I was jobless and the blank page stared back at me. I wanted to be a writer – a good one. But for some reason, words didn’t find themselves on the page. In the midst of my endless quest to get somewhere, to get to something, to be something, I realized that I felt more off-course and off-kilter than before. Things were getting hard. The clarity of what I needed to do became less and less clear.
I was lost.
But the principles of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, in many ways, saved me. The theory, based on the work of John Grinder and Richard Bandler, explains the connection between neurology, language, and behavior patterns with the goal of helping people make changes quickly. And for me, it changed everything.
In a sense, NLP is simple: how to make changes to our behavior by taking advantage of how our minds work with language. It tells us that our minds are simple input and output machines; they cannot distinguish between objective reality and our perception of reality, so when we speak negatively we feel negative. If we speak well, we benefit. We get to spin the story of our lives and we get to define our reality.
NLP is not a new idea. Many philosophers agree with it. In college, I studied Kantian philosophy and realized later that even Kant was grappling with the same questions, but didn’t have the modern science to help navigate how the brain works.
If you take what Kant said and what NLP proves, the conclusion is that there is no single truth in the way we experience the world. We are simply using our senses to understand the world—there is no right or wrong. In every moment our senses send information to our brains for interpretation: a comment a co-worker made, the way we look in the mirror that morning, the way our spouse spoke to us, even the way we experience our morning coffee and bagel.
The sum of all of these perceptions is what makes our life, our life. You can choose to revisit any story and change your perception of it. If there are many different ways to view our lives, then life becomes a question of how effective of storyteller we are.
So, how effective are you at telling a story that supports your life goals? Because rewiring how we think about our lives is the key to changing and acting on its behalf. Looking at the blank page in despair is one thing – doing something about it, is something else entirely.