, “good”); and “dis-” (simplistically, “bad”).

This gives us:

Euphoria: “good” resting; peace; happy, satisfied recovering.

Disphoria: “bad” resting; depressed; apathetic.

Eustress: “good” working; motivated; energetic; productive.

Distress: “bad” working; anxious; panic.

These brain states cycle under mutual inhibiting subsystems. Typically, euphoria cycles with eustress and disphoria cycles with distress, though we can also “jump track” from one cycle to the other. Let me illustrate that here. The solid lines illustrate the typical cycle and the dashed lines represent how we can jump track.


I must point out at this stage that distress and disphoria are not unhealthy as long as they are temporary and there is a return to the “good” track. In fact, distress and disphoria can be essential to survival in some contexts.

Let me introduce you to Bob. Bob works hard but he lacks vision and can’t make ends meet. He gets distressed and despondent. A friend invites him to a motivational seminar to kick him out of his apathy and get him reaching for more motivating goals. He goes. He loves it. He now has the tools to make the jump from disphoria to eustress.

The trouble is, Bob doesn’t see that what he did was a useful intervention to achieve that particular jump at that particular time. He becomes evangelical about pumping yourself up and even when he’s in eustress, he pumps himself up even more, to go over the top and stress himself harder and longer to achieve even bigger things. One day, having gotten progressively more tired, he makes the jump into distress. He gets frustrated and breaks into tears. He goes home and slides into disphoria.

Another friend recommends that Bob should take a peaceful retreat, where he and others with be in the country, free of toxins and learning to marvel at simple nature. He enrols and discovers that the peace he learns to experience enables him to experience euphoria again. Enjoying this state so much, he tries to live in euphoria all the time, resisting all inner urges to do productive work and reach for goals. With no eustress to recover from, however, his peace gradually slides into apathy and he experiences disphoria again.

He goes back to the motivational seminar.

Now, for the record, I’m not saying motivational seminars or peaceful retreats are bad. I’m not suggesting one is right and one is wrong. I actually think both types of even can be very powerful and life changing.

My point here is that we try to suppress the natural cycles of stress and phoria at our peril. In disphoria, a motivational seminar may be the useful intervention to nudge us into eustress rather than distress. In distress, peaceful retreating may be the useful nudge into euphoria rather than disphoria. Beyond that, any trying to control the natural cycles in the system—an inherently self-correcting system—is to simply get in the way and stop up the works.

What about spiritual practice?

Neither motivational seminar, peaceful retreat is truly a spiritual practice if we use them as interventions. Truly spiritual practices are about being at peace with the flow and our natural self-correcting cycles. There is nothing inherently anti-spiritual about being motivated and having goals or at least intentions resulting in work. What a spiritual practice may do, however, is help us see the difference between what we truly want and need to do as opposed to what we ‘think’ we want and need to do. And spiritual practices are practices rather than interventions.

This brings me to a motto you may have heard from me before when I talk about self-help addiction: the highest art of intervention is to intervene as little as necessary, not as much as possible.

I owe my friend and teacher Michael Perez a great big thanks for sharing his knowledge which helped me articulate this today. I recommend all who wish to understand functional neurology in support of coaching, hypnosis and personal change, seek him out.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Steve

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Bandler and Grinder didn't give us an over-arching structure for creating change with NLP. Or did they?

This post is inspired by a conversation and it's aimed at intermediate NLP practitioners and above.


How do you do coaching and change work?

Activities such as coaching, creating change, goal setting and problem solving can seem amorphous when we're not already skilled with them. How do you teach something so amorphous?

One solution—one—is to break such tasks down into small, simple chunks which we can sequence into some kind of guide, a bit like a recipe. Then we can turn the chunks into an acronym that makes it easy to remember. Simple.

Some examples:

SMART—a guide to setting effective goals.
Make the goal specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time based; or specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based(It depends on which school of SMART you went to.)
(You can read more about my thinking on SMART here.)

TGROW—a guide for coaching.
Establish the client's topic for this coaching; clarify the client's goal for this coaching; establish the reality of where the client is relative to this goal; stimulate the creation of options; establish the way forward.

Now, I know acronym based models like these bring up different thoughts in different people. Some of you are huge fans of them and see them as eminently helpful. You may see them as useful as a learner tool, like stabilizing wheels on a learner's bicycle. Or you may see them as dreadfully simplistic and linear. Some of you will like some acronym based models and not others. Well, the merits are not what I want to explore today. I'm just acknowledging that there will be a variety of responses among you. Right now, I only want to establish that there are such acronym based models; and that people seek them out to give order and structure to their work.

They are sought as an antidote to the amorphous.


Are there similar guiding structures in Neuro-Linguistic Programming?

Creating change with NLP can seem amorphous too. And, yes, there sure are such acronym based models for creating change with NLP. I've listed two of the best known ones below.

SCORE—developed by Robert Dilts.
Establish the symptoms and distinguish them from the causes; establish the desired outcome of the change sessions; identify and add the resources that would be useful to move forward and create that outcome; and map out the effects of change.

RESOLVE—developed by Richard Bolstad.
Enter a resourceful state yourself; establish rapport; specify the outcome; open up the client's model of the world; lead the client to change; verify the change; and exit with ecology.

By the way—and not that it matters—but notice how Dr. Bolstad's model is mostly led by the verbs—the doing words—whereas Mr. Dilts' goes after the 'nominalizations'—the pseudo-objects like 'symptom' and 'cause'. Like I said, it doesn't matter and it doesn't imply anything about what's better or worse, it's just interesting to note and maybe gives insight into the developers' preferences for how they model concepts in their minds.

Now, again, I'm not talking about the merits of these models today. I'm still just establishing that there are acronym based models in NLP too; and that people seek them to order and structure their work in NLP too.

Putting all this to one side now, what I really want to do today is reply to a point made in that conversation I mentioned right at the start. Which is:
"Bandler and Grinder gave us lots of great tools to work with, but they didn't give us any structure for the over-arching process of creating change!"

So, did Bandler and Grinder give us an overall structure for creating change with NLP?

I think they did. It's just that in classic Bandler and Grinder style it wasn't linear and it wasn't something you could reduce to an acronym. And in a way which is perhaps more typical of Bandler than Grinder, it wasn't especially explicit either.

The 'big chunk', over-arching structure for creating change with NLP is a conjunction of several models. That conjunction creates something more three dimensional.

The back-bone of this structure for creating change is really the TOTE model.

TOTE—a model of how we "feed-back" our way to outcomes.
We start with the opening test or trigger which triggers the process of wanting to shift from the present state to a desired state or outcome. We perform operations to move to the desired state. We continuously test where we are relative to the outcome and whether we're getting closer or further away; and we exit when we have succeeded or when we run out of choices.

Edit: I'm reminded by my friend and trainer Gabe Guerrero that I forgot to give attribution here. I'm retrospectively adding that TOTE was developed by Pribram, Miller & Gallanter and is something that was brought into NLP both as a tool in mapping behavioural strategies and as a model for iteratively working towards change outcomes.

Now, what's presupposed by the TOTE model?

Well, TOTE presupposes there's a desired state—an outcome to create. This in turn presupposes the ability to choose and form an outcome. Enter NLP's model of Well-Formed Outcomes or, more accurately, The Well-Formedness Conditions for Outcomes (WFCO):
First, the outcome is stated in the positive, i.e. it's what you do want rather than what you don't. Second, it's an outcome that can be created and maintained by the subject themselves, i.e. it's about the subject's own change and not how they'd love the world to change around them. Third, it preserves the positive by-products of the present state and is ecological within the person's whole system. Fourth, it is represented in sensory experience, which is the currency of the mind.

TOTE also presupposes there are operations we can deploy to move towards the outcome. In the context of using TOTE as a model for creating change, these would be the myriad of patterns offered in NLP. The more patterns we have, the more we can try. But, as per Gregory Bateson's Logical Levels of Learning, what's even more powerful than having lots of patterns to try is the ability to dynamically create and choose patterns.

(By the way, whilst learning patterns is necessary in NLP training, training which follows only a diagnostic, recipe book approach to creating change is training a lower logical level of learning than the level trainers like Bandler and Grinder typically operate at.)

TOTE further presupposes that we have the ability to test how we're doing, which in the context of creating change presupposes we have an acute ability to pick up on verbal and non-verbal client feedback.

And since what drives a TOTE loop forward is the intelligent interaction of "test" and "operate", it also presupposes that we have learned how to respond to feedback and that we have the flexibility that if what we're doing isn't working, we try something else.

What's not presupposed by TOTE itself but we know can be useful from modeling the work of people like Virgina Satir, Fritz Perls and Milton Erickson is that client rapport may be powerful too.

Some of these things roughly correspond to what some people call the four pillars of NLP—rapport, outcome orientation, sensory acuity and behavioral flexibility. I don't think I've ever heard Bandler or Grinder talk about four pillars—it seems to have been someone else who coined that phrase and forgive me that I can't pin-point who specifically—but top trainers certainly build these capabilities in the people they train as foundations for the change-creating TOTE.

Let's just 'bank' this understanding:

Cross the TOTE model with well-formed outcomes, foundation skills such as sensory acuity, a rich selection of patterns (lower logical level of learning) and an exquisite ability to create and select patterns (higher logical level of learning) and you have two things: first, you have pretty much all of what an NLP training is; and, second, you have that over-arching model of how to create change with NLP. Yes, the whole training is the over-arching model of how to create change.

There's one thing missing so far. All this is "methodology" and "trail of techniques". Remember, NLP is an attitude and a methodology that leaves a trail of techniques. The missing part is the attitude—and that's what's expressed in statements like, "There is no failure only feedback". Remember, they're not true. It's not that there really is no failure, it's that when we take the attitude there is no failure, only feedback, we can enter our work with fearlessness and curiosity.

So, take a look back at your NLP training and see it anew. See how everything you did was building up foundations that ultimately create a great big TOTE structure for creating change.

When you see it that way, maybe you can see the WFCO are a guide to the whole process of change; the TOTE is the over-arching vehicle for creating it; and the patterns are the food of the process.


The desire to reduce it further

So, there we have it. There is an over-arching structure for creating change with NLP. It's just that it's a conjunction of models and therefore three dimensional; and it's based on feedback, acuity and variety rather than defined steps.

That seems to still leave it too complex for many people, because that's a lot to represent consciously. (Please note the emphasis on the word 'consciously'.) This is why I think Bandler at least prefers to do what he calls unconscious installation. Others might put it less technically and simply talk about getting people to do things unconsciously before presenting them consciously.

(Perhaps the reader is seeing even more of how his or her Practitioner training worked.)

There is still a desire in some to be able to consciously represent what we're doing; and some trainers like to use the more traditional learning model of using conscious practice of conscious models to create unconscious competence—and that means creating models which can be reduced to within the famous seven-plus-or-minus-two chunks.

I'm not going to say the desire to reduce is right or wrong, I'm merely going to acknowledge that there are multiple approaches and desires about how to package learning. But I'm also going to say the over-arching structure for creating change was and is there.


But while it was there, don't be averse to expansions

Having spoken of WFCO and TOTE, it's worth saying that we don't necessarily have to take the original versions of these models as gospel. Some people felt that the WFCO were incomplete and that's why you might see expanded models of things like that. The original WFCO were put forward as minimum conditions for lasting change, not necessarily maximum conditions. And the TOTE model itself doesn't explicitly take into account that the desired state or outcome might itself change as you get closer or further away from where you are or what you thought you might want. So, some adaptation or at least flexibility about how we understand these models can be useful.

Just get it the "whole big-chunk model" of creating change with NLP as I've put it forward is essentially about information gathering and iteratively working through till we've satisfied all the necessary conditions we've gathered about our client's change.


Wishing you health and happiness,

Steve

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Three things to check before embarking on somebody else's success strategy

"I became a multi-millionaire and now I'm going to teach you how I did it!"
It's tempting isn't it? I mean this guy's strategy worked, right? Well, one of the things I study is persuasive thinking traps: seductive but deceiving inductions, patterns of plausible inference, etc.
The seductive implication is, "it worked for me so it'll work for you."
Rather than explain intellectually, I'll just demonstrate my point like this:
"My system for getting rich is to bet your house on the roulette table. It worked for me!"
Here are the first two checks.
First, it's worth checking the results are systemic and not luck. Can you see that the actions systemically produce the results claimed? Assess to what extent the system requires luck, how many bites you get at being lucky and how much you lose each time you're not lucky. Hey if you can try as many times as you like and lose nothing with each try, it may be no bad thing.
Second, it's worth asking: how many people use this method and fail? Just because it worked for a few people, doesn't mean to say the exact same strategy hasn't failed others.
But there is a third check:
What if the strategy is sound but there is some 'difference-that-makes-the-difference' factor that isn't an obvious component, such as inner confidence, communication skills, etc.
See, just as it's possible to be deceived that a strategy works because it worked for some people, it's also possible to be deceived that when it doesn't work it's the strategy that's bad and not some subtle aspect of the execution. As an example, Karate isn't invalidated as a system just because somebody's not very good at it.
Choose your gurus well.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Steve.
PS, I'm indebted to thinking trap guru Richard Wiseman for prompting my thoughts today from a tweet of his.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The art of resigning your way to peace

Y'know, no matter how much you learn about how to create more happiness and success in your life, I guarantee you this: you will still have unhappy moments. It's just human nature.

I have experienced more peace and well-being in the last couple of years than I have probably since I was a baby. Even so, low days happen. One happened today. I awoke feeling low, after some events of yesterday which I will not go into.

A few years ago, my answer to this low feeling would have been to spin my feelings backwards, push pictures around in my head and force my low feelings into submission with huge force of deliberately created powerful feelings. Not today, though. It's not that it doesn't work, it's that within all these powerful feelings one can create there was also some sense, on some level, of being increasingly at odds with something. Maybe that something was our innate nature.

What I've learned more recently runs counter to how I was previously taught to think in that old 'you must take control of you brain' paradigm: that the best way to return to well-being is to do nothing. Yes, nothing. There is an art to doing nothing, however, because we seem to have this in-built tendency to want to do something, perhaps driven by a thought that we should be doing something.

(Don't mistake "doing nothing" with "dwelling on the bad feeling", by the way. Dwelling is still doing. Doing nothing really is about doing nothing — nothing to either maintain the old feeling or to force a new one.)

Here's my experience of this. When you completely resign from the job of trying to control your experience (and I mean completely, not just on the surface) there's a returning to well-being that happens all by itself. It's like the return process is in-built if you don't get in the way. It's easy and there's no sense of being at odds with something on any level. It's not a feeling of power or ecstasy. It's a feeling of peace and clarity — and from that new thinking and new feeling emerges.

I started today thinking I couldn't face any of the tasks of the day. I couldn't see the truth of the things I teach, even. So, I just resigned, completely. Before long, I started to feel peace and well-being returning. I started to see my 'problems' anew and I started to feel inspired to do things again. In fact, one of those things I'd intended for today was to write a blog post. It was originally going to be about something else, but what came up for me was a deep inspiration to write this.

It's not that I won't ever feel low again. It's not even that I won't necessarily feel low in this topic again. It's just that the return to peace is always available.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Steve

Sunday, 21 July 2013

NLP anchoring — 2-step or 3-step collapsing anchors?

As I have an NLP class coming up in October, I thought I'd step aside of my usual style of blog content and give a bit of a class on anchors.

Let's get some basics out of the way.

Jargon alert — what is an 'anchor'?

In NLP parlance, an anchor is a reliable trigger for some mind-body state. We pick up anchors unintentionally in life, for instance a piece of music that triggers happy feelings because we first heard it with someone we loved, or a place that triggers fearful feelings because we met someone violent towards us in a place just like it. We can set anchors up deliberately too. In fact, anchoring is one of the primary means offered by NLP to 're-program' our unconscious patterns of trigger and response.

When we talk about setting up anchors, people think mostly of kinaesthetic anchors, such as a touch on the arm to trigger confident feelings. You can anchor anything to anything, however. You can anchor pictures to sounds, sounds to pictures, feelings to sounds, etc. One I used to like to get people to play with was to anchor the sight of their bedroom ceiling in the evening with feelings of deep relaxation and the sight of their bedroom ceiling in the morning with a feeling of wanton motivation.

To really understand anchoring it can be worth thinking about it in terms of gestalts. A 'gestalt' is a structure of psychological experiences that tend to come up together, by association. Any one component in the gestalt can act as an accessing cue for the rest of it.

And what is 'collapsing' in anchors all about?

Collapsing is a format to 'deprogram' an unintentionally learned anchor that has become a problem. Typically, this is some trigger that brings up bad feelings.

So now, to the meat of this post ...

I like to use time-intensity diagrams as a way of illustrating the various anchoring operations taught in NLP. The diagram below shows the classic two-step collapse:


Before you do the collapse, you have to set things up. First, you set up an anchor you can use to fire off the 'problem' gestalt deliberately. Then, after breaking state so you start clean, you set up an anchor for a very powerful opposite state, such as bliss. The key thing is it has to be powerful.

Then, the operation follows the diagram. Here's how to read the diagram. The red line under the time axis represents when you fire the problem state anchor and how long you hold it. The green line under the time axis represents when you fire the bliss anchor and how long you hold it. The red and green curves in the chart represent the rising and falling states as you aim to manifest them.

So, you fire off the problem state gestalt and, while still holding the anchor, you fire off the bliss state anchor. Then you let the problem anchor go while you hold and intensify the bliss state.

Metaphorically, I like to think of this as being like squeezing the contents of two bottles into one and watching the liquids blend.

In neurological terms, you can think of it as introducing a confusion which ultimately resolves in flattening out the neurological pathways that previously linked trigger to bad response.

In gestalt terms, you can think of it like this: you're cramming the bliss state into the gestalt, so in future what comes up is a confusion of the bad feelings with the new good feelings, which we tend to resolve into yet another iteration of the gestalt, which is to feel okay.

But here's the rub — the process blends both ways!

Just as the bliss state flattens out the fear in the (previously) problematic trigger, if the bliss state was built from a pleasant gestalt experience, the fear can contaminate that experience.

In other words, the process can mush both experiences. If you overdosed on collapsing anchors, instead of having a library of clear states to draw on, you could end up with a library of mush states.

So here we go to the lesser taught three-step collapse:


This time we have three anchors: one to fire off the problem gestalt, one to fire off the process of disassociation and one for the bliss response.

Okay, if you're astute in NLP, you'll notice this is actually a chaining anchors format, not, strictly speaking, a collapse. Well, actually, it's a bit of both. It achieves similar results, anyway. What's happening here is we're programming the neurology to automatically disassociate from the problem state and then feel good. Overlapping has to occur for chaining to take place, however as you look to the chart at how the states overlap, there's no contamination between the problem state and the bliss state.

So, which format should you use?

Well, the two-step collapse has the advantage that it directly and powerfully flattens the previously fearful response but at the cost that it mushes both experiences. If the positive experience is much more powerful than the problem experience, that might not be such a big problem.

The three-step chain has the advantage that it doesn't overlap the bad feeling and good feelings but might not be quite so direct and powerful at flattening out the bad response.

A situation where the three-step chain can be very useful is when you have a 'hot button' trigger that makes you angry in inappropriate times and places, such as when you're on a customer service desk and someone is shouting at you. You could consider this process as installing a sort of stop and count to ten kind of response so you can gather yourself before responding. (The third anchor doesn't have to be bliss, it could be calm-and-collected.)

In a way, the three step format is a sort of "collapse and then go on to something" process.

So there you have it — a little insight into some of the anchoring work we'll be doing in the NLP class in October. If you're interested in that class, why not sign-up for the newsletter and get invited to a free introduction class ahead of it? Just click here.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Steve.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The power of words modelled

There's an excellent video on YouTube illustrating how changing your words can be powerful. It's gone viral and shows up on a lot of pages that talk about the power of communication, including many NLP pages.

This video was created by Andrea Gardner, whom I don't know.


For me, this video provides an excellent opportunity for NLP learners to practice something central to NLP: modelling successful communication.

Powerful communication can seem like magic. People who experience it can scratch their heads thinking: that's great, but how do you do that?

NLP's answer to de-mistify the magic of powerful communication is to model it — to identify the structure of it and use that structure as a way of teaching people how to create more of it.

I know the video is staged and not truly spontaneous, but if we accept the dramatization as an accurate reflection of the power in the changed words, then let's model it.

It's actually not that hard.

The structure of the first message is: digital data, full stop, digital ask.

By 'digital', I mean in there are no sensory words used, just factual information.

The structure of the second message is a combination of patterns we'll recognize from NLP:
Pacing / leading and linkage — matching something recognizable in the reader's experience and linking it to an experience you want them to have.
Through the pacing and linkage, role model identification — unconsciously inviting the reader to identify with the subject of communication.
More specifically:
Pace / match something recognizable in the reader's experience, which maybe they take for granted and are grateful for
And, by doing that
Identify with 'my' position of not having that.
It seems to me that the more simple and powerful the contrast is, the more powerful the pattern is.

A less analytic way of putting it is it's a pace-and-lead pattern which ultimately equates to: how would you like it if it was you sitting here?

Pacing, by the way, is a key communication pattern in both hypnotic and influential communication. There's something about pacing your reader / listener which attracts their attention and (for want of a better phrase) "opens the door to their unconscious language processing faculties".

There are some other observations you can make, like that it's important to leverage the speed of unconscious processing. If the reader needs to 'think' about the message, the effect is probably lost.

Now, you might consider this over-analysis and maybe it is. Or maybe it just takes more than a few words to explain what is a relatively simple structure. Either way, with some structure identified, we have a key to generate and test more examples, acquiring the 'magic' in the process.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Steve.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

What if you didn't need motivational techniques?

I chatted to a guy once who wanted to create some inspiring workshops. I asked him what his plan was and he said, "First, I'm going to spend two weeks in a retreat re-reading all the books I have about how to build my motivation."

That answer surprised me. He seemed inspired enough and last time I checked, reading books didn't create workshops. It actually sounded like a procrastination strategy: let's keep putting things off in the name of the myth of motivation.

Sound familiar?

The thing about motivation is that it's not a thing. We just fall for the illusion because of the way we speak. It becomes something we can gain, lose, find and, as in this case, something we think we need to stockpile.

It's funny how we fall for the illusions of language.

What if I told you all the motivational techniques out there were based on a misunderstanding?

An inside-out understanding of motivation

First of all, let me ask a question. How do you build up enough motivation to go and buy a bottle of milk?

If it sounds like a daft question, it's probably because you don't need to go through any kind of motivational ritual to go and get a bottle of milk. The chances are you just go.

The misunderstanding is that demotivated is our default state. It isn't.

Think of it like this. There is you at your true default state. That's a pure you, a you before any thinking comes along to change how you feel. It's you at peace, in flow, unhindered by thinking. That's the you who tends to go get the milk.

In your true default state, you just do what comes up for you to do.

But, we do think. We think about how much we have to do. We think about how much effort things will take. We think about the responsibility, what people might think of us, what will happen if it goes pear shaped and what might happen if we get stuck half way through.

Suddenly we're not at our default state any more and that's where demotivated feelings come from. Then our thoughts can go on to ways of distracting ourselves from the uncomfortable feeling.

Since thinking is habitual, it's easy to fall for the illusion that this hesitant, uncomfortable feeling and the resulting yen for distraction from our to-do list is our default setting. It's not, but it seems like that.

Enter the motivational technique.

The essence of most of the motivational techniques I've seen is to overwhelm the uncomfortable feelings with a huge force of positive feelings — to force your uncomfortable feelings in to submission, or at least drown them out.

It's not that it doesn't work. It's that it's inner civil war. How tiring.

It's also a bit like using chocolate and burgers to medicate low feelings. It works, but only temporarily and only seems necessary because you haven't noticed the low feelings had to be created in the first place.


An alternative approach

Let me re-cap this idea of the default state: the state you're in before you're feelings are skewed by thinking; the state you tend to go and buy a bottle of milk from.

Default = Things just flow as they come up

Default + Low thinking = Demotivated

Default + Low thinking + Overwhelming high thinking = Motivated 

When you see it this way, the motivational technique becomes what one of my favourite coaching teachers (Michael Neill) calls the "nail varnishing the shit that's covered the diamond" strategy.

It's like taking your hand, dipping it in something smelly and thinking the best thing to do is spray scent on it.

It still might make sense to do motivation that way until you realize that it's even easier to just let the low thinking pass away, which is what happens when you see how it is just thinking and you resign from fighting it. It's easier, less tiresome and clears the mind rather than double-muddying it.

This is why I don't want to teach kids how to use motivational techniques to overwhelm uncomfortable feelings. I'd rather teach them why its not necessary and how to return to their true default state.

Here's my thought experiment for you. If you tend to "struggle with motivation", instead of going to war with your thinking, just recognize the thinking that you're feeling. See it for what it is: as thinking. See it the same way you'd see a movie if you could see the cameras, microphones and lighting rigs and realize it was something being created rather than something that's real. And, perhaps with the aid of meditative practice, let go, let the thinking move on and return to the default state.

Then you can act from the same place that getting a bottle or milk comes from.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Steve