Ever wondered what motivates and moves people to complete a task or make changes in their lives?
Ever been amazed when two people in the same room, experiencing similar inputs react in completely opposite ways? how does that happen?
This is the realm of the metaprogram. The term in NLP that signifies overarching preferences to the way we react to stimuli from the outside world.
Over 40 or so years since this rather “techy” term was coined by the early pioneers of NLP, many metaprograms have been proposed and over the next few days we will focus on just a few of them.
Tony Robbins once wrote “All human behavior revolves around the urge to gain pleasure or avoid pain. You pull away from a lighted match in order to avoid the pain of burning your hand. You sit and watch a beautiful sunset because you get pleasure from the glorious celestial show as day glides into night.”
Give us an example…
Lets take for instance Jan who’s seeking the goalof getting slimmer whilst Jim doesn’t want to be fat. Both of them want to loose weight but one is motivated TOWARDS this goal and the other is motivated AWAY FROM the alternative. Neither of these orientations is right or wrong, it’s simply the way different people orientate themselves.
This can often be observed in language:
How often do you hear I don’t want? I don’t want to fail in my exams, I don’t want to feel bad, I don’t want to feel old, I don’t want to loose.
These statements all give an indication that someone is trying to get AWAY from something.
How often do you hear “I’m trying to get to?” “I want to win that contract.” “I want to feel fitter.” “I aim to stay young.” and other TOWARDS statements.
If you’re a leader in any walk of life, noticing the towards or away from meta-program is a key insight into how you can motivate those who follow.
How do the people in your team motivate themselves? Would they be motivated by seeking an achievement? would they be more motivated by the threat of job losses or other consequences of poor performance?
How do you orientate yourself? and what are the consequences for you?
What can happen in the AWAY FROM?
There is a strong logical correlation between this Meta Programme and whether folk think more about the best-case (towards) or the worst-case scenario ( away, don’t want that).
In a difficult situation thinking about the fact that you don’t want this problem might not help in the search for how to get out of it. An extreme case of away from in the process of evaluating your options… “I don’t want this, I definitely don’t want that and I don’t think the other thing would work.”
Quite often, when the orientation is to away from, the person simply doesn’t know what they do want even when specifically asked. Try asking ” what is it that you DO want?” and listen for an ‘ I don’t know”
All meta program orientations can be habitual, reflexive and unconscious.
Thinking AWAT FROM can lead to situations where a person automatically focusses and notices on the more negative aspects of a situation. It can take a lot of energy to have to notice whether you are achieving what you don’t want. In the extreme it can even make it difficult to remember positive experiences.
“Longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, ‘You can never get enough of what you really don’t want.’ If your goal is to be ‘not be poor,’ you can have millions and still not have what you don’t want.” — Brian Van der Horst
Nothing about this orientation is bad and in fact in many circumstances it can be extremely useful to have a critical thinker on a team! in our last article WHAT WOULD WALT DO? we describe the key role of the critical thinker in checking the plan for difficulties.
How about TOWARDS?
Clearly setting goals in terms of what you are trying to achieve can be a more appropriate and helpful choice. Aligning to the best case scenario can tend to be more optimistic and offer greater choices.
In NLP we encourage people to set their goals in the positive as it gives the freedom to fully explore the opportunities available to them.
A word of caution. Beward of those times when a room is filled with towards motivation. Constructing plans that don’t look for the drawbacks and issues in a blue sky towards plan can lead to undeliverable and ungrounded aspirations. There is after all a time and a place for everything – a requirement for ecology of thinking.