Tag Archives: intention

Focus: What do you want now?

30 Oct 16
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Would you like to know a single question that could transform any argument, problem or issue?

This single question might not win the argument or fix the problem or resolve the issue but sometimes a single question is all it takes.

Recently my wife and I sat down with a coffee to share a few minutes together before we would be spending a few weeks apart. It started well and we had some very pleasant time together. Until the outside world  intruded: Messages on her phone. Messages on my phone. Researching an answer to a question that arose in the conversation. And before we knew it, we were more focused on our phones than we were on each other.

I was frustrated that we weren’t connecting and let her know. And you can probably understand that she responded defensively, pointing out that I was on my phone too. And she was right. So I stood up and walked away.

I needed to breathe.

And once I did, I asked myself a simple question: “What do I want now?”

The answer was simple: I wanted to connect. I wanted us to be present together. As I was telling her this the “problem” disappeared, like it had never been there in the first place. In a few moments we went from being upset and defensive to being together, happy and sharing that precious gift of the present.

I’m sure there was an array of anchoring and precision language and submodalities that we could have used. Or I could have juggled or setup a well-formed outcome or explored a timeline. But in that moment I could change my focus by asking myself a very simple question. And that one question that I asked of myself made all the difference.

It can be useful to differentiate between problems, remedies and outcomes (Clean Language’s PRO). When I am asking myself, “What do I want now?” I am not focusing on the problem. I am not focusing on how I want the problem to be solved. Instead I am focused on my outcome, on what I want. Sometimes the problem needs to be addressed, and we might know how! And yet focusing upon what we want in that moment can be enough to transform our state and give us back our freedom and power to choose.

The next time you find yourself stuck, you might ask yourself, “What do I want now?”

And the next time you are in a difficult conversation or situation, or where you don’t know quite what to do, you might ask yourself that same question. You might even ask other people in the interaction what they want now… and be surprised how easily you can get things back on track by better understanding what we want.

What do you want?

14 Jun 16
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My exploration of Neuro-Linguistic Programming has been in service of one basic desire: I want to help make genius a choice. At least that’s how it started for me.

But what do you want?

Just because I’m interested in making genius a choice doesn’t mean you are! In fact you almost certainly don’t.

Sure, not everybody has explicit, well-designed goals with Gantt charts, identified resources and contingencies plans. But even in reading this article you have objectives. And we can use those to illustrate this aspect of NLP: What do you want to get from today?

As you take a moment to answer this question, please let yourself go beyond the first thing that comes to mind. You might want to write down your answers too.


For as long as I can remember, I have loved martial arts. Having trained in martial arts for most of my life, when I walked into my first Aikido class I saw things differently to the way many people might see things. I didn’t just see a bunch of people being thrown around the room: I saw some techniques I recognised from my previous training, footwork, presence and some things that seemed very strange. I enjoyed being there and decided that I wanted to start training myself.

From when I stepped onto the dojo the next session, I learnt many things. And one thing I realised very quickly is that this is not a spectator sport. Sure, you can enjoy watching the show as an observer. And you can get an important perspective from that angle. But if you really want to experience the Art and Science, you have to participate.

Most karate training remains a dynamic between “attacker” and “defender”. Somebody attacks. Then their partner practises defending against that attack, during which period the ‘attacker’ becomes little more than a crash test dummy. Sometimes in the same exercise, for example in sparring, you and your partner will alternate attacking and defending. And that is a simple dynamic that works well.

Aikido is very different.

Rather than the attacker-defender relationship we have the Uke-Nage relationship. The Uke might begin by grabbing or striking the Nage, in response to which the Nage will apply their chosen technique or strategy. And on the surface this looks much like the attacker-defender relationship.

However there is a big difference: Both Uke and Nage are learning and practising. To fully understand any technique it is important to understand the technique from the perspective of both Uke and Nage. And through experiencing these differences we are able to learn the essence of the technique itself.

Now, back to it: What are your outcomes?

Now that you have at least a few outcomes, let’s explore them in a bit more detail, perhaps starting with thinking about what seems to be your most important outcome:

  1. What do you want that for?
    If you had that outcome, what would that give you? And if you had that, what would that allow you to experience that is even more important still? Please be aware that I’m not asking you your reasons or causes or justifications for that outcome: I’m not asking “why?” While doubtless you have your reasons, I want to know your intention or purpose. You can repeat that line of questioning until you can’t go any further: See how far you can go. This could well develop into something of a hierarchy of intentions.
  2. How would it be if you had that?
    What would it look like? Sound like? Feel like? If you had your outcome, how would you even know? Feel free to describe with as much sensory-specific language as you can how you would know that you had your outcome.
  3. If you had those outcomes what difference would it make?
    Choosing any level of the hierarchy, what consequences would having that have for you? What would you do differently? How would you feel or think or behave as a result?

While these seem very simple questions, by thinking things through you might be able to better understand yourself. You can start defining your outcomes in a more achievable way. You might even recognise some resources, strategies of ways you have to get what you want sooner or easier or with fewer downsides.

What are they doing that for?

15 Mar 16
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People do the strangest things, don’t they.

Have you ever shook your head and asked yourself, “What did they do that for?”

Maybe someone cut in front of you while you were waiting for a subway, bank or restaurant. Or maybe they said they had done something when really you knew they hadn’t. Or maybe they cheated – on their spouse, on a test or on their taxes. And let’s not even start about politicians.

You might have even used the expression, “What did you do that for?” or “Why did you do that?”

Though most of the time when I hear that expression, we don’t actually want to hear an answer!

Which is a pity since that sort of question can be really powerful! One of the most amazing questions to ask is, “What for?”

Asking “What for?” is a powerful way to get you thinking about the intention. And if you can understand their intention, you can find other – better – ways to fulfill that intention.

While asking “What did you do that for?” sounds simple, and can be simple, often people don’t really know what they are doing things for. In a sense, that is the power of asking the question, though you will also want to be careful to check that they actually answer the question. If I ask someone who smokes what they smoke for, there’s a good chance that they will tell me about how they don’t want to smoke but they are addicted. Or someone who is consistently 10 minutes late for appointments will explain that they “can’t help it”. And neither of those are answers to the question!

Mind you, that’s pretty normal. When faced with a hard question, many of us will answer an easier question that is almost the same. When it’s hard to answer “what for” but easy to answer “why”, there’s a good chance people will just give you excuses.

So listen carefully!

Intention can be used in so many ways. If I can understand my intention for a behaviour, I can find other ways to fulfill that intention – maybe that have less undesirable consequences. If I can understand the intention of my negotiating partner, I can find ways to allow us both to win from a negotiation. If I can understand what my client most wants, I can give it to them more efficiently. If I reflect upon my personal goals, relationships and behaviour patterns, you could well notice patterns, themes and habits of what you want to have and experience or what you want to avoid. And that’s a gateway into your values.

Mental Exercise

To train yourself to be more aware of your intentions, pick a behaviour, a goal or a relationship, and ask yourself, “What do I want that for?” And, if you’re game, maybe even ask yourself, “What do I want that intention for?”

Try it out and let us know what you discover.

Be well!


Now it’s important to distinguish between intention and ‘reason’: We aren’t asking “Why did you do that?” but rather, “What did you do that for?” You can probably hear the difference even as you read it. “What for” focuses on their intention while “Why” tends to get people to think about the reasons, causes and justifications.

NLP for increasing your Influence Quotient

19 Mar 13
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Last Friday a small group of us were exploring how NLP can be used for influence. While the language patterns of the Meta Model, Milton Model and even Metaphor Model can be easily applied to increase your “Influence Quotient”, we were exploring this topic more comprehensively.

The first way that NLP can help increase your Influence Quotient is to help you focus on your intention. Influential communicators are powerful and congruent; they have found a way to get all their butterflies flying in formation so that their words, their tonality and their gestures are aligned to communicate a single message. For some people, this sort of alignment comes naturally; they say what they deeply mean and deeply mean whatever they say. For the rest of us, our own doubts – about ourselves or about what we are communicating – can come through even about something that we feel passionate about. By identifying, understanding and aligning with the intention of our message, we can immediately become more influential.

An easy way to do this is through Grinder’s Outcome, Intention, Consequences pattern. Augmenting this with the Core States process (covered in our trainings) can turn this elegant framework into a transformative process.

Another way to amplify your Influence Quotient is to work on your state. As a communicator, whether you are making a sales presentation, negotiating with your boss, speaking with your spouse or even your child, your state might be the biggest predictor of your ability to influence those around you. One of our recent participants told of how when he was on the ATP Tour (men’s professional tennis), a very young Boris Becker walked into the dressing room. This was before Becker had established himself by being the youngest ever Wimbledon Champion, and despite being surrounded by greats including Ivan Lendl, Becker’s “presence” so totally filled the room that everybody went silent. When you are communicating and want to be more influential, check your state! Take an inventory:

  • How are you breathing?
  • What is your posture?
  • What are you focusing upon?
  • What are you saying – to yourself, and to those around you?

But how can we change our state? Other than changing your physiology as I mentioned just before, changing your submodalities can have a powerful impact. By changing submodalities, one of my clients moved a negative, nagging, annoying voice that was leaving him immobilized with fear into a supportive, seductive reminder of the important risks for which he needed to prepare.

What are these magical submodalities? In the last example, the location of the voice and the sound quality are both examples of submodalities. For example, if you could imagine a beautiful picture, and really look at it, where do you see it? Straight in front of you? Up to the right? How far away is it? Is it in vivid colour or black and white? These are all examples of submodalities.

When I was a university student, I remember how through the semester the assignments and exams felt a long way away yet the day before an assignment was due or the night before an exam, the reality of that deadline would creep up on me and be straight in front or even on top of me! By pushing that internal representation of the assignment or exam away, I could relax and focus even amid intense pressure.

As a student of influence, notice how you are using submodalities to internally represent your message. How attractive does your message seem to you? How could you make it even more attractive or even seductive? What could you do to communicate that to your audience?

Intention, State and Submodalities are powerful tools for increasing our ability to influence those around us. Another tool that we can use to increase our Influence Quotient is that of Perceptual Positions. Merely recognizing that there are multiple perspectives at all can help us better frame and transfer our thoughts and feelings; the Perceptual Positions exercise (what we refer to as “Moving Chairs”) of moving from 3rd to 1st to 2nd to 3rd for a specific context, observing from a non-attached 3rd Position and a congruent 2nd Position, and recognizing that 1st Position is, while immensely valuable and important, just one perspective, can be very helpful. Try it out for yourself – notice how much your Influence Quotient lifts when you deliberately shift perceptual positions.

There is a lot that NLP can do to help you become more influential. In the two hours that we had to play with, exploring Intention, State, Submodalities, and Perceptual Positions was pretty ambitious… but good fun.