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Barriers to Change: Cognitive

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Undergoing change of any magnitude can be an exciting and energising process, yet it can just as readily spark substantial anxiety or fear. What is it about change that creates in us an initial resistance or desire to avoid it?

Our resistance to change is in part a function of our attitudes about change as well as our fear of the unknown. Change can be unpredictable, slow and erratic. A lack of progress or stress brought on through change can, at times, be enough to propel us back into old habits and behaviours.

Change can be difficult, so it is important to be prepared for the potential barriers to change you may encounter along the way. Barriers may be emotionally, cognitively or behaviourally based. We’ll look at these three types of barriers in the following posts.

Cognitive Barriers

Cognitive barriers refer to the beliefs and thought processes that may interfere with progression towards your goals. Cognitive barriers may include:

The Attitudes You Hold About Change

Do you think change is a process that is controlled by you or controlled by something external, such as luck or destiny? This is the concept of locus of control.

Locus of control refers to the extent to which individuals believe they are in control of their destiny. Individuals with an external locus of control attribute change largely to forces outside of themselves such as fate, good fortune or bad luck. Conversely, those individuals with an internal locus of control are more likely to see change as a function of their own doing.

Individuals with an internal locus of control tend to be more comfortable with change and consequently make smoother transitions.

Self-limiting thinking

Self-limiting thinking is an engrained process of thought that impacts on the way in which we appraise, interpret or analyse a given situation or event. Self-limiting thoughts can take many forms, such as:

  1. Black and white thinking – The tendency to interpret events in extremes (no shades of grey). This means that anything less than perfect is interpreted negatively and limits our ability to see the positives.
  2. Unrealistic expectations – The tendency to pre-empt an event with unrealistic ideas of what should occur. This is a clear sign of setting yourself up for failure.
  3. Selective thinking – This is the tendency to hone in on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore any of the positives, leading to an unbalanced perspective.
  4. Catastrophising – Imagining the worst possible outcome. This can discourage action and stall change.

Self-limiting beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are core beliefs that influence our behaviour, often without our conscious awareness. Below is a list of commonly held beliefs (perhaps you hold a few of them yourself?). Although they are common, these beliefs are also false. They are false because they are extreme.

They are either black or white – there are no shades of grey. Common self-limiting beliefs include:

  • “I must be approved and loved by all people”
  • “Success is out of my reach”
  • “I’m not good enough”
  • “My past is impacting my future, it’s too hard to change”
  • “Life should be entirely pleasant and enjoyable and any frustration, discomfort, or pain would be unbearable”
  • “It is possible and necessary to control the attitudes and affections of other people”.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Techniques

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NLP Techniques 

There are many techniques associated with NLP. The following section introduces you to a number of techniques to give you with a sense of how NLP works in practice.

Representational Systems

In NLP, representation systems refer to the five senses that we have previously discussed: visually (we see), auditorily (we hear), kinaesthetically (we feel and touch), olfactorily (we smell), and gustatorily (we taste). 

In the last edition we considered our five sensory input channels in terms of their external function. In this section, we consider their internal function:

  • When I imagine the layout of my home – I am using my visual sensory channel, to make an internal representation.
  • When I imagine the sound of bells ringing – I am using my auditory sensory channel, to make an internal representation.
  • When I remember how cold I felt in Canada – I am using my kinaesthetic sensory channel, to make an internal representation. 
  • When someone is accessing an internal representation, it is likely he/she will use language associated with that channel.  If (for example) I am utilising information I have stored in the visual channel, I will use visual language, such as “I see” and “I get the picture”. The words that a person uses to describe an event, thing or experience gives the listener clues as to what sensory channel the person is thinking in. 

Here are some examples: 

Visual: “I see what you mean”; “I get the picture”.
Auditory: “I hear what you’re saying”; “Sounds good”.
Kinaesthetic: “I didn’t catch that”; “I get your drift”.
Olfactory: “I smell a rat”; “I can smell victory”.
Gustatory: “It’s all turned sour”; “It left a bitter taste in my mouth”. 

The olfactory and gustatory sensory channels are used less frequently than the other channels to create internal representations. It is thus less likely that reference to these senses will appear in conversation – although they do occur occasionally. 

Most of us use all of the sensory channels to take in information and make internal representations. Usually, however, we prefer one or two channels – such as the visual or auditory channels. 

Technique 1 – Developing Rapport

Rapport, as we know, is used as an essential part of the coaching process to develop a relationship between coach and client. Involved in developing rapport in the NLP process is to consider that the words a client uses in conversation reflects the ‘sense’ (i.e. visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory) through which they are thinking, we can then (as the coach) use that information to help create a deep rapport.
If you keep using auditory words with people who are in visual mode, they will unconsciously feel out-of-sync with you. This is because they need to unconsciously translate the information you provide into their preferred channel. This takes time and subsequently results in a loss of rapport.

Technique 2 – Manipulating Sub Modalities

Sub modalities are the descriptive qualities that are directly linked to a sensory channel. For instance – linked to the visual sensory channel are the sub modalities of colour, size, shape and distance. This means that when I look at something I can assess it based on these features. Alternatively, when I hear something, I can assess its volume and tone. Therefore, volume and tone are examples of sub modalities of the auditory channel.

So if somebody says…’I imagine it will be very difficult’, don’t say…’Let’s talk it over’, instead say… ‘Let’s have a look at this’. (Visual example)

If somebody says… ‘I just want to talk about it’, don’t say… ‘Okay, fill the picture in for me’, instead say… ‘Tell me about it’. (Auditory example)

If somebody says… ‘It doesn’t feel right’, don’t say… ‘Let’s view this differently’, instead say… ‘Okay, let me try and get a hold of this’. (Kinaesthetic example)

Following is an activity you can do to get an idea of what your own sub modality is:

  • Step 1 – Imagine a day at the beach. 
  • Step 2 – With that image in mind, I want you to mentally turn up the intensity of the colours. Imagine the sky a bright, bright blue, the sand a bright yellow. Every colour is very vivid and intense.
  • Step 3 – Now, in your mind, turn the image black and white. (Does this change your response to the scene?)
  • Step 4 – Return the scene to its original colours and move it further away from you, way away into the distance (how does it change your response when the scene is so distant from you?).
  • Step 5 – Now bring the scene closer, really close.
  • Step 6 – Now return the image to its original form.

You have just manipulated the sub modalities of an internal visual representation (i.e. you have played with the way an image is represented in your mind). Specifically, you have manipulated:

the intensity of colour
colour vs. black and white
near vs. far

But we could have also manipulated the  

Auditory: volume (e.g. turn up the sounds of the crashing waves and the children playing)
Kinaesthetic: movement (e.g. speed up the whole scene and make everything super fast – then turn it down to a snail’s pace)

Manipulating sub modalities is a foundational strategy that forms the basis of a variety of NLP techniques, including the Circle of Success (see Technique 3) and Reframing (see Technique 4). By facilitating the manipulation of sub modalities, coaches enable coaching clients to intensify preferred feeling states, such as confidence, success and achievement. Alternatively, the manipulation of sub modalities can assist in distancing a coaching client from less useful states, such as lethargy or apathy.

Technique 3 – Circle of Success*

Another activity that requires you to manipulate submodalities is the Circle of Success. Read and have a go at the Activity below:

  • Step 1 – Remember a time when you felt a sense of pride in your achievements. Choose a significant memory – perhaps one in which you exceeded your own expectations! Take the time to recall the event clearly. See what you were seeing, hear what you were hearing and feel what you were feeling.
  • Step 2 – Now imagine a circle on the floor in front of you.
  • Step 3 – Give the circle a colour. You can make it bright, shiny, patterned, whatever you chose to make it visually attractive.
  • Step 4 – Choose a word that goes with that proud state you imagined – such as “success”, “yes!” or “you can do it”.
  • Step 5 – With your memory of success foremost in mind (as though you are re-living it), take a deep breath, say your code word and step into the imaginary circle in front of you.
  • Step 6 – Stand in the circle and intensify the memory. Make the colours more vivid, the sounds clearer and the feelings more intense.
  • Step 7 – Stay standing for a moment inside this circle of success. Really see, feel and hear that state of success and achievement.
  • Step 8 – Now step out of the circle, pick it up from the floor and fold it up so it fits in your pocket. Anytime you need to feel that sense of pride and achievement – throw the circle on the floor and step back into it – this is your Circle of Success.

*Circle of Success modified from – Tompkins, P., & Lawley, J. (1993, November). Change your thinking: Change your life with NLP. Personal Success Magazine.

Technique 4 – Reframing by Altering Sub Modalities

Another technique that can be used to alter submodalities is through reframing. The point of this technique is to alter the way in which you see a situation that bothers you. Read through the following instructions and have a go at altering a situation that bothers you.

  • Picture yourself in a theatre.
  • See an experience that is bothering you as a movie up on the screen. [Start with a minor experience. It may be something that has already occurred or something that you are facing ahead of you, such as a nerve-racking presentation or a difficult conversation you anticipate having].
  • First you might want to play it in fast forward, like a cartoon.
  • You might want to put circus music to it, the sound of a calliope.*
  • Then you might want to play it backwards, watching the image become more and more absurd.

*Note – A calliope is a type of organ composed of a set of whistles that sound as steam flows through creating loud, often boisterous sounds, often associated with the circus.

Extracted from Robbins, A. (1986). Unlimited Power. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

This technique affords coaching clients a sense of distance from the bothersome event (by projecting it on to a screen) and creates a new way to view or store the experience. By altering the way in which the event is perceived, clients may experience a shift in the way the event influences their future behaviour, thoughts and/or emotions.


NLP is predominantly used in coaching to examine a client’s habitual patterns of behaviour and to enhance performance. This is accomplished through investigating a client’s beliefs and belief systems and to help change these where appropriate.

In this resource you have examined some of the commonly used techniques in NLP including developing rapport, manipulating submodalities and reframing by altering sub modalities.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming: An Introduction

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The term “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” (NLP) refers to the models and principles that relate to the interaction of mind and neurology (neuro), language (linguistic) and perception. These interact to create an individual’s subjective reality and behaviour.


In the 1970s, Richard Bandler, a psychology student, and John Grinder, an associate professor of linguistics, studied the language and behavioural patterns of successful and effective therapists. The results of this research sparked the emergence of a new field – the field of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). 

Current Status

Today, NLP is used internationally by millions of people within an array of occupational groups, from counsellors, coaches and motivational speakers to sales managers and marketers. Many neuro-linguistic programming techniques have arisen that provide step-by-step procedures for ‘running your own mind’ in an attempt to produce excellence in performance. With such an assortment of techniques on offer, any attempt to condense the entire scope of NLP into one resource would serve only to dilute its essence.

You will be introduced to the fundamental techniques of NLP using representational systems to develop rapport, reframing to alter the meaning of an experience and the swish pattern to alter ineffective behaviour patterns. Each of these techniques can be expanded or modified depending on its intended aim or purpose.

Over the course of NLP’s development, various ‘schools’ or ‘branches’ of NLP have emerged. If you conduct your own research in this area, you may notice that different ‘brands’ of NLP exist, each with their own set of standards and procedures.

Essentially, NLP is a very specific way of modelling. If, for example, you know somebody who is an excellent tennis player and you would like to play just like him/her, what would you do? You could study what makes this person a good player and then model exactly what is done. In essence, it is this modelling that NLP practitioners are focused on. The aforementioned tennis player may envisage, for example, the tennis ball hitting the racket, just before it happens.


The map is not the territory: Our mental representations (or maps) of the world are not the world. We respond to our mental maps, rather than the world. Mental maps, especially feelings and interpretations, can be modified, updated or altered more easily than the world around us can be changed.

Experience has structure: Our thoughts and memories have a pattern or structure to them. When we change that pattern or structure, our experience will change. We can neutralise unpleasant memories and enhance those memories that serve us well.

If one person can do something, anyone can learn to do it: We can learn the mental map of someone who has achieved what we seek to achieve and in that way, make it our own.

The mind and body are parts of the same system: Our thoughts continuously affect our physical being – muscle tension, breathing, emotional reactions, and more. These in turn affect our thoughts. When we learn to change one, we have simultaneously learned to change the other.

We cannot NOT communicate: We are always communicating.  If we are not speaking, we are at least communicating non-verbally. Words are often the least important part of any communication transaction. A sigh, a smile and a look are all communications. Even our thoughts are an inner form of communication that are conveyed or revealed to others through such indicators as our eyes, voice tones and other non-verbal cues.

The meaning of communication is the response we get: Others receive and filter what we say and do through their own mental maps. When someone interprets our words or actions differently to how we intended, it’s a chance for us to take note and seek to modify our communication so that next time it is clearer.

Underlying every behaviour is a positive intention: Behind every hurtful or thoughtless behaviour there exists a positive purpose. When somebody yells, for example, they may be seeking acknowledgement. Someone may hit out in an attempt to protect themselves from perceived danger or hide in order to feel safe. Rather than condemning or judging these actions, we can identify the positive intent and encourage more positive choices that meet the same intent.

People are always making the best choice(s) available to them: Everyone has a unique personal history. Within it, we have learned how to respond to life events and experiences. The choices each of us make are the ones we believe to be best for us at that particular point in time.


To understand the process of NLP, the first stage is to understand where the process begins. The process begins with an event external to the individual that is experienced through the sensory input channels:

  • Visual: including what we see or the way someone looks at us.
  • Auditory: which includes sounds, the words we hear and the way that people say those words to us.
  • Kinaesthetic: or external feelings, which include the touch of someone or something, the pressure and the texture.
  • Olfactory: which is smell.
  • Gustatory: which is taste.

Extracted from James, T., & Woodsmall, W. (1988). Time Line Therapy and the Basis of Personality. Capitola: Meta Publications.

Before we make an internal representation of an event we filter it through a variety of internal processing filters. These filters can delete, distort or generalise information, leading to an inaccurate or modified version of the experience.

Deletion involves the process of selectively paying attention to specific aspects of an experience (James & Woodsmall, 1988). Through deletion we fail to notice particular sensory information. For example, Ben’s sister is picking him up from a concert. He is looking out intently for her car which he knows is a bright red hatchback. Because he is so focused on seeing a small red car, he fails to hear his sister calling him from a blue sedan (which she had borrowed from a friend). As you can see from the example, Ben is so focused on the visual aspect of his experience (see a red car) that he fails to notice (or deletes) the auditory aspect of his experience (his sister calling him).

Distortion occurs when we misrepresent the sensory data received (James & Woodsmall, 1988). For example, Juanita thought she heard rain falling. She ran out to take her washing off the line only to discover that it wasn’t rain at all – it was the sound of the neighbour’s air conditioning starting up. This is an example of auditory distortion where Juanita thought she heard one thing when in fact it was something completely different.

Generalisation is the process of making a judgement based on a limited number of experiences and attributing that judgement to a broad array of experiences (James & Woodsmall, 1988). For example, Tyson and Nicky are looking to rent a new home. They visit their local real estate agent.

Tyson feels as though this particular agent is only interested in working with people who are seeking to purchase a home, rather than rent one. Nicky later overhears Tyson say to a friend, “Real estate agents are all the same. They only want your business if you’re buying!” As you can see from this example, Tyson has had one experience with one real estate agent and generalises this to all real estate agents.

An Inspirational Story: The Climb

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Conquer the World 

Two men traveled the world seeking the most extreme challenges and adventures. After many years of shared challenges, they decided to climb what was considered the most dangerous mountain in the world. Up until that day, no men had ever completed the gigantic climb. Most men would not even dare to try. 

They arrived at the mountain’s base in good spirits and with a clear objective in their minds: reach the summit. However, the task was not going to be as simple as many other challenges they had previously faced: it was a unique setting, which would test their nature, courage and put on the line everything they had achieved so far (even possibly their lives).

The climb began. A quarter through the journey, the cold wind and snowy conditions made them think twice about what they were doing. They looked at each other, but did not speak a word and with the slightest nod, mutually agreed to keep going. As they progressed, the conditions got worse and one suggested, for the first time in their joint adventures, that perhaps they should retreat to avoid further danger. His request was denied and they kept going. Half-way between the base and the summit of the mountain, the same man suggested another retreat, with the argument that the mountain was simply too long and too dangerous to be conquered by the two of them. His request was again denied.

Three-quarters of the way, both adventurers were overwhelmed by the dreadful climbing conditions and as a matter of survival, had to retreat to base camp. When they arrived at the camp, the adamant climber said: “We’ll go again tomorrow”. Dazzled, the other climber asked him why, considering they had failed as he had suggested, and that the mountain proved too big and too challenging a task. He replied: “We’ll see about that”.

The next day, they tried again and once more, had to retreat in order to survive. Each next day was followed by another attempt: one man driven by an unblemished determination to reach the summit; another with a clear resolve not to abandon his friend.

Three weeks later, the bewildered man could not derive further motivation and posed the question he had been longing to ask: “Why do you keep trying it? Can’t you see the mountain is too big for you, for me, or for anyone else?” The other man replied: “Yes, I agree the mountain is too big”. Puzzled and rather satisfied with the prospect of accepted failure, the friend responded: “So why are we still here? Why do we keep trying if we are certain to fail?!”

With a smile on his face, the man replied: “The mountain is already as big as it will ever get. You and me, however; we’re still growing.”

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” (Sir Edmund Hillary, part of the first expedition to reach the top of Mount Everest)

Developing Coaching Products

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Coaching Products? 

Developing products should be at the forefront of every coach’s mind. Coaches that develop products are significantly more successful than coaches that don’t. A product is a packaged and branded educational resource. Your product should be targeted to a niche group, and be focussed on solving their specific problems. Your product can be packaged and delivered in a variety of ways.

Popular coaching-related products include: eBooks, eCourses, Mini-Courses, Podcasts, Workshops, Seminars, Tele-Clinics, Audio Programs, Webinars, etc.


Coaches who develop educational products are well aware of the schedule of added benefits behind the package. Following are some examples:

  1. Increased Credibility. Delivering high quality, branded products to your niche is one of the most powerful means to build your credibility. There is virtually no other way to accelerate your perception as an expert in your niche.
  2. Improve your networks. Authorities in your niche are usually very willing to assist and participate in the development of products that assist their industry. Networking with these authorities will give you an immediate, highly leveraged entry into your niche. It will open many doors to Joint Ventures; list sharing; public forums; group meetings; etc.
  3. You’ll become less reliant on your time. As a coach, what is your commodity? When everything is distilled down, what are you selling? Coaching? No. Happiness? No. Success? No. Health? No. You are selling your time! Time is your commodity. And when time is your commodity and you are reliant on selling your time, your income potential is extremely limited. You can only realistically work 8-hours a day. So the only way to earn more money is to charge more. There is a limit to how much you can charge. And when you stop selling your time (go on holidays with your family; get sick), your income stops.
  4. Products are your escape from being time reliant. By commercialising products you rely less on time as your commodity.
  5. Move from one-to-one to one-to-many. Most coaches sell one-to-one coaching as their core service. This restricts your time, and also limits your commercial reach. Commercialising products allows you to leverage your intellectual property by 10, 100, 1000 times. You can be selling hundreds of eBooks; eCourse; tele-clinic seats; per week. Now that’s how to leverage your knowledge and time!


Once you have products, how can you put them to use for maximum affect? We’ll now investigate some ways you can use your products to increase enquiries; conversions and sales.

Building your list. In a previous edition of Coaching Inspirations, we discussed the sales funnel, and how important it is to get as many qualified prospects in the top of your funnel as possible. Using your products is a highly leveraged means to do this. Here are a few examples:

  • Offer a free eBook as an incentive to join an online club; eZine; newsletter.
  • Let people download a “Special Report” after subscribing to your list.
  • Mention your list (education-based) on your tele-clinic call.
  • Gather business cards or contacts at your seminar.

Loss Leader. You know by now the net marginal worth of your clients, and hence how much you can afford to invest at the front-end on acquiring a client. A strategy to attain client contracts is to use a ‘loss leader’. This means you make a financial loss at the front-end, knowing you’ll make gains over the term of the! life of your client. For instance, you may give away free vouchers to a group coaching workshop to members of your niche. This may cost you $100 per attendee. However, you get 90% of attendees into the top of your funnel; 30% of the them to level 2 within 3-months; 20% to level 3 within 6-months. The net result may be a $1,750 gain over 6-12 months per attendee.

Value-add. Products are an excellent way to value-add your services. For instance, you may use a 6-week ticket to your specialist tele-clinic as an incentive to upsell prospects from a 3-month contract to a 6-month contract.

Referral. Your products can be an excellent tool to incentivise referrals. You may go to the prospects in your funnel and say to them “We know you enjoy the information we provide you, and we’re sure you know other that would benefit from it. If you put us in touch with these people, as a thank-you we’ll give you this XYZ product.”

JV Incentives. Products are an excellent way to provide incentives for joint ventures. For instance, just say you approach a gym or a health spa, and undertake some cooperative marketing. They write to their members and inform them that for a limited time they can go to your website and download a free special report “How To Overcome The 7 Biggest Barriers To You Achieving Your Fitness Goals, by specialist life coach ABC.” To download the report they have to give you their name and email address.

Conversion. You can use your products to improve conversion and shorten conversion time lines. For instance, offer your product as a value-add to a core service for a limited time.

Have you developed your coaching products yet?

This article is an abstract from the Ultimate Coaching Business Building Program (UCBBP); develop by the Life Coaching Institute and CoachIQ Coaching Club. The program is delivered to CoachIQ subscribers via weekly e-lessons, including extra resources such as Self-Assessment and Action Sheets, Links and Templates.

If you would like to build a flourishing coaching business, visit the Coaching Club website ( and take advantage of the 60-day free access offer to new members.