The NLP Mindset

September 8, 2022

How to achieve an NLP Mindset

Reposted Article from September 2008

I have just completed teaching a Practitioner course and Trainers Training with John Grinder, Carmen Bostic St Clair and John Thompson. We had people from seventeen countries from every continent visit Brighton, where we held our courses.  It was a fascinating and exhilarating experience to be part of two unique courses occurring simultaneously but in separate rooms. I was particularly interested in the different mindsets of the people who attended each course and how in certain cases ‘filters’ determined the learner’s experience.

I call a ‘mindset’ a set of filters, with attitudes and beliefs that form a state. The mindset in part determines how an individual will respond to situations around them and in the context of an NLP course how a learner responds to new information.  Naturally the comments I make in this article are based on my personal experience, I make no claim that anything I write here as being fact……. simply an account of my observations as an NLP trainer.

‘The I know this already’ or the ‘open to new learnings’ mindset?

On our recent courses, naturally the trainers had previous NLP experience from different backgrounds, and I found in some trainers the mindset was a little fixed on their previous experience and non exploratory. The same was true of some of the people on the Practitioner course, where people who were already certified Practitioners booked the course to review the material. Some (a minority) of the reviewers had their filters from their previous courses well anchored in. They had an ‘I know this’ mindset and as a consequence missed some essential elements of the training. The irony is that their mindset seriously impacted their performance.

The flipside of the ‘I know this already’ mind set was the ‘open new to learnings’ mindset. There were individuals from both the Trainer group and more in the Practitioner group who embraced this attitude. The benefit of either naivety to the material or suspending their existing filters, was that they embraced the material with fresh and raw enthusiasm. This mindset of suspending judgement fits with how the field of NLP was created. In fact the co-creators of NLP intentionally suspended judgement and worked from what is called a ‘know nothing’ state when modelling. They unconsciously assimilated the patterning they were modelling. NLP was founded on an attitude of curiosity, exploration and a willingness to think and act right outside the existing paradigm. There are so many NLP courses that miss the original mindset that created NLP.


Richard Bandler once described NLP as ‘an attitude and methodology that leaves behind a trail of techniques.’ The attitude he said was one of curiosity. The NLP co-creators had natural curiosity about how outstanding people got their results. Bandler’s curiosity seems to be restricted to therapeutic or conversational wizardry, where Grinder’s fascination with excellence seems more general.  I have watched John Grinder’s curiosity unfold in many contexts, when in the company of an outstanding performer. Whether the person is a rock climber, golfer, mathematician, musician, business person or dancer, if they are excellent, Grinder is curious and this curiosity leads to exploration.

Exploring and experimenting

Being an explorer willing to go into new and sometimes uncharted territory is part of the NLP mindset.  The NLP co-creators explored states of consciousness and found the optimal learning state to absorb into their own unconscious, patterns of human behaviour. They formalised the process as modelling, and that is how the field of NLP was created. NLP modelling is akin to how a child learns his mother tongue, which happens to be one of the fastest and most effective learning projects you will ever have. The willingness to explore and experiment flowed into the work Grinder and Bandler did when they were designing new patterns, as they still do. Grinder particularly is always exploring and experimenting to see what happens.  I too like to test new ideas when doing NLP work with clients as well as designing new courses. Some of the best new ideas come on the spur of the moment from my unconscious. The results are amazing. The flip side to being an explorer is what I call ‘Readers Digest NLP’. Where Practitioners are taught to read the steps from a book or manual. These steps are often thirty years old and come from another book or manual. The trainer has not explored anything new and there is a high chance the Practitioners will not become explorers, simply because they have not been taught to be explorers.

Thinking and acting outside the box

This is similar to being an explorer but probably a bigger chunk. I find it somewhat amusing that in certain cases NLP courses run by both Grinder and Bandler are not officially recognised by some of the so called certifying bodies around the world. The reason is either the course material or course length does not fit some twenty year old list or criteria that contains Grinder or Bandler’s old ideas. These sometimes well meaning certifying bodies are stuck in a paradigm and are not visionary enough to think beyond it. NLP was created by breaking existing paradigms. Prior to NLP, change work was ‘content heavy’ and it was a known fact that change was difficult and takes a long time. Grinder and Bandler were not limited by the existing paradigm, in fact they sought to challenge it. It’s somewhat amusing that now ”“ Grinder seeks to break the paradigm of the Classic Code of NLP as being the definitive NLP, when in fact it’s a thirty year old model. John Grinder wants people to think way beyond the Classic Code of NLP and thus discover and create something new.

Bringing it together

It may be worthwhile to consider now, are you curious enough about change to become an avid explorer and experimenter? A good question to ask is ‘what would happen if?’ Being curious enough to explore develops a mindset of thinking and acting way outside this box. This mindset is what produces change in any context from world of physics to the abstract world of politics. Somewhere NLP fits within that spectrum. Anyway life is not just about NLP, what happens if you applied some curiosity, exploration and thinking beyond the constraints of a box in other contexts of your life?  Would it be more creative, enjoyable, fulfilling? Maybe. How about giving it a go and discover new things for yourself.

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