What do you choose to notice in each life experience? Do you focus on desired outcomes or get stuck in problems? Are you living your dreams or are you mired in negativity? Many of those wanting to bring about constructive changes in their lives are using Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a multi-dimensional process that’s based on finding examples of excellence and modelling these exemplary practices to bring about positive life changes. NLP is a way of studying how people excel and teaching these patterns to others.

Whether we realize it or not, we live our lives based upon our unique maps of the world. Because it’s impossible to be aware of the totality of any occurrence, we use filters to make sense of our experiences. We do this by directing our attention to specific aspects of the event. These filters include deletion (ignoring some aspects of the situation), distortion (interpreting the experience differently than it occurs), and generalization (assuming we know more than we do). Our maps of the world depend on what we choose to notice at any given time. We can bring about positive changes in our lives through expanding our maps and adjusting our filters.

NLP began at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the early 1970s. John Grinder, an assistant professor of linguistics and Richard Bandler, a student of psychology, studied the cognitive, linguistic, and behavioural patterns of major psychotherapists such as Fritz Perls (Gestalt therapy), Virginia Satir (family therapy) and Milton Erickson (hypnotherapy).

As a result of their research, Grinder and Bandler concluded that models of excellence exist in patterns established by successful people. They developed NLP as a way to understand and model our own successes and those of others, enabling us to live more empowered lives. It’s a way of discovering and unfolding personal genius. Look for excellence. Model it. Use it. The principles of NLP are being used successfully in a variety of situations worldwide, including business management, salesmanship, family and personal relationships, weight management and life coaching.

The program is process oriented. Little, if any, attention is paid to the content of the problem. The coach works with the client to formulate desired outcomes and to identify resources to aid in moving towards these goals. Coaches ask “how” questions that help lead to solutions. They do not dwell on questions which circle back to problems. A strategy is developed to move towards a goal. If it works, that’s great! If it doesn’t work, it offers feedback for developing the next step. There’s no failure in NLP, only unwanted results. These provide clues for redirecting the next efforts. Feedback keeps the goal in view. Proclaiming failure produces a dead end.

NLP life coaches consider possibilities. They know that barriers are less formidable when they receive little or no attention. Coaches keep an attitude of curiosity and fascination towards people and situations and they do not make assumptions. They know that we all have the inner resources needed to achieve our goals. If we act like this is true, it will be.

Weight loss can be achieved using the principles of NLP. Overweight people generally include their present size in their map of the world and they have developed eating patterns to maintain their weight. Through working with an NLP coach, they discover that although eating less and working out more contributes to weight loss, unless habits are changed the resulting loss may be temporary. It’s important to discover the root causes of weight gain in the first place. These may be based in trauma, beliefs about the self, low self-esteem, addictive behaviours or compulsion. The NLP coach and the client find the instigating causes. They then develop strategies for eliminating self-defeating behaviours and thought patterns. Together they set goals for achieving success. Nicole Schneider, owner and lead instructor for Global NLP, lost over 100 pounds using NLP strategies to change both her lifestyle and her eating habits. This is just one of many examples of people changing their lives through NLP by changing their maps of the world.

Dr. Phyllis K. Kennemer is a Certified NLP Life Coach, a Certified Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator and an Educational Consultant. She lives in the Fort Collins area of northern Colorado and can be contacted at<pkkbooks@comcast.net>.