The Amazing New Behavior Generator

Building upon our ability to associate or dissociate, we can actually create new behaviors, and teach ourselves to use them. What we’re going to do is to choose a behavior we would benefit from developing. For instance, at one point, early in my NLP career, I asked a trainer to install in me a ferocious motivation strategy. He did…

You know the expression, “Be careful what you wish for?” Well… I developed a massive amount of impatience for the outcome I had in mind. If I wanted to learn how to develop an application in a new programming language, to develop my physical fitness to a particular degree, or to get the most gorgeous girl I knew to go out with me (yes, that is a simpler goal…but still required a little bit of preparation…), I committed to achieving that goal RIGHT NOW. I could annoy or frustrate myself when my results weren’t instantaneous. The truth is that some goals are so “big” that they require steps, developing pieces of what we need, then arranging them to make the “big” goal a reality. We all realize this. By the way, notice that “goals” aren’t the same thing as “behaviors”… Which is our clue. In order to achieve some outcomes, we must develop new behaviors, new attitudes, and assemble our goals from those constituent pieces.

Consider the Stages of Learning:

  1. Unconscious incompetence (UI)—we don’t know what we don’t know
  2. Conscious incompetence (CI)—we now are aware of what we don’t know!
  3. Conscious competence (CC)—we’ve learned the skill and can execute with deliberate, conscious effort
  4. Unconscious competence (UC)—we know the skill so well that it’s developed into an automatic operation we can execute without considering any of the steps any longer. Our unconscious manages it just fine.

What we do initially is make sense of what we’ll need to do to create Conscious competence (CC). We could, in keeping with NLP parlance, call this a map. As with any map, it organizes the pathway, the steps we must follow, to reach our goal of CC. The wonderful part is that we don’t have to use trial and error to accomplish each step, same as we don’t have to try every turn, every street, in order to reach a particular address on a map. The map shows us the path and we can simply follow that, step by step, as we near our goal. The map itself can come from observing others who’ve achieved that goal. Role modeling has always been important in NLP and leveraging the experience of others can save us a great deal of time and effort. We similarly can use our own past experience. Maybe we have not yet learned to achieve conscious competence with “Speaking persuasively in front of an audience.” But have thousands of other people before you done so? Absolutely. But then haven’t you also learned something, yourself, before? Maybe not persuasive public speaking, but you learned to persuade a friend when giving them advice, haven’t you? What kind of steps were involved in that process? Is there anything you can borrow from as you pursue this new goal? You can, I’m sure, find something. Even if it’s very high-level, general steps such as “keeping your mind open”, “going easy on yourself—no one gets it right the first time!” or “listen carefully to what others are saying” (with one person or a small group), or its large-group analog, “observe others’ body language to calibrate agreement or dissent—and adjust accordingly.” Similarly, you will notice smaller behaviors that you’ll need to coordinate in order to achieve your goal.

The New Behavior Generator doesn’t magically create CC for you—but it lays out a framework whereby you can reach that goal more quickly. Those constituent behaviors are the key—you identify what they are and this process creates them. Visualization is an important part of this. Since you are analyzing processes, looking for the things you must do to achieve something new, your willingness to visualize and mentally rehearse the new skill, is crucial.

But wait, there’s more! The “goal” doesn’t have to be something massive for this process to work. In fact, there doesn’t have to be a goal at all—it’s just particularly useful in that context. The New Behavior Generator works wherever you find yourself at an impasse, where you’re “stuck” and lack the behavioral flexibility to move forward.

I mentioned that this built upon Association/Dissocation and you’ll see it here…

First, to use this process,

  1. Identify a goal that requires new behaviors for its achievement (and one that so far, you haven’t been able to simply model from someone who’s already done it.)
  2. Observe the limitation that impedes the goal for you in a dissociated position
  3. From that dissociated state, determine which constituent behaviors would likely help you to achieve that goal
  4. Determine whether the behavior would be ecological for you. Seriously—it’s a new behavior, and if it isn’t likely to coexist with your existing behaviors, it may not stay with you.
  5. Associate into the new behavior. “Step into” the image or the narrative of the new behavior and feel it integrate into your repertoire.
  6. Future pace: what will it be like to have this new behavior? What IS IT NOW LIKE to have this behavior? How has it helped you to achieve that goal?
  7. Do this with each of the constituent behaviors until you have all the pieces in place. Give yourself the sensory feedback that the goal is yours. Visualize and rehearse this, future pace, associated, and experience it as yours now.

What follows is an example from a workshop I held in 2002.

“Let’s demonstrate this process with…you!

I chose an attendee who’d been shifting anxiously in his seat, as though he wanted very much to do this. He confirms this by jumping up and to the front of the room.

“Thank you for volunteering, Billy! Okay, you’ve gotten an idea of what we’re doing here. We’re going to do the abridged version for the sake of time. I want you to think of a situation in which you feel you have too few behavioral options. Think—we want something where, by the time you return to your seat, you will have created some powerful new resources for yourself. So—no need to tell us what situation is if you don’t want. We can work at the structural level…”

Directing my attention to the attendees, I say: “Remember, your role as always is to use that sensory acuity, observer, calibrate, and note where something shifts.” I then return my attention to the front of the room.

“Billy, you’ve got something in mind, don’t you? Good. Now, dissociate from that situation, and observe it from multiple perspectives, ‘over there.’ If it’s at the back of the room, or even outside the window, consider how that would look to any of us, or even someone outside. You now have some real perspective on the situation, so as I ask you to come up with some behavioral options that would help you in that situation, you’re now in a much better place to see them clearly. Go ahead and state one for us, please.

Billy says, “Tenacity, that’s the main one.”

“Nice! Anyone else here who might want to develop some tenacity? Okay, here’s the thing. I believe you. And it sounds really good. But we’re not designing a human from scratch, here. You’re already a living, working, playing, loving being. You already have a lot of behaviors that you do which make sense for you. If we were to add ‘tenacity’ to them, would it encounter any conflicts? Would it therefore be ecological? Think…does it fit with your other behaviors?”

Billy looks down to the left, then back at me, saying, “There are one or two ecological problems…but to be honest, those behaviors in conflict are things I’m hoping to get rid of or replace here in the next couple days anyway. So tenacity is ecological with everything I want to keep!”

“Well done! Okay, everyone, quick calibration—is there anything in his answer, his physiology, anything that makes you doubt him? Remember, if he’s mistaken and there IS some kind of ecology issue—with a behavior he plans to keep, anyway—we could be creating conflict for him and he might not get the tenacity he needs. So be honest! Anyone? Anything? No? Going once…! How about you, Billy? If you’re committed to losing or replacing those conflicting behaviors, I can commit to supporting that. But is there ANYTHING else that might not coexist well with tenacity?

He laughs and says, “No, that’s a winner.”

“Okay, consider what tenacity looks like. Have you EVER been tenacious in your life, in any other context?”

Billy says, “Yes, I know what it looks like and feels like…” his physiology shifts, his shoulders draw back, his jaw fixes. “And yes, I’ve been tenacious in other contexts. But this one would be a new form of that.”

“Awesome. Okay, form a picture of that tenacity. See what you looked like when you were tenacious in the past. Add to that images of role models, other people who represent tenacity to you…got it? Great. Now the fun part! Step INTO that image! Feel what it felt like, what it FEELS LIKE. See through the eyes of a tenacious man! View the world with your familiar, and once-more tenacious perspective! Look through those eyes. Notice how the world responds to you with this behavior! Excellent! Now…begin to move forward in time…notice how that feels in a week, a month, a year…what is your life like as a tenacious man, two years down the road? Three? What is the cumulative effect of your power, your tenacity, on your success? Your goals?

“Beautiful. I’m seeing some pretty intense shifts in you, sir. What about you guys? Does anyone else here see anything different? Billy, take a look at those nodding, smiling faces. I think they’re seeing the same thing I’m seeing. Tell us: What does the world look like through tenacious eyes? Knowing that whatever you set out to do, you can achieve? What does that FEEL LIKE?

He leaned back and smiled. “It feels great! And yes, I see it, now, in the future, and never being stuck like that again. That goal, and all others, are MINE!”

You can develop new behaviors any time you like.

Copyright © 2012 Chris Gingolph

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