NLP Technique | NLP Belief Change

NLP Beliefs and NLP Belief Change

NLP Techniques | Belief and Belief Change

In this video, Michael explains how beliefs have an impact on the likelihood of success.

In NLP, we explore the impact of beliefs. We are interested in how they affect us and are prepared to examine and ‘try on’ different beliefs to see what works best.

If we believe we can, we probably will.

If we believe we can’t we’re likely to not even try or try with an attitude of apathy and reluctance.

What’s so crucial about beliefs and NLP belief change?

Some beliefs are mental habits without any real-world evidence supporting them. This is natural, and even the most sceptical-minded among us have some beliefs like that. One of the fascinating qualities of beliefs is that we can hold them at a deep level. We assume they are ‘true’ and don’t realise how they affect what we do. We can even hold them in such a way that we get distraught if someone dares to question them.

There are two aspects of a belief to be aware of:

  • the belief itself, and
  • the implications of that belief.

The belief itself is usually a generalisation about someone or something.

“I am always bad at job interviews.”

“Senior managers don’t listen to me.”

“No one from X Company will fit in here.”

The implication of a belief is the effect that belief has on what we do. I can believe all sorts of things, but if they don’t impact me or others they’re not really relevant for this discussion.

We’re not necessarily worried for now whether things are true or not; what’s more, important is the question:

If the things I believe are not demonstrably true and are damaging or hindering those around me, why do I hold onto them?

NLP Presuppositions

The co-founders of NLP discovered that the people they modelled (Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, and Fritz Perls), who were very successful at helping others change, had a number of similar, useful beliefs. These are useful beliefs for us to adopt when helping other people develop and change.

We have reworded them slightly.

We connect to the world through our senses.

This is obvious, however, the implications aren’t always thought through. We build our maps of reality based on our sensory input. The better we see, look, hear and connect to our feelings, and the less we filter the information we receive, the better our maps will be. The better we’ll connect and communicate with the world.

Our memories are built from this sensory input. When we change some of the qualities of this sensory input (for example, we make our mental images more or less colourful) we change the experience itself. This means we can learn to boost and reinforce our good and useful memories and reduce the impact of our less useful ones.

Our map is not the territory.

The representation we hold of the world is our internal map based on our experiences and filters.  It is not the same as the next person’s map, and neither of them are the same as reality.

When we don’t communicate with others, it is not a permanent problem; it’s to do with our model of the world – our maps. We communicate better when our maps are aligned with those of other people and the world itself. The better we acknowledge the other person’s map, the more they understand us.

For example, if our clients are more visual, we’re better off using visual words. If they’re motivated towards pleasure, we should use some of precisely the same words and similar postures.

Even if somebody has a map that is flat-out wrong, it’s often better to start from wherever they are and then lead them to somewhere more useful.

One of the benefits of exploring NLP is that we become more aware of our internal maps and those of others.

The ability to change the process by which we experience reality is often more valuable than changing the content of our experience of reality.

Bad things happen. That’s the content of reality sometimes. We can’t change that content, and not accepting it can be harmful to us. However, do have some control.  We can change how we react to it. We can change what we learn from it.

NLP has many tools we can use to change how we react and act to whatever happens.

We cannot always control the cards that we are dealt; our key choice is how we play them.

The meaning of communication is the response we get.

If people don’t react the way we want, it’s a sign that we need to change how we communicate. I don’t judge my communication’s success by what I think; it’s about how others react.

If I don’t get the result I want at first, I simply keep coming back with similar and different approaches until I do.

The resources an individual needs for change are already within them.

Having total faith in someone can make a huge difference in how quickly and well they succeed. When we believe someone has all the resources they need, it changes how we relate to them. We’ll tend to lightly coach and encourage rather than put them down.

There is a secondary point to this. The best change always starts from within, not from outside. Trying to change others can work; however, it usually disempowers the other person. Believing in someone is empowering.

Feedback is always helpful.

We can view success and failure as inevitable parts of life. We don’t learn to walk without falling over. The moment we stop making mistakes is the time we stop learning.

When we fail, feedback can show a route to success instead. When we’re successful, insulating ourselves from feedback sows the seeds of a future failure.

Maybe the real fear to overcome is the fear of failure. In its place, we want an excellent strategy for making good decisions. That’s what stops us from being as successful as we want.

The positive worth of the individual is held constant, while the value and appropriateness of internal and/or external behaviour are questioned against a specific outcome.

We know this is a mouthful!

We hold the individual in constant high regard whilst still being able to explore, question, and challenge if what they’re doing is helping them to achieve what they want.

Our job isn’t to make personal judgements or comments: It’s to uncover accurate information to help them achieve their desires.

There is a positive intention motivating every behaviour and a context in which every behaviour has value.

Behaviours are only good or bad in the context of achieving some result. We’re not into removing ‘bad’ behaviours, as they might be really useful in other times and places. However we may suggest more useful behaviours depending on the task at hand.

Sometimes it’s really useful to uncover the positive intention behind our behaviour.

When we have real choices, we’ll naturally make the best one.

Or the job is to give people real choices – not just dilemmas. Dilemmas rush you into considering the lesser of two evils, whereas the choices we want to create have at least three alternatives, and we know not only the why, what and how of doing them, but we also know that we can take them.


How can we change beliefs?

  • By tackling the implications of the belief. If I think I can’t succeed because I’m not intelligent enough, and the implication of that belief is that I don’t start trying, then by starting, taking action and finding that I move forward, I’ll begin to change the belief that I am unintelligent.
  • By asking ‘meta model’ type questions, we realise the belief doesn’t make sense, which starts the change process of weakening or changing the belief.
  • When we’ve weakened the old belief, it’s worth replacing it with something more useful. However, we want to make sure the new belief is valuable and fits with our identity.

As well as whether a belief is useful or not and the degree to that we believe it makes a difference. It’s helpful to believe some things with absolute certainty.

Suggested Beliefs Exercises

Beliefs Change – Circle of Excellence

This is an effective belief change exercise where you step into an imaginary circle on the floor; as you step into the circle, you imagine having a really useful belief and imagine what changes, however small, when you have that belief.

If you’re unsure what might be a helpful belief, use one of the NLP presuppositions above. For example, try Feedback is always useful.

What would change if you really believed it was true?

It is often helpful to complete the exercise separately with all the NLP Presuppositions above.

  • Which worked the best?
  • What other beliefs could you now explore?

What would you do differently in the future if you held one of these more valuable beliefs? Imagine yourself doing it at an appropriate time in the future.

Beliefs Change – Submodality Change

This exercise explores how we represent beliefs differently based on how strongly we believe (or disbelieve) them.

First, we need to decide on three beliefs.

  1. The belief we want (that we don’t believe in yet), For example, ‘People that work hard enough can make it in this industry.’
  2. reference belief that we’re absolutely sure about. For example, ‘I can feel my knee with my hand.’
  3. A belief we neither believe nor disbelieve, i.e. something we don’t really care about either way. For example, what it might or mightn’t say on the front of a tabloid newspaper.

We then identify how we represent each belief. What are the pictures, sounds and feelings associated with that belief? What are the qualities (see submodalities) of each belief?

For example, let’s take the belief I love chocolate fudge sundaes. When exploring any images associated with this belief, I might ask:

  • Am I associated (seeing the sundae as myself), or am I dissociated (watching myself look at the sundae?)
  • Is the picture of the sundae large or small?
  • Is the picture still or moving?
  • Is the picture clear or unclear?
  • Is the picture in colour or black and white?

The next step is to put the belief we want into the representation (and submodalities) of the belief we don’t really care about. We’ll find with this representation, we will neither believe nor disbelieve it.

We’ll then ‘snap’ it into the representation of the belief we strongly believe in. As we do this, we’ll start believing it more.

NLP Beliefs Exercise

Write down 5 beliefs that you hold with absolute certainty. They can be straightforward, for example, I love my dog, I really like ice cream, and the world is round. This is a useful warm-up exercise to remind us how we represent strong beliefs.

Read through the NLP presuppositions which appear above. Choose two that would be useful to believe strongly about. Mentally rehearse what it would be like to be sure about them in the future. Play a short movie in your head about what it might be like. What changes for you?

When you’ve read the submodality part, elicit the submodalities of your 5 certain beliefs.

Think of any limiting beliefs you may have. Choose the most limiting. What would it be more useful to believe? Run through the submodality exercise above.

In the next section, we look at Perceptual positions.

(NB A belief is a thought/assumption that I trust is true …  Spencer Johnson))

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See also: What is Neuro Linguistic ProgrammingNLP Coaching and NLP Training

Key NLP Techniques Section Index

1: NLP Techniques
2: Affirmations
3: Amplify feelings
4: Bad memories (Dissolving)
5: Bad memories (Exploding)
6: Belief change
7: NLP Coaching
8: Perceptual positions
9: Fast phobia cure
10: Hypnosis and meditation and separately Free Hypnosis MP3s
11: Luck
12: Mental Rehearsal 
13: Metaprogrammes, Profiles and Preferences
14: Modelling
15: Progressive dissociation
16: Rapport
17: Self Compassion
18: Submodalities
19. Six step re-framing
20: Storytelling
21: States and anchors
22: Strategies
23. Swish
24: Timeline therapy
25: Visual Squash
26: Values
27: Summary

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