October 19, 2018
Hospice UK’s Head of Media and PR Suzanne Stevenson writes about attending a recent conference that joined the dots between neuro-linguistic programming and The Lion King. What do smiling babies, pressing your thumb and first finger together three times and The Lion King have to do with achieving your dream goals in life? Quite a bit it turns out, as I discovered during an intriguing and amusing talk hosted by the London Business Forum entitled: NLP Stripped Bare: the Secrets of Human Behaviour. It was led by David Taylor, author of best-seller The Naked Leader, who specialises in helping people and organisations “make permanent change, very fast”. He has worked with countless companies and leaders around the world with his clients including: The United Nations, many Fortune 100 companies, leading entrepreneurs, celebrities and charities. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) was created in California in the 1970s. Its creators claimed there is a connection between neurological processes (neuro-), language (linguistic) and behavioral patterns learned through experience (programming), and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life. From its therapeutic beginnings, NLP developed in many different directions and is now used widely to model excellence in other fields such as business, politics and sports. In essence according to David NLP is about “programming your brain”. He took the 400+-strong audience on a whistle-stop journey through some stimulating- and fun – fundamentals of NLP designed to empower our imaginations and excite our brains into creating the lives we dream of. He began by reminding us that we are all going to die and also of the statistical improbability of us being alive in the first place and began with a powerful affirmation. “You have everything you need to achieve. You had it the day you were born.” According to David we are born with only two natural fears – a fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. We have overcome both – the first by learning to walk and the second when we were teenagers. Any other fears, worries and even phobias we have now we have made up ourselves-literally by constructing them in our minds- and with the right tools we can remove them anytime we choose. He then asked audience members to imagine that if we could not fail, what would we want to achieve in life? Some of the goals identified in one group included: writing a novel, setting up an inclusive community yoga hub and improving the quality of personal relationships. David shared a liberating assertion that “reality is not a fact, it is a construct”- a perspective based on how you see the world. When we believe something to be true, he said, we see the world in that way – as if it was true. Interestingly this is because your mind cannot tell the difference between something that happens in reality and something you imagine with emotional intensity. This means we have to imagine doing something successfully in our mind first- similar to the powerful visualization techniques often used by top footballers to achieve that crucial goal. David’s central premise was that we all have total ownership and choice over what we think, say and do and that often we underestimate our own abilities to achieve what we want. The brain consists of two parts – the conscious mind and the subconscious mind – whatever we believe consciously, our subconscious mind will make it so. For example, people who choose to believe that they have a good memory, remember things. David ably demonstrated this at the end of the session by doing a near perfect countdown of his 18 top tips on the basics of NLP in quick-fire succession. An engaging and at times refreshingly unorthodox presenter, he impressively managed to retain his audience’s attention for nearly two hours straight. No mean feat given we learned during the presentation that the average attention span for most people is about nine seconds. Throughout David connected with the audience in a very palpable way- mainly through very amusing humour but also was clearly someone who genuinely cares for people and enjoys making a positive difference in their lives. He shook each member of audience by hand and spoke to them personally as they entered the auditorium. He roamed all corners of the stage and also came down to stand in the audience, spoke to individual members, creating real rapport and a strong sense of connection in the room. At one point after asking who in the room had studied psychology and learning that someone had been to Harvard he poured water over his head in mock horror that they might challenge his theories. He gave some interesting and memorable examples to back up the NLP theories such as smiling babies who demonstrate the power of positive behaviour. “I smile, you smile.” He also demonstrated our ability to change our emotional state by changing our physiology. For example, after a mini-guided meditation he asked us all to touch our thumb and first finger together after feeling calm, relaxed and confident and to do this three times. The next time we wanted to generate the same feeling he said we should simply touch the thumb and first finger together, something which works by association and the mind making a connection between the two. He reminded his largely business audience that it was not their job to inspire people – but to be an inspiration by living the positive behaviours they want to see in others. He also encouraged us to watch The Lion King, which he described as one of the best films about leadership. I left inspired and bemused and with a reinforced sense that anything is possible if we change how we think first. There are still some places available at London Business Forum talks for Hospice UK members. Places need to be booked before 31 March. Contact Amber Morgan, Programmes Co-ordinator at Hospice UK. For more information visit the London Business Forum website.