The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of NLP / Self Improvement

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of NLP / Self Improvement

Here’s a subject about which I might change my mind; I have several times already and I’m not sure if this flip flopping is over just yet.


When I first heard of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and it’s many offshoots many years ago I though it was just something overly hyped Americans talked about on late night chat shows when trying to sell book, videos, courses, etc. And part of me still thinks this.


Many years ago I went through a rough patch in my life, nothing too disastrous, just thinking about the big questions and as a result I realised that I was disappointed in myself. This drew me to what many people call the Self Improvement industry; hey, it could have been worse, it could have been religion! Actually I did look into religion at this time but I guess I wasn’t that disappointed with myself!


I remember reading The Winner Within, by Bill O’Reilly, Feel the Fear and do it Anyway, by Susan Jeffers, something with either winning, or success in the title by Mike Shanahan who had just won back to back Superbowls with the Denver Broncos, as well as a couple of books I can’t recall.


Then I read a book which I still use today, Awaken the Giant Within, by Tony Robbins. I loved it, still love it, and I think these days I’m quite a happy, contented kinda guy, maybe this book helped in that in some way.


I realise at this point that devotees of Richard Bandler, and John Grinder might be shouting at their screens, “you’re comparing the master to some pop icon!” But I am merely stating the route I took; I have read a couple of books by Bandler, of which I was suitably impressed. I can see where Tony Robbins got many of his ideas from.


Back to Awaken the Giant Within; I still think that the sections on Identity and Belief are well worth the price of the book on their own. If, however I had read the section on nutrition first I probably wouldn’t have gone any further.


There are other areas which I can find very little in the way of solid evidence to back up the claims made. Maybe the most prominent of these is the idea that when being asked a question an individual will move their eyes in a particular way depending on whether they’re recalling a conversation, something they’d seen, or something they’d felt. I’ve also heard of this being extrapolated to indicate as to whether someone is lying or not.


So if you’re reading this hoping to get tips on effective ways to hit on girls at the local night spot then you’re out of luck; it’s very doubtful that NLP or any other similar system will allow one to read body language or changes in expression to that extent. But here’s a tip for you guys; if she slaps you around the face chances are that she isn’t interested.


So that’s the good and bad as regards NLP / Self Improvement, now we turn to the ugly!


The Secret by Rhonda Byrne reached the top of the New York Times best seller list in 2006; it received a ton of media coverage not least by the Queen of pseudo science clap trap Oprah Winfrey.


The Secret takes positive thinking into overdrive, stating that if you really, really, really want something badly enough then the Universe will provide it. I’m sure the proponents of this rubbish will simply say when some poor sap doesn’t get what they want that they didn’t want it enough. The same trick is used by Christian extremists such as Ray Comfort who says that if Jesus doesn’t reveal himself to you then you’re just not asking with enough conviction; either way it’s a very easy position to defend.


As with many aspects of Self Improvement there is a kernel of truth in the premise. One needs to focus on what they want to achieve; write down your goal where you can see it every day, or preferably several times a day. And then most importantly, take action to bring about that goal; action is key, not pleading with God, the universe, or whatever, action!


My links to religion aren’t accidental; believers in The Secret are like believers in any cult. They isolate themselves from other (potentially negative) people who might interfere with their wants and desires. They associate with those who believe in the Universal power of attraction and then waste time and effort in this pseudo positive thinking.


NLP / Self Improvement is like many things; there’s some great stuff in there if you’re prepared to look for it and avoid the pseudo-science BS which accompanies it. In a quote attributed to Bruce Lee, where he sums up this kind of conundrum, “take what is useful, and reject the rest”.


I’ll leave the last word to one of my mentors. On one of my trips to Westside Barbell I asked Louie Simmons if he or any of his lifters used any NLP techniques; he looked at me like I was speaking another language. I then reframed and asked whether they used visualisation or positive thinking? Now he looked at me like I was mad and simply said “No, just lift the damn weight!”