The language we use speaks VOLUMES to us in all walks of life if we are willing to listen to it.
You may have heard the word NLP before – or Neuro-Linguistic Programming as it is truthfully known! it seems you can’t turn in many directions without finding an NLP Master Practitioner on display. Although I hold my hand up in saying that I have this qualification, it isn’t something I scream and shout about as I am a firm believer we are all trained practitioners in this area – we are just choosing whether to use it or not!
Here me out…..
Let’s talk about our goals for a second and in particular, our language patterns around moving towards or away from these goals. Our language patterns can help us to understand that there are times when we are inspired by our ambitions and have a strong desire to move towards our objectives or likewise, there are occasions we feel more driven to move away from a difficult situation rather than towards a particular goal.
Although those attitudes are reflected, to some extent, in each of us; our overall personalities tend to be governed by what is described in the NLP meta model as a “towards” or “away from” pattern.
For today, all you need to know is that the meta program ‘Towards’ is defined as a focus on achieving goals, while its opposite ‘Away From’ is defined as a focus on avoiding problems.
Think gain v’s pain (kinda haha)…
Just for those who do want a little detour history lesson – metaprograms come from Noam Chomsky’s model of using filters of deletion, distortion, and generalization in the way we experience and are influenced by the world around us. Metaprograms are patterns in those deletions, distortions and generalizations (I will define these three terms in the coming weeks as they are a little like a-ha moments for the brain).
Metaprograms give a, what I like to call, a “preference” based pattern. Meaning it is how we prefer to sort our “lives” a lot of the time, not ALL of the time.
We do not really need to go into the semantics of what the meta models means at this stage, we will keep it nice and basic by asking this question:
  • Do you think on the whole you are a “towards” person or an “away from” person when it comes to your goals?
“Hmmmmmm I am not sure?!” – I hear people say with a look of Luke Skywalker confusion having just sat with Yoda.
Let me try and help 🙂
Towards NLP language patterns
  • If you fall into the “towards” category you will see the benefit and be motivated by your goals.
  • You will be thinking about pleasurable activities, achieving in sport or other fields, perhaps gaining promotion or starting a business.
  • So you will be thinking positively. You will either know what you want, or have a good idea about it, and go about doing what is necessary to get there.
Away From NLP language patterns
  • On the other hand, if you are more of an “away from” person you are likely to be on the lookout for perceived threats or challenges, you will be particularly aware of pitfalls and might have a tendency for seeking solutions.
  • You will be wanting to avoid disasters, challenges, crises or even difficult situations.
“Sounds similar to the Fixed and Growth Mindset” I hear you say – indeed it is – in part!
Listen carefully to the words you use – or to make life easier, become a detective and listen to the words of your friend’s family and colleagues…
  • Do they tell you about their dreams and what they are looking forward to achieving?
  • Do they say things like: “I am working and saving hard for a new car” or are they more likely to remark:
  • “I shall be glad when I don’t have to walk or take the bus any more”?
Do you see the difference in language?
Here’s the thing – in a sense we are all both away as well as toward motivated.
It is probably worth pointing out here too that metaprograms can be contextual. For example, People may be highly toward motivated when they talk about the future of their children or a job they would one day love to have.
Even though they are really away motivated where it comes to other subjects, like quitting smoking or leaving a long term relationship.
You might ask this in relation to the whole “energy flows where attention goes”, mantra. In other words, if someone is focused on what they don’t want to happen and the unconscious mind cannot process a negative, wouldn’t it be the goal to become more toward-motivated?
Yes, correct! I am a firm believer myself in “energy flows where attention goes”, especially paired with action, responsibility, lots of hard work, and setting well-formed outcomes- all of which can lead to beautiful things.
The unconscious mind can indeed not process negation, and energy could flow in the wrong direction. And again, you could launch your focus on the “problem” state.
I think common sense is the answer here. If you are away motivated, use this knowledge to motivate yourself towards change. But use it as much as this is required to obtain commitment and a good result.
This means you would spend some time on what I like to call “bonus-building”, getting some mini-stepping bonus points, e.g. how much MORE MOTIVATED do you feel to lose weight when you start seeing a pound fall off the scales – helps to give you that extra push for the following week.
Or likewise, when you KNOW you have completed cardio or weight training exercises at least 3 times a week and hit your mini-week goal marker (Wahoo! High-Five!)
Once you have done a few weeks of “bonus-building”, then move to resourceful states. A place where you can start thinking in terms of solutions, to go from unresource to resourceful, to set those medium and long term goals.
Much like all of NLP, language is a dance that even Strictly’s Bruno would be proud of!
In a nutshell, listen to your subconscious language patterns – what are they telling you about HOW you should set goals and HOW BEST you can achieve them!
Need help? Give me a shout 🙂

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