Creating Your Future

In many psychotherapy and coaching practices the client is taught to visualize what they want to see happen in the future. In the NLP model we call that future pacing. You may have heard of it as guided visualization, mental rehearsal or even post-hypnotic suggestions.

At the NLP Center we teach our students and clients to see themselves in the future performing the task they want to perform. This may range from speaking assertively to a family member, to presenting to an audience to remaining more present and focused when reading. You can see yourself, observe yourself but you can also imagine being in the experience. The latter is the one that we encourage people to practice regularly. It is called association.

When you practice being fully associated you create a feeling that you want to have, for example, confidence, and then you imagine what you would be seeing and hearing while feeling confident.

In the Psychotherapy Networker Magazine, January /February 2014, there is an article by Dr. Brent Atkinson, that discusses research that supports the efficacy of doing this mental preparation regularly.

The research he cites is from a Harvard study conducted by nuerologist, Alvaro Pascual-Leone. Basically there are two groups of subjects who have never played the piano. One group is given a set of instructions and they are told to practice two hours a day for five days. Before and after their practice their brains were scanned and there were signs of brain change in the motor cortex, corresponding to their practice. The second group was also told to practice for five days, two hours a day, but this time they only mentally focused practicing. The brain scanning also showed changes in their motor cortex, yet they had not done anything physical. Once the mentally rehearsed group had a chance to practice for two hours, they played almost as well as the first group.

It is exciting to see how neuroscience research continues to confirm that the basic NLP principles continue to be useful and meaningful. It is not enough to sit and mentally rehearse your assertiveness, confidence or patience. You ultimately have to take action. However preparing yourself by future pacing, by being in the experience, albeit mentally will help you achieve your goals in real time.