You Can’t Lose Bad Habits?

Lately I have noticed with increasing frequency and delight the number of instances of discoveries and principles and understandings first generated in the field of NLP that are now becoming known and verified by mainstream Western science.

It was in NLP that the understanding that people had different learning styles, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, was first popularized some 30 years ago. At the time it seemed a radical and foolish notion. Nowadays, it is a commonplace.

Fifty years ago if someone heard voices in their head they might be considered crazy. NLP pointed out that (usually) this is simply one of the variety of ways people process their experience.

The notion that imaginary rehearsal was valid preparation, almost as much so as actual practice, was another notion that seemed pretty far-fetched when first proposed. With the discovery of mirror neurons and their function we now have a scientific validation for that understanding.

The latest example of verification of principles and understandings discovered in the field of NLP is mentioned in an article in this week’s New York Times titled “Can You Become A Creature Of New Habits?”

In this article what the researchers point out is that these recent discoveries have indicated that while it’s extremely difficult to extinguish undesired habits, it’s very possible to create new ones that can become the preferred path of behavior:

But brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks.

In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

But don’t bother trying to kill off old habits; once those ruts of procedure are worn into the hippocampus, they’re there to stay. Instead, the new habits we deliberately ingrain into ourselves create parallel pathways that can bypass those old roads.

Can You Become a Creature of New Habits? NYT, Janet Rae-Dupree, May 4, 2008

This verifies several understandings in NLP. One of the earliest NLP presuppositions was that “every behavior is useful in some context.” So rather than attempting to extinguish an undesirable behavior, we would work to find contexts in which it was useful, and then find alternatives that better suited the original context and with practice became more desirable and more likely to persist in our behavior.

An early example of this is in the pattern called the New Behavior Generator. This pattern includes both the creation of a desirable alternative behavior and the use of anchoring to reinforce the new behavior and one of the use of future pacing as a means of further reinforcing the desired new behavior.

Short and sweet, here’s a layout of the entire process from the original NLP Comprehensive Practitioner Training Manual so that you can see the parallels for yourself. – oh, and have some fun laying some new tracks while you’re at it!

The New Behavior Generator

1. Recall a situation where you felt unresourceful (frustrated, confused, surprised, angry, frightened). Really be in the situation for a moment (1st position) seeing, hearing, and feeling what’s around you. Be aware of others and how they are responding.

2. Take a deep breath, and physically step back from the situation as if you were stepping out of “yourself over there” (3rd position). Shift your posture to express a resource state, then observe the situation as if you were watching a stage play of yourself.

3. Evaluate the situation and Select a model:

a.) “Think of someone else who can handle that kind of situation really well.”

b.) “See that person doing different behaviors in that troublesome context.”

c.) “Choose one of those behaviors that you think would be particularly appropriate for

you to learn to use in that context.”

4. See behavior in context. “See and hear yourself doing those effective behaviors in that context.”

5. Ecology Check

6. Associate: Step back into the situation with the new resources fully available to you. Experience it from the inside, hearing, seeing, and feeling yourself behave with all of your resources available.

7. Evaluate your new response. If it is not satisfactory, re-cycle to step 3 and choose a different resource and/or model or mentor that has the resources you need.

8. Future-pace: Rehearse for the future, by imagining a similar situation in which you want to have all your resources available.

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