NLP – The User’s Manual for the Mind


Over the past few years I’ve grown more and more interested in the subject of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). It started with a Tony Robbins audio course I listened to about 8 or 9 years ago called Personal Power II. Tony is a controversial love him or hate him type of guy. The loud, charming, inspirational guru on the stage doesn’t work for everyone and I remember thinking many people wouldn’t get through the first tape because it was too corny. But ultimately you get out of things what you put into them and if you really want to change and improve the quality of your life you’ll suffer the inconvenience of an accent, and err – larger than life personality, for what you can learn and how it can help you.

Tony’s course wasn’t dedicated to NLP as such; but then it depends on your definition of what NLP is. At that time I had no idea what NLP was, even when I had completed the 30 day course. But it broadened my horizons and made me think about, well, how I think – and how I might think differently – and if I did, how that might help me.

I started to read books you might class as ‘self-help’; Susan Jeffers ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ being a particular stand-out for me. I wasn’t happy in my life, that’s what led me on the journey, but I changed the way I lived it and got a lot more fulfilment as a result. My new approach – if I could do anything and be anyone, what would that be? Now, what stops me? Usually I found that the answer was only me. I stopped letting myself be the cause of my own unhappiness, I set about doing the things that I wanted to do despite my nerves or insecurity and I started to put things in my life that would make it worth living. It became quite fun too! It’s the way I’ve lived ever since.

What I was doing could actually be described as NLP. NLP doesn’t create anything new and a lot of the criticism thrown its way makes me laugh because all NLP does is seek to understand how people do what they do, and as my own NLP guru (although he would hate to be called that) Michael Dunlop would say “bottle it so that we can do it when we choose to”.

We’ve been doing these things our whole lives and yet when someone calls it a thing it loses credibility

NLP, as mentioned in the title, is often referred to as the ‘User’s Manual for the Mind’. The Association for Neurolinguistic Programming (ANLP) explains that it “…looks at the way in which we think and process our thoughts (Neuro), the language patterns we use (Linguistic) and our behaviours (Programming) and how these interact to have a positive (or negative) effect on us as individuals.”

The critics would say we’re all conditioned to be who we are and we can’t change. They’re partly right. It reminds me of a scene from one of my favourite series of films – Rocky.


Adrian: Before there were reasons to fight I could understand but I don’t understand this. Even if you win what have you won, Apollo’s still gone. Why can’t you change your thinking everybody else does?

Rocky: Cause I’m a fighter! That’s how I’m made, Adrian. That’s what you married. We can’t change what we are.

Adrian: [Softly] Yes you can.

Rocky: We can’t change anything, Adrian. All we can do is just go with what we are.


You read that in their voices didn’t you?

We are conditioned by our experiences (particularly those when we’re very young), our upbringing and the company we keep. We may have been a certain way for what seems like our whole lives. But ultimately if we’re motivated and want to, commit to it and believe in ourselves we’ll find ways to learn how to change, ways to get ourselves better results and ways to improve the quality and experience of our lives. For me that’s where NLP came in.

Rocky Changes

Note: I do love how Rocky found his way into this blog; that wasn’t pre-planned!

In May I completed Michael Dunlop’s Advanced NLP Practitioner Programme after years of personal interest in the subject and Michael himself being too interesting not to go and learn from! Michael actually serves as the Northern Ireland Ambassador for the Association of Neurolinguistic Programming. The programme consisted of Diplomas in NLP Coaching, NLP Change Leadership and Advanced NLP Techniques with experiential learning playing a big role so we were practicing everything we learnt with each other on the course and in between seminars much to the joy of my family and friends!

NLP is used in all walks of life – politics, business, education, sports, public speaking, life coaching, entertainment, health – the list could go on. It’s made me reconsider the way in which I do things and I’ve brought many NLP techniques into the training and development interventions I facilitate. It’s become a lot more prominent in the Learning & Development world in recent years, particularly in coaching, but there’s definitely confusion as to what it is. That’s actually what motivated me to write the blog.

Take one conversation I had with a friend a few months back. He asked me what the qualification was that I was studying for. When I explained he told me that he wouldn’t be interested because he doesn’t like people playing with his mind; I’ve found this to be a common misconception. I explained that the only person playing with his mind would be him.

NLP, like any type of coaching, is not about telling people what to do or solving their problems for them. It’s about helping them to get clarity on what they’re currently getting because of what they’re currently doing and what they could do differently to get a better outcome. My solution is likely only going to be right for me based on how I see the world so if I try and force my solution on you – you might agree to get out of the room but you’re unlikely to implement it or find it a sustainable option; because you don’t really believe in it.

Of course, again like any type of coaching, your experience of NLP is only as good as the practitioner you work with and in that respect it’s important to choose someone you believe in and are comfortable with. The ‘sage on the stage’, as Michael would call it, or all-seeing all-wise guru who can solve all your problems and make you a millionaire is more likely just a salesperson. NLP is best when it’s kept simple, looking for the difference that makes the difference – what you can take from what others are doing that you believe you could do that would help you. It’s about looking for the small changes that make the biggest difference. But the choices and the solutions are yours not the coach’s.

Personally, I’ve found NLP great for solving all kinds of business and career problems and so I’ve recently put together a short programme called ‘Problem Solving with NLP’ to help those who feel stuck either with a business problem or a personal problem learn techniques that can help them understand what the issue is, why it exists, what they can do about it and take action. The aim is for them to be able to use these techniques with themselves going forward, not be reliant on a guru.

It’s a two day course, not consecutive as there are assignments in between for you to try these things out, coupled with one to one coaching in which we look at how NLP can help with:

  • Understanding your problems, identifying & implementing better solutions
  • Tackling procrastination & making decisions
  • Idea generation, creative & lateral thinking
  • Mediation & resolving conflict
  • Managing your emotional state
  • Eliciting strategies for success to improve personal performance in any area
  • Identifying limiting beliefs and replacing them with more useful beliefs
  • Communication & rapport building

I have interest in public courses in both Belfast and Barcelona currently. If you’d like more information, or even just to chat a bit further about NLP, drop me an e-mail


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