Whenever I undergo any training or course, I try and apply the concepts and skills I learn during the program upon myself in order to ascertain efficacy of the training for I firmly believe in the time-tested adage that “The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating”. Thus, the first thing I decided after completing NLP Practitioner Training was to try and apply the concepts I had learnt and imbibed on myself.
NLP stands for neuro-linguistic programming. Sounds complicated and high falutin’, isn’t it? Actually NLP is quite simple – let’s see how I applied it in my daily life. At that point in time, I was a smoker. I had tried to quit smoking many times with little success. Now I’d try a simple concept from NLP to give up smoking. I succeeded beyond my expectations and gave up smoking in a day. I conquered the craving, the urge, for smoking and never suffered any “withdrawal symptoms”. I quit smoking forever in one go.
Let me describe to you, Dear Reader, that red letter day of my life. I woke up early in the morning, as usual, made a cup of tea, and the moment I took a sip of the piping hot delicious tea, I felt the familiar crave for my first cigarette of the day. I had identified my first “Smoking – Anchor” – Tea. I kept down the tempting cup of tea, made a note of the craving [anchor] in my diary, quickly heated a glass of water in the microwave oven, completed my ablutions, stepped out of my house, and embarked upon my customary morning constitutional brisk walk-cum-jog deeply rinsing and cleansing my lungs with pure refreshing morning air, which made me feel on top of the world.
I felt invigorated and happy. I had overcome my craving and not smoked my first cigarette of the day. Returning refreshed from my brisk bracing morning walk, I stopped to pick up the newspaper, and spotted my friends ‘N’ and ‘S’ across the road beckoning me for our customary post-walk tête-à-tête with tea and cigarettes at our favorite the tea-stall.
Here lurked my second “Smoking – Anchor” – my smoker friends. I felt tempted, but I steeled my resolve. I waved out to my smoker friends, turned away and briskly headed home. They must have thought I’d gone crazy, but it didn’t matter – I had avoided my second cigarette of the day. That’s what I was going to do the entire day. Be aware, look inwards, fully cognizant and mindful in order to ensure that I identify all the stimuli that triggered in me the urge to smoke – my “smoking anchors” which could be anything, conscious and unconscious, internal and external, tangible or intangible – people, situations, events, feelings, smells, emotions, tendencies, moods, foods, social or organizational trends, practices, norms, peer-pressure.
Then I would conquer and triumph over these stimuli, demolish these negative “smoking-anchors” and establish and reinforce new positive “healthy” non-smoking anchors using a Technique called Force Field Analysis. I’ll tell you more about Force Field Analysis later. Dear Reader, read on and see how my first non-smoking day progressed. After breakfast, I didn’t drink my usual cup of coffee – a strong “smoking anchor” which triggered in me a strong irresistible craving and desperate desire to smoke. I drank a glass of cold bland milk instead, and thereby averted my third cigarette of the day. It was nine as I reached my workplace and I had not smoked a single cigarette. Rather I had not smoked my customary three cigarettes! It was a long day ahead and I had to be cognizant, observe myself inwardly and devise strategies to tackle situations that elicited craving for smoking – recognize and conquer my “smoking anchors”.
Anchoring is a naturally occurring phenomenon, a natural process that usually occurs without our awareness. An anchor is any representation in the human nervous system that triggers any other representation. Anchors can operate in any representational system (sight, sound, feeling, sensation, smell, taste). You create an anchor when you unconsciously set up a stimulus-response pattern. Response [smoking] becomes associated with [anchored to] some stimulus; in such a way that perception of the stimulus [the anchor] leads by reflex to the anchored response [smoking] occurring. Repeated Stimulus-Response [SR] action reinforces anchors and this is a vicious circle, especially in the context of “smoking anchors”.
The trick is to identify your “smoking anchors”, become conscious of these anchors and ensure you do not activate them. And then transcend from the SR Paradigm to the SHOR Paradigm to set and fire new positive anchors. What’s SHOR?
SHOR stands for Stimulus-Hypothesis-Options-Response – I will tell about this management model soon too. The moment I reached office I saw my colleague ‘B’ eagerly waiting for me, as he did every day. Actually the freeloader was eagerly waiting to bum a cigarette off me for his first smoke of the day. “I only smoke other’s cigarettes” was his motto! I politely told him I had quit smoking and told him to look for a cigarette elsewhere. He looked at me in disbelief; taunted, jeered and badgered me a bit, but when I stood firm, he disappeared. I had not smoked my fourth cigarette of the day! I removed from my office my ashtray, my lighter, all vestiges of smoking, declared the entire place a no-smoking zone and put up signs to that effect. The working day began. It was a tough and stressful working day. I was tired and suddenly my boss called me across to his office and offered me a cigarette.
I looked at the cigarette pack yearningly, tempted, overcome by a strong craving, desperate to have just that “one” cigarette. Nothing like a “refreshing” smoke to drive my blues away and revitalize me – the “panacea” to my “stressed-out” state! It was now or never! I politely excused myself on the pretext of going to the toilet, but rushed out onto the terrace and took a brisk walk rinsing my lungs with fresh air, and by the time I returned I had lost the craving to smoke and realized that physical exercise is probably the best antidote – a positive “non-smoking” anchor – and, of course, I had not smoked my fifth cigarette of the day!
It was the famous Stoic philosopher Epictetus who said: “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and cannot control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.” We often let our feelings set our anchors, govern our lives. We let feelings drive our thoughts, not realizing that thoughts drive actions, actions produce results, and results in turn produce more feelings, reinforce anchors, causing a vicious circle which may ultimately lead to loss of self-control. Such “feeling-anchors” not totally controllable, as many times feelings are produced by external circumstances beyond your control, and if negative feelings are allowed to drive our thoughts and actions, then undesirable results emanate.
The best solution is to establish “thought-anchors” as drivers of your actions. It is well within your control to think positive, good and interesting thoughts. In fact, the happiest person is the one who thinks the most interesting and good thoughts, isn’t it? That’s the essence of NLP. Reprogram your anchors, recondition your mind, control your own life, change for the better and enhance your plane of living. This technique works for me, and I’m sure it’ll work for you too. Maybe it is so effective because it is so breathtaking in its simplicity.