Want to know how to design a metaphor for positive change? It is often said that a great communicator is a great story teller. I once heard a story about a college women football team and how a chance encounter between the team's captain and the college's science teacher changed the history of their football team. The storyteller was an elderly and seemingly frail gentleman, but the story telling was anything but frail. I sat amazed at how 258 first year university students were glued to the edge of their seats listening to this man.
The story takes them on a journey of discovery as the team captain found out about how a person's conviction plays a critical role in winning matches. It journals the shifting of their beliefs about themselves and their teammates, the synchronising of their tactical skills, the commitment placed in practices and the effort everyone was willing to take in order to work towards their desired outcomes. The story ended with the team winning numerous district and state championships but most importantly was the triumph over the their long standing nemesis, a college football team forty miles away.
What was more astounding was the fact that when the elderly gentleman ended the story by asking who would be willing to make the sacrifices in order to achieve their dreams, and a sea of hands shot up. Now that's storytelling at it's best! So, how do we design a story that will have a positive impact on the lives of our listeners? Here's how.
Metaphor or story is a technique taught in NLP courses. It explores the fundamentals of how the human mind respond to stories and why it has such a strong impact on all of us. The basis of Neuro Linguistic Programming is about the mind and how information are processed. This is where things get really interesting. Metaphors are powerful communication tools simply because our unconscious mind have a tendency of personalising events in a story into our own lives. And it doesn't matter if its a true events, fairytales or a work of fiction. The impact is quite significant. For NLP Practitioners, they are taught how to design a metaphor that can help people make the most positive changes in their lives. This is very useful both at work and personal. For information on how NLP can help in company or individuals, click here.
Now, lets get started on designing metaphors that make positive changes. To make the metaphor impactful, it is important to know that there are (1st) pre-work or in this case is the work done prior to designing the story. And (2nd) the actual creation of the metaphor.
Step 1. Identify the sequence of events that took place until the manifestation of the current (unwanted) behaviour. Take note of all behavioural response in relation to those events and look for consistent patterns that leads to the current unwanted behaviour. If necessary, asked for another similar experience to calibrate the correlation.
Step 2. Identify the new and desired behaviour or outcomes.
Step 1. Create a story with a character that has similar behavioural traits as identified during pre-work phase. The character in the story can be anything, from objects to creatures.
Step 2. Create a storyline that has similar chain of events and behavioural response as identified during the pre-work phase.
Step 3. Insert a new behaviour or mindset one event before the manifestation of the unwanted behaviour identified during pre-work phase. The NLP world refer to this as the 'resourceful state'.
Step 4. Have the new mindset or behaviour lead to the desired outcome as identified in step 2 of the pre-work phase. Sometimes it's good to keep the ending as ambiguous so that the unconscious mind of the listener could make the necessary conclusion and personalised to their own context.
Putting it all together, a case study example:
This client have been struggling to lose weight through exercising. He has tried many exercise regimes, join the gym and even trying adventure sports but to no avail. He would start out excited but after 3 weeks the fire seems to just die down. The reasons he gave during the pre-work session was that during the 3 weeks exercise, he would be feeling exhausted, at times unmotivated to get up to exercise, not seeing immediate changes in his physical form (especially the belly) and sometimes wonder if he is cut out for being fit. As a result of these chain of thoughts, he ends up giving up on the weight lost program. This cycle repeats almost every year for the last 3 years. His longest record for maintaining an exercise program is 3.5 weeks. He wished he could be motivated to stay on course and see the new him.
STEP 1: Pre-work identification of behaviours or sequence of events that leads to unwanted behaviour of giving up: Excited at first - feeling exhausted - unmotivated to get up - not seeing immediate physical changes - wonders if he is cut out for fitness - giving up.
STEP 2: Pre-work identification of desired behaviour: Motivated and stay on course to see results.
STEP 1 & 2: Creating a story that consist of similar behaviours and chain of events/thoughts that leads to the unwanted behaviour.
In the plains of Argentina there live a foal who grew up admiring the speed and endurance of its cousins who turns out to be strong fine stallions racing on the vast expanse of the plains. Sometimes when they would gather and race, the young foal will always end up last. This situation seems to play out the same, year after year, even when the foal has become a fully grown horse. So one day this horse decided to make changes and train to be stronger and faster. He began by training every morning, running as hard he could and as far as he could. Initially he was very excited but soon realised that the muscle aches and the pain began to take a toll on the body. After a few days he began feeling tired all the time, and this leads to him feeling less excited about getting up in the morning to train. The horse also felt that there were no physical evidence of any changes in muscle tone of the body. A few more days went by and he began to wonder whether he is designed to be a race horse. There were many occasions where he actually contemplate giving up the dream of running faster or becoming stronger...
(STEP 3 & 4: Insert a new behaviour or mindset that leads to the desired outcome.)
....However during one of the training session, the horse saw another stallion doing practice run which was very fast. He decided to go and asked the stallion how to achieve the same results. To his surprise, he learned that the key to success in training is to have a long term plan that include training exercises, rest days, a sustainable intensity (usually starting slow and moving up) and a 10 months goal. The horse went back and start working on this long term plan and after 2 years of the training program and seeking more and more knowledge about racing, those slow days were a thing in the past...
There you have it, how to design a metaphor for positive change. Feel free to share this post with those you think would benefit from this NLP technique. For other information on how NLP can help individuals, click here.