The first audiobook I ever listened to was: The Ultimate Introduction to NLP – How to build a successful life by Richard Bandler. NLP stands for Neuro-linguistic Programming, and I first became aware of the science when I was studying the early life of Tony Robbins. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I really admire Tony Robbins, and when I admire someone I want to know what steps they took to get where they are today. So, naturally, I went to Wikipedia.
I expected to see a Ph.D. in Psychology or a diploma from Harvard, but I didn’t find anything even close to that. He never attended college. He worked as a janitor.
Instead of going the traditional post-secondary education route, he started his journey by teaching — you guessed it — NLP. I wanted to learn more about the science that began his career, so I signed up for Audible and downloaded the book with the most favorable reviews. I am grateful I chose this book (The Ultimate Introduction to NLP – How to build a successful life), because the spotlight of the narration was on a guy attending an NLP seminar. As I listened to the book I felt like I was at an NLP seminar myself! I will include the cite at the bottom of the post if you want to check it out, and if you sign up for Audible you get your first two books free so it would be at no cost to listen to it.
There were many great takeaways from this book, and I hope to expand on each of the various topics in the future. What I want to focus on in this blog post is a technique used to open people’s minds, demolish doubt, and relieve negative emotions – and it’s simple. Just ask questions.
As Richard Bandler wrote, “The more you question a belief… the more likely you are to sow seeds of doubt in the belief. That creates room for a person to change their belief to a more useful or resourceful one.”
But Bandler makes sure to emphasize that what kind of questions you ask are extremely important. The way I think about it is – you want to be a three-year-old kid again. You know, the kid who just keeps asking why? They want to get to the bare bones of the problem, and you should, too. Keep asking questions that dive into the actual root of the problem. Here’s an example:
Thought: I’m not smart.
Question: Compared to whom?
Seriously, though. Who are you comparing yourself to? Einstein? When people start a phrase with “I’m not….”, I wonder what the standard they are comparing themselves to is. The second-ranked student at MIT could say they aren’t smart if they are comparing themselves to the first-ranked student, but every other student in the nation probably thinks that second-ranked student is pretty smart. Question who you’re comparing yourself to, and then find a way to reword it to benefit yourself.
Reword: I’m not understanding the material the best right now, but I’m really trying to. I will pursue extra help if it doesn’t make sense soon.
Let’s look at another example.
Thought: Everybody hates me.
Question: Says who?
A lot of times people generalize a thought. Okay, sure, maybe that girl in fifth period does hate you. But is she everybody? No.
Other questions that were recommended by the book that I find useful are…
How do you know? What would happen if you did? What would happen if you didn’t? What leads you to believe that?
Or questioning specific words…
All? Everyone? No one? Everything?
Odds are if I am using those types of words, I am making a generalization that is not true.
Or even this example:
Thought: This is impossible.
Question: What is?
If I was struggling with a calculus problem, and I suddenly make my mind address the specific issue instead of generalizing it, I will be reminded that this problem is indeed possible. I just haven’t found the answer yet. The simple trick of making an impossible thing possible is powerful – and I did it just by asking a question.
If you want more examples of questions to ask, check out this website:
Most of the time anxiety can be diminished simply by asking questions, because usually what we are stressing over is completely unnecessary, and a majority of the time it is out of our control. Ask yourself…
HOW DOES WORRYING ABOUT WHAT I CAN’T CONTROL BENEFIT ME?
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
Instead, it is infinitely times more beneficial to focus on what you CAN control, and then do something about it! Don’t worry about if you are naturally smart enough to do good on the next chemistry test. Maybe, study for it. Don’t worry about if you’re going to have a lot of playing time during next week’s hockey game. Just keep practicing and demonstrate that you are a hard worker.
Negative emotions aren’t necessary. I don’t know when or why people started to think that negative feelings were just “something I have to deal with.” Because I’m here to tell you, you don’t. I’ve been anxious – I actually use to have really bad anxiety, and sometimes I still get flare-ups, but I’ve learned how to question the thoughts that are giving me anxiety and reword them into something more productive. I’ve also been stressed, and I don’t think stress is necessarily a bad thing. Necessary stress is good because it makes you realize that you need to improve a situation, such as how being stressed about a test will force you to study. However, unnecessary stress can be eliminated. The easy way to get rid of unnecessary stress is to question if it is unnecessary and if it is – turn it into necessary stress!
Unnecessary stress: You are stressed and worried because you feel like none of your friends like you.
This is completely unnecessary and probably a generalization. Instead, morph it into a way of thinking that motivates you to improve:
Necessary stress: Because you feel as if some of your friends are slipping away, you can work on being unconditionally kind and make sure you aren’t being a bad friend in the first place. If you are being a good friend, you can question if these people really are your true friends.
Stress, anxiety, worry… get rid of it. Reword it. Make it benefit you. There is no better time to make a change than now. It can be a New Year’s Resolution!
And do it by asking more questions.
Bandler, Richard, et al. The Ultimate Introduction to NLP: How to Build a Successful Life. HarperCollins, 2013.
Williams, Chet. “Asking The Right Questions Can Change Your Life – Exploring The Meta-Model.” NLP Hacker, 17 May 2015, nlphacker.com/asking-the-right-questions-can-change-your-life-exploring-the-meta-model/.