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Dr. Richard Bandler has often quoted Virginia Satir in the past as saying: “When people have choices they tend to pick the best one”. By taking responsibility for their choices, people begin to realize that they have control over those choices and therefore can begin to make things happen rather than have things happen to them. This is incredibly empowering because so many people think they’re in the position that they don’t have any choices and are swept along on the tides of happenstance. But if they take the time to go back and review the events that led up to the situations they find themselves in, they’ll find that there are any number of times they could have made a different choice and gone down a different path. Their mindset limited their map of reality and so they did not see their choices as being their own. Once they realize they’re making choices by not taking control, they can make better ones.

Luckily, we in the Society of NLP have a number of different tools to empower people to learn to make better choices and it always pays to goes back to basics. First, the map is not the territory. How often have we heard people say they “had/have no choice” and in speaking to them find out they don’t have a lot on their map of reality. By expanding a person’s map, we help them see that there are options they’ve never thought of before and by dissociating themselves they can see more options.

Here’s an example of how I’ve used this principle and how powerfully it can affect a person’s life. I have a friend who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and wanted to stop. While using the Meta Model to gather information and figure out her strategy for knowing when to smoke, it turned out that she was primarily smoking when she did certain things like getting into her car. I asked her to describe the steps she took when she would smoke and the first time that came up was when she got into the car. Right after buckling the seat belt and before starting she would pull out a cigarette and light it up and only then would she pull out. Her strategy in this case was she would get in, pull out a cigarette and light up. I told her next time she got in the car, to stop and decide if she really wanted a cigarette rather than just lighting one up out of habit. We then went through several other times when she would smoke and broke down the steps. By doing this, she took control of her choices and she dropped to three cigarettes a day within a week and then stopped all together soon after that.

It’s true that choices have consequences, especially when they’re not thought out but when you take control of your choices, you can use them to create powerful change in your life and your clients’.