On booby prizes, pizza at McDonalds, getting in trouble and just chilling……..

What's this NLP stuff all about?

If you’re reading this then chances are you’re wondering what on earth all this NLP stuff is all about.  You’ve been riding and caring for horses for years, and all of a sudden you keep tripping over this concept, and probably letting it simply pass you by – if I needed to know it, surely I would have read about it long before now?  Well, without realising it, you have; and you’ve been using it every day of your life.

NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) is about how human beings think and how we communicate – two things we do every day. It’s a powerful approach for knowing yourself, getting what you want & connecting with other people.

The name NLP refers to (Neuro) the human nervous system, including the brain and the five senses, (Linguistic) the verbal & non-verbal languages with which we communicate and (Programming) the ability to structure our neurological and linguistic systems to achieve desired results. The term NLP is used to describe both the approach and the powerful models of communication and change that are created.

Ok, I hear you say, that’s great, but can we get onto the pizza bit now?  Well, there are two golden truths out there in all this mumbo jumbo: if you’re really enthusiastic about something, it will be easier to learn; and nothing is too complicated to learn, you just might have to do them a little slower than the pros at first.

So, with that firmly in mind – just how can NLP help you now?

First.... just relax!

One of the things that you may already know is that you learn more easily when you relax. No, not snoozing, but relaxing your body and allowing yourself to feel a sense of curiosity and anticipation about how much you’re going to learn. Easily the quickest way to get into a good learning state is to develop a habit of relaxing before you begin.

Firstly, empty your mind of any 'stuff'. Just leave it for now. You can always pick it up later if you want to. Then, find a spot above eye level to direct your attention to. Focus on this spot for 5-10 seconds before expanding your focus to the periphery whilst keeping your eyes still.

Loosen the back of your jaw. Continue to expand your awareness. Notice any movement that is going on in your periphery. Become aware of the different sounds around you, what you can feel. Stretch your hands out to each side of you and wiggle your fingers. Can you notice them moving? Good. See how far back you can move your hands whilst still being aware of the wiggling of your fingers. Become aware of the relaxation in your body and the stillness of your mind.

This is a learning state.  When relaxed, you are practising opening yourself to fully use all your available resources…how much more will you learn from a clinic or lesson by seeing and hearing everything around you?   An NLP Practitioner will teach you to anchor that state, so you can return to it at will. Anchoring is a powerful tool, which when mastered will change your perceptions for the better.

Set yourself a goal, don't settle for the booby prize and GO FOR IT!

Set yourself a goal…think about what attracted you to the WRDP, and then set some goals related to that. After all you’ve been attracted to it for some reason, so you can assume that there are things that strike you as really cool, exciting & useful. Once you’ve decided what skills you want to develop first, see yourself in the future being able to do those things that you wish to learn. Seeing a mental image of yourself doing something in the future sends the message “Do this at that time” to your brain, sort of like setting a reminder on a calendar. If you repeatedly see yourself doing a new behaviour in the future, your brain creates the generalisation “Keep doing this.”

DVDs, 'How To' books and manuals are great - you too can learn from the Pros, understand how they get so good at what they do. Reading about something or watching a demonstration will give you a certain internal ‘map’ of it, but it won’t give you true understanding. Well, understanding is the booby prize – experience is the Grand Prize and NLP is the domain of experience.

True understanding comes when you take action. Exercises give you the opportunity to develop experience & skill. You create ‘maps’ within your neurology & physiology as you do exercises, and like using a sat nav to find an alternative route somewhere, you create multiple additional routes of understanding that are not available had you just ‘read’ the manual or ‘watched’ the dvd. 

When you do the exercises you learn faster, and learn things you don’t even realise you’re learning.  And you wouldn’t want to miss out on something really good, would you? There are countless people out there who can tell you how to do things, but can’t do it themselves. Make up your mind to be a participant, have the experience, do the exercises, go for it!

But what if.....?

I know, I can hear you saying “But what if….?”  Good question, what if? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I can’t do it? What if I muck it up?  But think about it - when you go to a clinic and watch someone participating, do you think they look foolish? More likely you wish you had ‘the nerve’ to go out there and do that too.

When you first decided to get on a horse, did you go out that day and gallop around a cross country course, jump a clear round, ride a trail pattern, perform a roll back?  Or did you have some lessons and have someone show you first?  Did you get it right first time, every time; get flustered when you couldn’t remember which leg to use when?  What did that teach you?

Well let’s get over the fear of doing, that hesitation that has kept you on the sidelines and prevented you from joining in and having the experience yourself.  Hesitation is one of the barriers to learning, and overcoming hesitation will get you to where you want to be much more quickly. When you think about it, every hesitation means wasted time and a missed opportunity for you to learn something new.

But what if I make a fool of myself? Try this - stop at KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, get out of your car and go into the store.  Put a big smile on your face, walk up to the counter and when the service assistant asks ‘Can I take your order?’….ask for a medium Ham & Pineapple pizza, thick crust and a cheesy garlic bread!  What happens?

Not into take away food? Then choose a commercial premises and make an absurd request while keeping a straight face.  Be polite, safe and non-threatening.  Repeat the process 3 times in a week. Did a hole open up in the floor and swallow you because you were dying of embarrassment? Nope.  Did you make someone smile? Probably! Did you smile? Certainly!  Look forward to situations where in the past you would have hesitated and enjoy the responses. What did you learn? (Apart from that they don’t do Pizza at McDonalds!)

Think about your hero....

Think of your hero, a person whom you admire and would love to be more like.  Chances are they are not more intelligent that you, just that they were prepared to make way more mistakes, way more quickly.  As a result, they learned far more than someone who was hesitating and not learning at all. 

When you go for it, you’ll learn something - even if it’s not what you thought you might or if things don’t turn out the way you wanted. One of the things that you’ll begin to notice as you give yourself opportunities to learn is that you really start to enjoy it!

So do yourself a favour, relax, go for it and crank up your learning rate, with any luck, you’ll get in some trouble.

Next time....

Next time: What do you want? How will you know when you’ve got it?

‘Ooo-roo for now….


Jude Robinson is a Master NLP Practitioner and Coach Practitioner with a specialist interest in performance and confidence issues in sports and equestrian pursuits. 

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