How to be a better you!
I shed my self-help cynicism and tried out an NLP life coaching taster session at Edge in Tring and (*spoiler alert*) came away feeling strangely empowered.
When I received the invitation to come and try out an NLP taster day at Edge in Tring, I must admit I found myself somewhere between intrigued and, well, a just a teeeensy bit out of my comfort zone. I’d heard about NLP before (it stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming) – OK, when you say it like that it does sound a little off-putting, but I had also read about how beneficial it can be to so many people in life, work, and well, everything really. Plus all the c’lebs use it (Oprah is a fan, along with Heston, and Derren Brown has built his entire career off the back of it), so I thought, ‘what the heck’. And off I went one Saturday morning to get NLP’d…
If this is already gobbledy-gook to you, allow me to explain… NLP was founded 30 years ago on the idea of modelling excellence – what does that mean, I hear you ask? Well, it’s all about being the very best version of yourself that you can be. It’s based on studies of how very successful people became, well, so successful, but more specifically the processes they went through to achieve that. NLP practitioners use those techniques to help themselves and others to achieve their goals – whether in their careers, relationships, on the sports field or personal life – even the ones that they didn’t think were possible. Sounds good right? (Disclaimer: NLP probably can’t make you Queen of the world)
At Edge you can dip your toe into the world of NLP (with a Taster Session like the one I tried) or go all-out with a 6-day intensive course to become a practitioner yourself. Either way, the idea is that you’ll leave with the knowledge and a ‘toolkit’ to help you to achieve those goals, without letting negative thoughts or lack of confidence get in the way.
My two very bubbly hosts greeted us as we arrived (oh, yes, I should mention that I was one of a group of eight), with a cup of tea and a friendly chat. I expected to feel more unnerved than I did – were they watching my every move and NLP’ing me as I spoke?! Actually they probably were, but so what – that’s what I was there for and their warm and relaxed manner quickly put everyone at ease.
Pip, the founder has a very corporate background in HR, training and sales, and discovered NLP ten years ago when she found herself at a career crossroads (more on that later). In contrast, Jools, a trained actor and voice coach, was inspired to become an NLP practitioner after going to an Anthony Robbins workshop (if you haven’t heard of him do give him a Google – perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, with his cult-like following and rousing rhetoric, but fear not, you won’t find any of that here).
Pip and Jools are a lively duo, and bounce off each other as they trot through the session at a steady pace – all four hours of it – but before I knew it we were at the end, without a minute to wonder where the time had gone.
One of the first things we learn is that the most Googled term in January worldwide is ‘I’m at a crossroads,’ which just goes to show how many people are craving a change of direction, or purpose, and are searching for ways to achieve it (just like Pip).
Enter NLP. The way it works is by teaching you to separate the mental wheat from the chaff, so that you can really focus on your strengths and achieving your goals without wasting time or energy on negative thoughts or actions. A bit like a distillation process for your thoughts, I imagine – hmm… gin. Sorry, where was I?
It’s a wonder that we manage to get anything done at all with so much information whizzing around our heads (4 million bits of it at any one moment, apparently!). Our brain is already a pretty good filter, so we learn – of that 4 million, we actually only retain (a very specific) 134 pieces of info and respond to just 7-9. So that’s why it’s really important to make sure we’re retaining the most useful bits of information and responding to them in the most effective way, Pip and Jools explain.
But that can be tricky – apparently we all lean towards negativity, (which goes back to our caveman days when we were weighing up our next threat), and we are all guilty of seeking evidence to support that. How often do you hear that little voice in your head saying: ‘I can’t do that because…’, ‘I didn’t have a choice’, or ‘why do I always do that’? hmm?!
The idea of NLP is to bridge that gap between our current and desired states, so Pip and Jools ask us to put that internal dialogue aside and write down where we are in life at that moment (good or bad), then where we want to be (whether that’s ‘happier’, ‘running my own business’, or ‘completing a marathon’) with no holds barred. It’s harder than you might think – oops, there goes that little voice in my head again!
That pesky internal dialogue has got a lot to answer for. We learn that it can also prevent us from ‘actively’ listening, because we’re usually too busy thinking about our response to fully take on what the other person is saying. A simple exercise, where we have a few minutes to talk to our neighbour before introducing them to the rest of the group, shows us that we could all do better at this (sorry, Mr Muddy – must try harder!)
Once we’ve mastered (ahem) listening, (the Neuro part of NLP) and communicating (the Linguistic bit), we tackle behaviour, (that’s the Programming element). We’re asked to imagine a really difficult scenario – perhaps the car’s broken down and you’re late for a meeting. Yup, I can feel the stress levels rising already. Pip explains that while we have no control over the situation, what we can control is our behaviour. Ahhhh, and the penny drops… Simply by choosing not to get frustrated/angry/stressed, we can create a better, more positive outcome – sounds simple when you put it like that!
And, we learn that our bodies respond to our emotional states, too. Pip asks me to extend my arm and recall a time when I felt really great, then gently presses down, asking me to resist – my arm stays strong. Then she asks me to think of a time I’ve felt low, and repeats the exercise. Despite my best efforts, my arm drops to waist height – I’m shocked at the difference! But, next we’re taught how to use this to our advantage. Here’s one for the ‘toolkit’… Just thinking about a time when you felt particuarly confident or positive and simultaneously touching a specific body part (like a fingertip or knuckle) can ‘anchor’ that feeling, so that next time you want to draw on it, say, before a big presentation, you can just tap your knuckle and voila! you’ll turn into a public speaker extraordinaire! Ok, ok, it takes a bit of practice but you get the idea…
Like any form of self-improvement, you’ve got to be invested in it from the start. If you go with a cynical mind, you’re probably not going to get the best out of NLP. Pip and Jools kept coming back to how powerful it can be, and yes, if you can really get on board and can make it work for you, then brilliant. The key takeaway for me was the reminder that I have control over my choices and behaviour, and that in itself was quite a revelation. It definitely gave me food for thought and I, for one, left feeling hungry for more.
An NLP Taster Day with Edge costs £40, and a practitioner course, which delves deeper into the world of NLP over six days and gives you an entry-level qualification costs £1395. For details of upcoming courses and to book, visit edgenlp.co.uk, call 07852 191323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org