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Personal Development Plans Using Neurolinguistic Programming NLP

Apr 1, 2008
Neuro Linguistic Programming provides a powerful toolbox for personal change including developing personal development plans. NLP is widely used in therapeutic situations to eliminate unwanted behaviors and replace them with more resourceful behaviors. But how can NLP be used in for a Personal Development Plan?

When neuro linguistic programming was being developed in the 1970's by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, they began by modeling the behaviors of three leading therapists (Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, and Milton Erickson). Each of these individuals excelled in their respective fields, and one definition of NLP is "the modeling of excellence". The tools of NLP were used to determine exactly what an excellent individual does to achieve excellence, and how those abilities can be copied by others.

Here at the International Center for Positive Change and Hypnosis in New York we believe NLP provides us with the tools to produce excellence in our own lives. So how do we go about creating a Sample Personal Development Plan using NLP? One great tool to use is the NLP concept of Logical (or neurological) Levels developed by Robert Dilts. These Logical Levels are as follows:

*Skills and resources
*Beliefs and Values

With "environment" being the lowest level, and Identity (and Beyond Identity) being the highest. So let's construct a sample personal development plan using Logical Levels and neuro linguistic programming. Let's look at Jim, a successful professional working at a law firm.

We start off by examining the environment in which Jim lives and works. At this stage we simply take an inventory. If we are coaching Jim we would lead him through questioning. If Jim is going through the process by himself then he should take a pad of paper and pen, or a voice recorder, and allow thoughts to arise. It is vital to this process that Jim fully imagines himself there. He should see (inside his mind) what he sees when he is in the environment, hear what he hears, and feel what he feels.


We ask Jim to describe the environment on sensory level. It may be easier to begin in the sensory system that we use most (this is referred to as the Preferred Representational System in NLP). Let's begin with Jim's work environment. Imagine you are at work. What do you see? What do you notice most? What are you drawn to? What do you hear? What do you feel? Try going from room to room in your imagination. What do you notice about the people around you?


As you imagine being there at work, begin to be aware of how you are behaving in that environment. What are you doing? What are you saying?

Skills and resources

As you notice your behavior begin to notice also the skills, capabilities and resources that you bring to that. What do you do particularly well?

Beliefs and Values

Still fully in the experience, seeing what you see, hearing what you hear, and feeling what you feel, notice what you believe about yourself? What do you believe about the world? What is important to you in this place (what are your values)?


And with all of those behaviors, capabilities and resources, beliefs, values, who are you? What is your identity? It is not uncommon for the answer to this question to be in the form of a metaphor ("I am captain of the ship"). This is a good sign as it means the unconscious mind has become involved in the process.

Now we reverse the process: as you fully feel that identity, notice how your beliefs and values have changed. Which beliefs are still relevant? Which beliefs are not aligned with this newly found identity? Can you let these old beliefs go?

With this new identity and new beliefs about yourself and the world, how are your skills and capabilities enhanced? What skills and capabilities would further support you in this identity? Do you have these resources available? If not where can you find and develop them?

With all this new information, how are your behaviors changed? Which behaviors will continue? Which will be different? How will they be different?

Notice with the changes you have made to yourself, how the environment will naturally change. It may be that this new identity is totally misaligned with the environment, or that only minor changes are needed.

Once a full inventory has been taken going once up and once down the Logical Levels, then Jim may find that the process itself has created real change in his self-identity, beliefs and values, capabilities. It may also have thrown light on misalignment in Jim's life. He may for example find that his self-identity is not reflected in the behaviors of those around him at work, and that this is because his own behaviors are not reflective of his identity. By realizing this, he has the opportunity to change those behaviors, and so positively impact those around him. To illustrate the process let's take a look at Jim's plan:

Jim reports being relatively happy with his work environment. Everything seems organized to him. He does report that the people in the work environment appear to be somewhat tense and distant. Jim reports his behavior as strong and confident. He states he has the confidence and drive to succeed. He believes it is important for everyone to have the drive and determination to succeed to make the business successful. He seems himself as a Leader, inspiring his troops to victory.

Returning down the levels with the idea of being a Leader, Jim notes that while his beliefs support his Leader identity, he is missing the value of motivating those around him, who he expects to follow automatically. Similarly he is unsure about how to motivate people, as he has never believed it necessary. Now the tension in the office begins to make sense, as the other people react to Jim's manner.

Simply by allowing Jim the space and framework to focus on this leadership area, change can begin. In addition, Jim can specifically focus on his leadership style, bringing a more motivational style, through training or similar developmental routes.
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