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State Management v Superstition

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

State management is one of the most powerful NLP techniques. Often, it can and is used to manage the state of others, but my view is that the first step should always be in managing your own state - changing yourself first. Many techniques and approaches are available, but here I want to discuss one that has been personally relevant, and has been in the news recently as Wimbledon drew to a close.

On the Today programme on Friday last week, there was an interview with a sports psychologist, discussing the fact that Andy Murrey’s coach insisted that he used the same practice court for a forthcoming match as he had for the last one he won, and that Andy uses the same ball after he has won a point. Other tennis players have similar processes that they follow - Serena Williams is quoted as saying that she didn’t play well in the French Open because "I didn't tie my laces right and I didn't bounce the ball five times and I didn't bring my shower sandals to the court with me. I didn't have my extra dress. I just knew it was fate; it wasn't going to happen."

Managing your state through making environmental changes has its use. My recent personal experience is re-designing my office - having moving into it about 10 months ago, I finally got around to repainting it from a dark, rich red to a light blue and yellow, opened up the window recess, and ripped up the carpet to expose light floorboards. This has helped me, as it’s now a very open, fresh place to be, as opposed to a forbidding, dark, and actually rather depressing place.

However, a note of caution needs to be sounded here, and it’s about identifying the boundary between using simple external factors that can create a helpful state, and superstition.

The critical element to using state management effectively is that the factors that you use to help you must be within your control. If, for example, my office needed to have sum flooding in in order to create my positive atmosphere, whilst it would work at the moment, come winter, I could be in trouble. If the external factor becomes too powerful, and moves from being an aid to help manage your state into being an absolutely necessary requirement, it has become too powerful. At that point, you are allowing your state to be managed for you, by tennis balls, sunshine, sandals, or whatever you have chosen.

The most useful resources to help you manage your own state are ones that you always have with you - in your mind. These cannot be forgotten or left behind, they are in your control, and you are in charge of them.

Next time you are thinking about putting on your lucky underpants, challenge the fact that the underpants actually do anything for you at all. At best, they might create a positive mental state, but simply ask the question - “do I really need underpants to do that?” You clearly already have the capacity to manage your own state - just remove the meaningless crutch that you have attached that state to, and use the power you already have inside yourself.

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