“What do you want?” I asked 45 year old Pete (who came to see me to learn how to de-stress).
“I want to enjoy what I do again – better work/life balance.” he replied sincerely.
“Tell me more?” I enquired.
“Well, I’d like us to spend more time as a family unit.” he said, nodding to himself.
“More time? One or two minutes a week?” I gently teased.
“Oh no … oh … um… probably 20 minutes more – each day.” he concluded.
“20 minutes a day – watching TV?” I was curious about his lack of specificity.
“No, I mean spending 20 minutes a day, helping my son Joe (15) with his homework.”
“Ah great that he’s asked for help.”, I smiled.
“Well, no, of course he hasn’t asked for help, he can’t see the importance of this, but his grades are poor.”
“What will that do for you – spending 20 mins a day on Joe’s homework?” I invited him to consider.
“I want him to achieve more.” he insisted.
“And …” I paused.
“If I help him with his homework, he will get better grades.” he asserted.
“What will Joe think about your plan?” I gestured open palms.
”He’ll hate it, but it’ll stop him playing his airy-fairy music.” He gestured closed palms.
“How do you think your goals for Joe will play out over time?” We took a moment to visualise the on-going rippling effects of Pete asserting his goal for Joe.
“Oh… we’ll probably end up fighting, just like my dad and I used to… I’ll get even more stressed…”
And the penny dropped.
It’s always fun to hear the penny drop as the most educated minds often miss the value of a foundational principle of NLP, that is getting clarity of your brain aim, your goals for yourself. And being aware of how we set up self-imposed stress by assuming our goals for others – especially our children – will help us be happier. Actually, that’s messy.