Motivation: Looking Back to Look Forward

I don’t know about you, for me this is the time of year when my motivation starts to suffer.  The holidays are approaching, I become reflective about the year that is coming to an end and anticipatory about the upcoming year.  My family is excited and begins discussing their plans for the season.  Not to mention the chill outside makes me want a warm fire, cozy blanket and cup of hot chocolate.  The motivation to get things done isn’t always there.
This is a fantastic technique to build motivation around any task.  As you practice this process you will find your motivation increased and your resistance to getting things done lessens.  I encourage you to practice it, use it more than once.  Try the variations listed, and find the way that works best for you.

Talk soon,


Motivation “Remember A Time When” Looking Back to Look Forward.

Tom Dotz

Word Count 976 Average reading time: 3.9 minutes

A common phrase used in NLP processes is “Remember a time when”. It’s used to access resources from your personal history that you want to bring or transfer into a new situation.

In a great example of how NLP mimics life, and NLP processes were modeled from successful strategies, here’s a quote from a financial writer, Josh Brown.

He’s writing about how from time to time, as we all do, he loses or forgets his passion for what he does. His strategy is to time travel back in his memory to a  time when he felt really passionate about his work. Then, from that point, to look forward to his current project with those feelings of passion.

Here is his strategy in his own words:

Looking Back to Move Forward

Looking Back to Move Forward

“When were you at your very best? What was the period of time during which you were firing on all cylinders and were the most satisfied. What are you doing differently now? Moreover, what were the things you were doing and feeling then that aren’t happening now?

And what changed?

Often, the answer to these questions is that you’ve lost the passion you once had.
Passion leads to drive, it makes work feel like fun and possibility feel like inevitability.
The hours fly by as you work away at your projects and tasks, but the toil itself takes no toll at all – this is what you are meant to be doing.

I get into a rut sometimes and begin to focus on all the reasons why I’m stuck and things aren’t working. But it doesn’t last long because I’ve trained myself to look back. I reach in deep and immerse myself in the passion again, I put my head under and hold it there until I get that feeling again. And before I know it, I feel like I’m back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing, all of the synapses are connecting again and I’m on my way. The challenge may be different, the tasks at hand varied and unfamiliar, but the spirit in which I’m tackling them is always the same. Stella called it her groove and Austin called it his mojo.

I call it looking back in order to move forward.”

Josh is using a very specific example of his work, something for which he has multiple experiences of feeling passionate about. From an NLP point we could call this accessing past resources and bringing them into the future. Josh’s metaphors suggest he is using a kinesthetic anchor (reach in deep, hold my head) and holding it until his resource emotion overwhelms (crosses threshold) his unresourceful state.

Describing it as a very simple anchoring process you would:

1)   Think of a time when you really felt passionate or excited about your work

2)   Anchor that feeling with a touch such as left index finger on left knee (or
verbally saying a phrase like “yes, that’s it!”, or with a visual like seeing yourself experiencing that feeling) – best of all, combine in sequence, or simultaneously, experiences in two or more modalities.

3)   Holding the anchor, remember another and another resource experience adding those to your anchor until you have strong enough feelings that you find yourself moving forward, no longer stuck.

This takes a bit of precision; and works quite well to the extent you are precise and use specific examples in the same context.

After a lot of experiments and modeling in NLP we learned that we can expand this and make it more useful across a variety of contexts, and even transfer resources from one context to another. You can do this with anchoring processes or submodalities.

For instance, riffing on the example above, consider a context where you are doing something new, or something for which you don’t have an experience of passion. There are two sources you can draw on. First, you can use memories of other experiences where you did feel passionate and motivated, or you can use an exemplar: someone  who is passionate about that activity.

The feeling is a state, and when you access that state, whether from your own experience or from going second position with someone else, you can anchor or fix that state for future access. Then with the state accessed, moving into a new activity, the  state will tend to persist across context for some time. And if it doesn’t persist long enough, you can use the anchor to re-access it.

To put it in steps,

1) Think of a specific experience when you felt passionate or excited.

2) Anchor that feeling with a touch or a phrase

3) Thinking of that new situation or context where you want that motivating feeling

4) Trigger that feeling in the new situation

Stacking or amplifying: “But it just isn’t strong enough/convincing enough!”

OK, do step 1) again with another positive experience, and anchor that on top of the first anchor. Do it a third time, and even a fourth, anchoring all of those with the same touch in the  same spot.

Now, proceed to step 3) and then 4).

One more variation that is sometimes more appropriate: Using an experience of someone else who is already passionate about that specific activity (project, work, task – pick the word best for you).

Remember that person’s feelings of excitement and passion, and just for a moment step into that and imagine feeling that way yourself, fully and completely. When that feeling is peaking, then set an anchor. Use this  anchor and go to steps 3) and 4)

So play around, and enjoy!

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