If the field of NLP as such involves and encourages a basic mindfulness, the Meta-States Model takes mindfulness to the next level.  It does this by the emphasis in APG (Accessing Personal Genius) where we introduce the Meta-States Model by emphasizing several meta-skills: the ability to step back, to transcend and include, to expand one’s perspective, and to
reflexively move up the psycho-logical levels.

At the essence of mindfulness is an openness to experience.  NLP begins this with a strong emphasis on coming to one’s senses and being open to the moment, to the here-and-now.  Yet experience is not a monolithic thing.Instead it has multiple levels and this is where the Meta-States Model really excels.  By embracing it fully, holding it, including it, you can
then step back from the current moment experience, and transcend it as you embrace the beliefs and understanding and other meta-level perspectives that hold it in place.  Do that and you begin to become mindful not only of the first level of the experience, but its meta-levels.

By including and transcending the experience, you gain a larger-level perspective of it.  Now you begin to become aware and open to the multiple levels of meanings that create the experience, that hold it in place, that enable it to be what it is.  This is the reflective awareness that takes mindfulness to the next level.  It enables you to develop a more expansive
openness to the more hidden but higher levels of your mind-body system. What any experience is- is not fully described or explicated at the primary level.  That’s just the grounding level.

Above and beyond the primary level of any experience are the meta-levels of the mind.  These are the levels that enable the experience to be what it is.These are the levels that create the experience.  Here we have understanding and beliefs and identities and permissions and decisions and dozens upon dozens of other meta-levels.  And given that in the book, Neuro-Semantics (2012), I identified 104 meta-levels, and four dimensions of meta-levels, you won’t run out of possibilities for expanded meta-level mindfulness any time soon.  This means that we can develop mindfulness along both a wide
range of openness to phenomenon at the primary level as well as a height range.

After all, mindfulness is a meta-state:
An awareness of your thinking-and-feeling experience.
“Why be more conscious? So that consciousness may become conscious of itself.”  (Abby Eagle, Sydney Australia)
Valuing and appreciating this present moment and so being fully present to it.
Witnessing the here-and-now with compassion and without judgment.
Maintaining a calm perspective of witnessing of one’s state (even states of pressure).
Being able to see and hold multiple perspectives simultaneously.
Being playfully adventurous in familiar and repetitive contexts.

>From these definitions of mindfulness and the wide-range of different kinds of mindfulness, these leads us in Neuro-Semantics to see mindfulness as directly correlated with choice and creativity.  Choice requires mindfulness.  It requires expanding and being conscious that in every situation you have multiple choices and are not a victim of some fate that
you can’t control.  Then like Viktor Frankl, you will can always recognize choice as your “ultimate power.”  Even in the concentration camp, he fully maintained his power of choice.  He was mindful enough to recognize that he had choices.  So he could then boldly assert that “they can not make me hate them.”  His emotions were his own.  How high a degree of mindfulness did that require?  A lot!  Even so, it is possible.  When a person doesn’t have a sense of choice, the problem isn’t the lack of choice, only his lack of perceiving it- being mindful of it.

Creativity also requires mindfulness.  It is the opposite, being mindless, that prevents one from seeing possibilities, playing around with curious questions, and being open to what is not yet, but could be.  In her book, Mindfulness (1989) Ellen Langer related mindfulness to creativity.  She posited that conditional statements would lead to being mindful and using
absolute statements would lead to operating in a mindless, automatic way. After showing a relationship between being mindful and creativity she noted that at the heart of creativity is the ability to stay open enough to embrace uncertainty.  Conversely it is the need to be certain that closes the door on creativity.

Regarding this Langer sounded a lot like Korzbyski.  “Teaching facts as absolute truth” she says, leads to mindlessness.  “In most educational settings, the ‘facts’ of the world are presented as unconditional truths, when they might better be seen as probability statements that are true in some contexts, but not in others.”  When we shut out conditions and contexts
we shut down creativity.  When we introduce conditionality, probability, “it depends,” “it could be,” etc. creativity thrives.

“If a theoretical model is presented absolutely, it will be thought absolute and the student may thereafter treat it rigidly.”  “The dampening of creativity in students by unconditional teaching is compounded by most textbooks.  Scientific investigations yield only probability statements and no absolute facts.  Yet these … are presented in textbooks as though they were certain and context-free.” (127, 128)

In embracing uncertainty by being mindful of the conditions and factors at play in a situation, people become more creative.  Here is one powerful meta-state that results in one form of mindfulness.  In being mindful in this way, a person details the specifics of the here-and-now in sensory-specific terms.  This makes one more fully aware of the present
moment.  And this is why training in NLP and Neuro-Semantic inherently develops and enhances the state and meta-states of mindfulness.

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.



It is not uncommon for people who experience the Meta-States Training that we call Accessing Personal Genius (APG) to come away from it telling others that it is a training in mindfulness.  I have heard this many, many times. Others may not describe APG in those words, but will say that in learning the Meta-States Model, they have added so much to their understanding and competency in being mindful.  Recently I have had several people write and ask where I got the information about mindfulness that they were exposed to in APG.  And a few others have asked that I write more about mindfulness. So here we go.

What do we mean by mindfulness?  To be mindful is to be present to your current situation, aware, appreciative, and in sensory-awareness.  It is to be here-and-now in your awareness.  It is to be conscious of what you are experiencing- present, and not lost in thought about some other time and place.  When a person is not mindful, he or she is somewhere else or worse, may be mindlessly responding in an automatic way from old programs that may or may not be appropriate or useful for today.

Mindfulness fulfills the oft-quoted phrase from Fritz Perls when he said, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.”  The “mind” here is the chatter-box mind where we talk and talk and chatter to ourselves about all kinds of things while experiencing something- chatter that all-too-often causes us to miss the moment.  NLP took this phrase as Perls’ call for
coming into sensory-awareness so that a person sees, hears, feels, smells, and tastes one’s present moment.

The opposite is mindlessness.  Mindlessness speaks about a state of mind wherein we are not present, not conscious of the richness of the moment and so we miss out on the present.  Mindlessness occurs when we use our previous learnings in our ongoing experience of the world.  So instead of experiencing the world in a fresh way, we see it through our categories, judgments, and ideologies.  We then  dismiss things with a flip of the mind, “Oh, that’s X.”  “Oh that’s success.”  “That’s failure.”  “That’s old stuff, I already know that.”  Then, using these constructs we become blind to what is actually available to us.  Korzybski would say that this is seeing and experiencing the world intensionally rather than extensionally (note, it is intensionally, not intentionally).

By way of contrast to the automatic, robotic, and unconscious style of mindlessness, being mindful is responding with our full senses (“mind”), fully conscious of the here-and-now.  Instead of the blind and dull repetition of being mindless, in being mindful we see everything as fresh and new.  We see what we have seen a thousand times as if for the first time.  Maslow described self-actualizing people in this way.  He said they are able to see the thousandth sunrise as if it was the first one ever seen.

Another contrast is that in being mindless we use previous cognitive frameworks (judgments, evaluations, conclusions) rather than being open to the moment-that is, being mindful.  The mindless see but do not really see. “Eyes they have and see not; ears they have and hear not.”  Ellen Langer describes their mindset is that of being “motivated-not-knowing.”  Having decided that one already knows, one turns consciousness off and then dismiss whatever is present, paying it no attention.

Numerous problems can arise from that way of orienting oneself in the world. Langer also describes mindless as being trapped in one’s categories.  When a person lives by one’s labels, categories, classifications, etc. one loses the real world and lives solely in a world of constructs. “Just as mindlessness is the rigid reliance on old categories, mindfulness means the continual creation of new ones.” (Langer, 1989, p. 63).

Being mindful means making distinctions.  This is especially what we train in Coaching Mastery -how to make refined distinctions so that a person can listen so actively and intensely, one seems to enter into an entirely new world.  Whereas being mindless turns off one’s sensory awareness of the present, in mindfulness you come to your senses in a heightened way.  This explains why being mindful and living life from a state of continuous appreciation are so highly correlated.

Being mindful also entails continually creating and trying out new categories for things.  This means being able to re-experience situations and contexts in new ways thereby making the world  that is well-known new and fresh.  In other words, playfulness isn’t just for children.  As an adult you take continue to play and to be playful as you move through life.
You can mindfully play with ideas and categories.  Yet to do so requires an openness that reveals a mental receptivity to new possibilities.

In being mindful, your previous frames for understanding and interpreting a situation are not rigid or static.  You can frame things in ever-new ways. As you learn to reframe in playful and unexpected ways new meanings emerge. Maybe this explains why framing and reframing belong to the mindful- to those with an open and active mind.  The mindful can playfully re-interpret things to their benefit and to the benefit of others.

Being mindful means that you can stay aware of the process of making real choices as you move through the world.  This requires a process orientation, that is, an orientation to reality as a dynamic process, and not a static one.  Being mindful means we are alert to the variables within any decision so that we then think-through our decisions rather than deciding in a
reactive mindless way.

In the APG training that presents the Meta-States Model, mindfulness also shows up in terms of the ability to step back, expand one’s perspective, and reflexively move up the psycho-logical levels.  More about that next week.

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

The Missing Secrets in “The Secret”

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

If you have seen the movie of The Secret or read the book by the same title, then you have heard about the so-called “law of attraction,” the power of thoughts being magnetic, goals being magical, and life destiny being totally within your control. All sounds pretty promising, eh? Yet how accurate and how realistic are these things? What do you think? Is there any over-selling here? Any over-promising that life will under-deliver on later? If you have an open mind and are willing to explore things, then come with us.

Strengths of The Secret

To begin, we want to mention the obvious strengths of the movie itself. In terms of production and quality, The Secret is a very well done film especially for developing a conceptual idea. It is engaging, moving, fascinating, and emotional. It is not a lecture, but a dramatic presentation with images that jump and move and dance and keep you looking and listening. So from the standpoint of an engaging piece of celluloid, it is very well done.

And from the point of view of content, there are lots of good points in the movie. What we appreciate most is the inspiration for taking charge of one’s life, giving up the idea of being a victim and using your response-powers to become increasingly responsible. There’s a strong emphasis also on abundance — that there are resources and assets and that we need to develop the ability to recognize them and activate them. The world is not a place of scarcity and lack, but truly one of abundance.

There’s a good emphasis also on taking a positive attitude to things — thinking positively, believing in the best, appreciating and honoring what’s good and positive. And there are a few steps at various places in the movie about what to do to get involved and take some actions in life. Several of the speakers acknowledge the importance of starting somewhere, doing something, and letting every little step count.

Weaknesses of The Secret

In spite of these strengths, there are numerous things that counter-balance them that are weaknesses to the film. So while the movie makes some valuable contributions, there are some parts of The Secret that are really weak and that need some bolstering up in order to make it respectable and intelligible. The two weakest facets is how the author and the screenplay writer over-simplified things often to the point of ridiculousness. And they did it by using frames of universality and either-or thinking. And the problem with this is that these are the language patterns of small children, not adults.

The Secret’s Over-Simplistic Approach

In terms of universality, the movie is rife with statements that …

  • “. . . everything you experience in your life, you attracted into your life by your thoughts.”
  • “It always works, every time, with every person.”
  • “Whatever you focus on is what you are creating, you are bringing it into your life. No exceptions.”

Ah yes, if life were so simple! If one simple statement could adequately summarize and explain reality. But alas, it is not so simple. There are many other factors, variables, and conditions that also need to be considered. If everything in your life, you attracted— then there can be no influence from others, from society, from nature, from political reality, from economic reality, etc. In fact, if everything is there solely because you thought it, then we have just discovered God; you are God. But, of course, the truth is that you are not that important or powerful. You are a fallible human being, not God.

The other childhood thinking pattern is the either-or pattern. And again, the movie is rife with them. It is shockingly used to think about emotions — there are “good” emotions and there are “bad” emotions and what the “bad” emotions mean is one thing, and only one thing, namely, you are out of alignment with your self. “The better you feel, the more aligned you will be.” It’s that simple. So the goal then becomes to not experience negative emotions. Either you are aligned with yourself and have good feelings or you are out-of-alignment with self and have negative feelings.

This goes against all that we have been learning for years in the Emotional Intelligence research and how emotions, both the negative and the positive, work effectively and productively within us. Just because an emotion is unpleasant or “negative” does not make it bad. These provide important and significant information regarding the relationship between what we have mapped out in our minds about life and what we actually experience in the territory. But The Secret would have you believe that the negative emotions should be avoided and ignored. In psychology such denial, repression, etc. are defense mechanisms of a weak and fragile sense of self, and not a healthy expression of full humanness.

“The way you feel is everything” The Secret asserts. So only the “good” emotions count, somehow the bad emotions, like the brakes in your car, are evil and must be ignored and avoided. If you focus on them, you make them grow, and that’s bad.

The Secrets Missing in The Secret

So though there are some good things in this movie, The Secret misses and leaves out many facets of the true secret of life. What secrets are missing in The Secret?

1) The Secret that Life is full of Systems.

Life is complex because it involves systems and systems-within-systems. In a child’s world, there are mostly simple choices between two things, either this or that. There’s no complexity. And there’s no systems. Yet it is systems like the mind-body-emotion system that creates complexity so that we have to think of multiple variables and those multiple variables operating at the same time and so influencing each other in multiple ways.

To think more systemically, we have to hold many variables in mind at the same time. And we have to transcend either-or thinking and grow up into both-and thinking. This means being able to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty so that we are not driven to over-simplistic answers. For adults in the real world, there are very few things that “always” work in a specific way. There are almost always exceptions. There are always other influencing factors, contributing causes, and differentiating contexts.

Yes we may attract things into our lives by our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, etc. But so do other people. All of our early life from birth to twelve or so is mostly created not by our thoughts and intentions, but our parents, caregivers, ancestors, culture, geography, and so on. A child born with cancer in its body did not attract that into its life! And what about the six million people slaughtered under Hitler; did they attract that into their lives? Is that what empowered Hitler to talk over a government and country? Don’t believe it for a moment.
There are constraints in all of those dimensions that we have nothing to do with. We did not create the world. We were born into the social, cultural, political, and economic worlds that we now live. Our responsibility is to first map these territories so we can understand what we have to deal with and then we have to develop sufficient knowledge and skills to cope with such.

2) The Secret of Levels of Awareness.

It would be such a wonderfully simple world if we only had one level of thought so that we could think one thing at a time. But that’s just not the kind of brain we have. We have self-reflexive consciousness which enables us to think about our thinking. We can have feelings about our feelings. And after our second thought or feeling about the first, we can have a third, and a fourth. This never-ending process is what we explore in Meta-States.
Self-reflexive consciousness means that we have layers upon layers of thoughts, feelings, awarenesses, beliefs, decisions, understandings, and so on. And again, this makes for complexity in the mind-body system. And because the higher levels govern and modulate the lower levels, this explains why the personal power of congruency and integrity also requires an alignment of the levels.

This means we can feel different emotions, good ones and bad ones at different levels. That’s why it is possible for someone to feel “good” about being depressed if one gets attention and sympathy. Or why one could feel “bad” about being ‘arrogant” and “selfish” and that would be a good thing. One can feel “good” about feeling superior and putting someone down and yet that would be a bad thing for personality and relationships. The either-or category of good and bad emotions is far, far too simplistic for adult life in the real world.

3) The Secret of Thinking and Reasoning at Different Levels.

Here’s another secret of human life — we think and reason and come to understand and map things at different levels. At one level we use classical science to figure things out, figure out Newtonian physics or Quantum physics, that’s what Einstein did. But even Einstein had to take his car to someone who knew Newtonian physics about mass, volume, and speed of a macro-machine like a car. A quantum physicist could not help him, or you, with a car. His thinking and understanding does not apply to that dimension.

Description and metaphor are two very different levels of reality. So the metaphor in the movie and book is that of magnetic attraction. In The Secret, they say, “Thoughts are magnetic.” Well, yes, metaphorically. But no, not empirically. And this confusion of levels has led to non-sense and ignorant statements like the following, statements asserted without any evidence (this quotation comes from the book):

  • “The law of attraction simply gives you whatever it is you are thinking about.” (p. 13)
  • “Quantum physicists tell us that the entire universe emerged from thought!” (p. 15)
  • “Nothing can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thought.” (p. 28)

These over-simplistic explanations create actually several toxic thought-viruses. The last statement implies there are no other factors, no other variables in the world except thought which, of course, is blatantly false. The first statement is indistinguishable from the magical thinking stage of cognitive development that occurs in children from 3 to 5 years of age, again implying that thought is the only creative factor and that there are no constraints of reality to interfere. If only!

And the second statement is completely undocumented; I have never read a legitimate book on the subject that even comes close to asserting anything like that. Yes, the indeterminacy factor means that we tend to observe what our assumptions and premises prepare us to observe since the observer influences the field. But that’s a very long way from saying that the universe emerged from thought!

There’s several dangers in all of this. Exaggerating, confusing levels, failing to index statements, failing to include the other multiple contributing factors etc. leaves the impression that people are “gods,” or at least almost all-powerful beings, in creating reality. Not so. Where is fallibility in all of this? Where is mortality? Where is social reality? Where are the constraints of reality?

So to ameliorate all of this, the truth is more balanced. We do create ideas and meanings and as we hold them in mind, we send messages and commands to our neurology to try to actualize them in our bodies. “Try to” make them actual and real, however, is a very different thing from asserting that thought alone absolutely creates your reality. If it did, the people in the back rooms of psychiatric hospitals would be some of the most powerful people on the planet instead of living such sad and pathetic lives.

Yes, thinking, feeling, believing, and intending do create and set up self-organizing “attractors” or attractions within us, but this is mostly a way of talking about the mind-brain relationship, the reflexive communication processes within us, and should not be taken as an empirical description. There’s still much mystery about all of this, and anyone even slightly educated about this area acknowledges such.

4) The Secret of the Distinction between Map and Territory.

The term “reality” is not a monolithic term referring to a singular thing. What is real depends on the dimension in which we are referring. The two primary dimensions are within our nervous system-brain (inner reality) and “out there” beyond all of our interpretations, understandings, information processing, communication about it (outer reality).

To fail to make this critical distinction confuses map and territory. Some people who confuse the two are fanatics. For a fanatic, his or her map is the one, the only, the true, the only true map. It is real. It is the territory, and woe be unto the person who questions it! Eric Hoffer called this kind of person a “true believer.” For the fanatic the primary purpose in life is imposing the maps on others, and even on the world.

There are others who confuse map and territory. One group does so by assuming that whatever they map is real or is going to be real. This is a delusion. The delusion is that they have that kind of power in their mapping and that the only possible thing that could be wrong in life, in the world, is that they are just not mapping enough— believing enough, imagining enough, intending enough, etc.

The problem in this is that they think that they can map anything, and that whatever they think, they make it so. This over-simplistic understanding of reality forgets that we are mapping a territory, and that the territory has to be taken into account in the mapping. It’s the old thing of taking a map of London and trying to navigate around any other city on the planet. It won’t work! Sure, there will be a few streets with the same name, perhaps a similar river or mountain, but for the most part that map is not designed for any territory other than London.

I’ll let you in on a significant secret of success: Mapping does not create external reality. By mapping we create some of our internal reality —our subjective reality so that it calls our beliefs, identities, hopes, dreams, intentions, etc. into being. And as our mapping interacts with the constraints of our body, our context, our mind, our nervous system, we are able to tap into the predispositions, talents, and potentials and create something new from all of those components.

5) The Secret of Distinguishing Levels

In the book, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (2006) she quotes John Assaraf who says, “A thought has a frequency, we can measure a thought.” (p. 9). This same non-sense is also in the movie. Well, that’s probably a sexy thing to say, but it is just not so. The author has confused levels.

A “thought” exists at a macro-level of our phenomenlogical experience. What occurs at the level of the brain processing is the exchange of chemicals (neuro-transmitters, peptides, etc.) and the charging of protons and electrons as a bio-impulse moves along the neuro-pathways and the ions are exchanged in the cells. We can see and measure and somewhat understand these mechanisms, but these are not “thoughts” or “emotions” — those terms do not apply at that level. They apply as a much more macro-phenomena.

All of these bio-electrical and bio-chemical processes are the sub-strands and sub-layers that comprise a gestalt that we call “thoughts” or consciousness. “Thought” itself has no frequency. The overall functioning of the brain has frequencies, that’s a brain function. Within those operations of the brain, we experience what we call “thoughts.” Apparently, the author Assaraf has also forgotten that the idea of “frequency” applied to thought is a metaphor — a metaphor!

— not an empirical description.

6) The Secret of How to Effectively Negate.

Part of the over-simplistic and either-or thinking presented in the movie suggested that there is no way to actually negate a thought, memory, emotion, etc. The simplistic idea was to give no thought or energy to what you don’t want, only to what you do want. Yet human consciousness is designed so that we can think of what we don’t want, don’t believe, and don’t value. Are we therefore to pretend that this is not part of our kind of consciousness? Are we to ignore, or worse, or we to frame this facet of human awareness (negation) as “bad?”
Those in The Secret say, “You can’t say no and make it go away.” You can’t be anti-drugs, antiwar, anti-terrorism. “Always be pro things, never against.”

Ah, if only life was that simple and simplistic! Now it is true that regarding “command negation,” if you command it, we have to first represent it in order to then negate it. That’s why at the simplest levels, “Don’t think of blue,” “Don’t imagine a monkey on my shoulder,” invites us to create images of the very thing we want to avoid!

But that’s just one kind of negation. In Sub-Modalities Going Meta (1999/ 2006) I wrote an entire chapter on 8 kinds of negations and presented the many kinds of negation which enable us to effectively negate things from our lives and minds. After all, is there anything that just won’t “process” or “let in” to your consciousness for you to consider? I bet there are. If someone said, “You are a Martian and have red skin,” would you give that any entrance, any consideration, any energy? I wouldn’t. It just doesn’t process. I negate it and walk away from it by framing it as irrelevant and non-sense. That makes it go away.

Or what about your ability to so much “make up your mind” that you can stubbornly refuse to accept something? Do you have that ability? Can you be stubborn? Can you be obstinately stubborn? Think about something that you stubbornly refuse. That’s a pretty strong and empowered state isn’t it? You can now use that to refuse, to negate something. “Child sacrifice as a burnt offering.” When I think about it, my mental and emotional boundaries come up so that I would not consider child sacrifice for a second. My values are strong enough about the preciousness of life that they immediately negate that idea. In fact, the more I think about it, the more my values, understandings, and beliefs grow to negate it.


We’re delighted that The Secret has started a thousand or ten-thousand new conversations around the world about the untapped powers of human beings. That’s good. But The Secret is not the secret. It is just the beginning of understanding human nature and psychology and there are many, many secrets not revealed or exposed in The Secret. In this the film over-sells itself and over-promises and dangerously raises expectations which life events can then crush leaving the person burnt and immunized against true self-actualization and personal empowerment. That’s the danger of over-simplification.

We have written The Missing Secrets in the Secret so that the conversations people have can be more reality-oriented, more healthy and balanced, and may invite people to use the innate powers for unleashing more and more of their potentials and actualizing their dreams.


L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. is a cognitive psychologist who has spent the last 13 years engaged in various modeling projects, from wealth creation, to leadership, coaching, and now self-actualization. Michael is a best selling author in the field of NLP and the founder of Neuro-Semantics.


1. In the Movie The Secret the key presenters are Bob Proctor, Bob Doyle, Joe Vitale, Michael Beckwith, Jack Canfield, David Schirmer, John Assaraf, James Arthur Ray, Esther Hicks, John Gray, John DeMartini, Lee Brower, Dennis Watley, Mike Dooley, Marci Shimoff Mira, Marie Diamond, Lisa Nichols, and some others.


© L. Michael Hall, Michelle Duval http://www.meta-coaching.org
THE AXES OF CHANGE : Introducing a New Generative Change Model Part I

“You can’t change anything by fighting or resisting it. You change something by making it obsolete through superior methods.” Buckminster Fuller
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. Michelle Duval, Master Coach
If coaching is about anything, it is about change. And if coaching is first and foremost about facilitating the dynamic process of change or transformation in the lives of people, then ultimately a coach is a change-agent par excellence. That’s why we coach, is it not? We coach to make a highly desired change in an area of life or personality that will allow us to maximize our talents, unleash our potentials, and take our skills to a new level of development. That’s also why we hire a personal coach, is it not? We want to make changes to take our talents and skills to a new and higher level for peak or optimal performance.

  • Yet, what is this thing that we call change?
  • Does change have a good or bad reputation to you?
  • Is change easy or hard, fun or traumatic?

Kinds of Change

When we think about change, we often first think about the change that’s connected to therapy. Therapy is also about change, but it is about remedial change—fixing things, repairing what’s broken, getting a person through or over hurts and traumas, altering significant distortions in personality, thinking patterns, emotional distresses. In this context, most people find change challenging, difficult, and even hard. In this context, therapists and clients have to deal with a wide range of subjects connected to that kind of change, namely resistance, defense mechanisms, fighting change, fearing change, and relapse.

By way of contrast, coaching is about generative change. It’s about taking talent, knowledge, and skills to a new level of excellence. It’s about facilitating the highest development in a well- functioning person and about enabling new transformations to occur that empowers a person to excel his or her own visions and dreams about what’s possible. In this context, the people sign up for coaching embrace change, desire change, and are ready for change. And when you have change- embracers asking for change, this makes much of the therapeutic understandings, premises, and model of change completely inappropriate.
The Need for a New Change Model

So what’s a coach to do? Most, if not nearly all, of the change models available today were developed by psychologists and psychotherapists who were working with people who needed change but who resisted it. In those change models we find a major emphasis on resistance, relapse, that “change is hard and painful,” and that people will actually fight you about change.
For the field of coaching and for leading coaches, the problem is that many of these change models have been adopted wholesale from therapy. “Change is difficult” is the first line of the third chapter of Coach Yourself, an excellent book on coaching. Yet by adopting the old trans-theoretical model by Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClimente, the authors have failed to see and utilize the difference between therapeutic change and coaching change. They also developed their model from how alcoholics and other addicts went through the process of self-change.
I have another complaint about the trans-theoretical model. In presenting the stages of change, it offers the following steps or stages in the experience of change: 1) pre-contemplation, 2) contemplation, 3) commitment, 4) action or change, 5) maintenance, 6) relapse. Now, how about that fourth step? Don’t you love it? Change!
That reminds me of the cartoon drawing of a wild-hair professor working on the formula for “life.” He’s standing facing a chalk board that he has absolutely filled it up with a complex mathematical and scientific formula. Then at the end, near the bottom of the blackboard, he writes, “Then the miracle happens” then next comes an arrow that points to the end result, “Life!”
Change is what a change model is suppose to detail out. It really doesn’t do any good to put “change” as one of the steps in a model designed to sort out the steps of change. As a model for describing how to bring about change, a change model needs to identify all of the mechanisms, processes, and variables and then present that variables in a step-by-step fashion so that we can move through the process and experience a change. Doesn’t that make sense?
If coaching is truly about generative and transformative change, then what model or template informs and guides us in facilitating the change process? In Neuro-Semantics, the Axes of Change model is our answer. In designing it, we have started with the difference between remedial and generative change so that it reflects the variables and contexts how healthy, sane, and well- functioning people bring about desired change in the way they think, feel, respond, relate, and perform.

What is the Axes of Change model?

As a model or template for working with the change process The Axis of Change model uses the key mechanisms or variables that are involved in change. These include:

  1.  The negative and positive emotions that move us away from one thing and toward another.
  2.  The reflective understanding of what needs to change and the decision or commitment to make it happen.
  3.  The constructive planning and designing of what to change to and the beginning experimentation of the action plan to see how it works. ‘
  4.  The reinforcement of what works well to reward it and the ongoing testing, monitoring, and accountability that enables the change to solidify.

When we distinguish the two meta-programs in each of these processes, we have eight change factors or variables.

  1.  Aversions: fear, anger, stress, frustration, distress, pain, unpleasantness, intolerance, having had “enough,” threshold, necessity, negative emotional tension, etc.
  2.  Attractions: hope, dreams, values, visions, anticipation, pleasure, inspiration, possibilities, growth, development, positive emotional tension, etc.
  3.  Reflective understanding: knowledge, heightened awareness, insight, discovery, the Ah- Ha! recognition.
  4.  Decision: the saying no to the old and yes to the new possibilities, the courage to break free to make a change, commitment, willingness, etc.
  5.  Creative design: the planning for change, the know-how about what to do now, an action plan with time table and schedule for change, the strategy for how to do it.
  6.  Action: performance, practice, experimentation, trying something out, trial and error learning, implementation, feed-forward. 7) Reinforcement: support, celebration, championing a new practice, reward, partners, etc.
  7.  Testing: monitoring, feedback, renewed practice, accountability, performance review, re- designing the action or performance plan, etc.

And for a change-embracer, someone who is already a healthy high performer, these are the variables that make change possible and that create change. In fact, there will be times when a single one of these factors may be completely sufficient to create change. We may have experienced it or we have seen it work in the life of another when sufficient pain drove a person to change overnight. Perhaps a friend got a diagnosis of lung cancer and from that moment totally quit smoking. Sometimes a great vision wakes a person up to new possibilities, and they are transformed. Saul on the Damascus was like that. A vision awakened him to a whole new world. Sometimes it is the Ah ha! experience that creates an immediate and complete change, or a ferocious resolve of a decision, or a plan—a specific and compelling plan that sets forth an exciting strategy. It could be the experience of having a little piece of doing something different or right reinforced that makes the change. Or it could be receiving some performance feedback that suddenly gives us a mirror that leads to transformation.
Typically, however, it is the working of all of these factors together that brings about solid and lasting change. In this, we also usually need the different change mechanisms to work together in a coordinated way. If we create a wonderful plan for change but don’t have the emotional energy, we will intelligently know what we should do without doing it—a typical problem many people have with change.
Or we may know what we want to change to, but not be all that clear on what we have to move away from to make that happen. We may have a great plan and begin to act on it, but if we don’t have sufficient reinforcements or feedback, we may find the change doesn’t last and that we revert back to our old habits.
This is where we need a model that ties the change mechanisms and variables together and provides an understanding of how they relate to each other. Considering the need to see the inter- relationships between the eight change variables, we find that we can classify them into four change processes or stages.

  1.  The Energy stage: creating sufficient emotional energy, motivation, and creative tension to feel both the need and the desire for the change. This gives us a propulsion for change: away from the aversions and pains and toward the attractions and pleasures.
  2.  The Decision stage: creating sufficient understanding and knowledge about what to change, why it doesn’t work, and generating enough decision power to create a readiness for change. This gives us the prod to say no to the current way of thinking, feeling, and acting and yes to the possibilities of a generative change.
  3.  The Creation stage: creating a specific action plan that describes the change, giving us a step-by-step plan that we can then begin acting on and experimenting with. This gives us the plan to implement and actualize in real life.
  4.  The Solidifying stage: creating specific rewards and support for the new actions that we celebrate an champion all the while testing, monitoring, and using feedback to make richer, fuller, and more integrated into our new habit and way of responding. This gives us a way to keep solidifying the change so that it becomes part of who we are and so that it fits ecologically into our life style.

As we step back from these four stages or processes of change, we can easily see the role that anyone who plays the facilitator or change agent will play in promoting life-enhancing change:

  1.  Challenger of current reality and of the aversive consequences if things don’t change.
  2.  Awakener to a new vision of possibilities and all of the attractive opportunities if we do change.
  3.  Prober of one’s current understandings and meaning frames that describe one’s current behaviors and feelings thereby creating a leverage for what to change.
  4.  Provoker to making a decision to say no to the current and yes to the new possibilities, thereby creating a readiness for making the change.
  5.  Cocreator to design the new strategy and action plan.
  6.  Actualizer to begin the experimenting, trials, and new fledging performances.
  7.  Reinforcer to provide support, nurture, and celebration of the new behaviors and responses.
  8.  Tester to monitor, give feedback, hold accountable, and refine the new changes.

Yet there is more. Not only do we now have four stages or processes of change, but these four processes correspond to four key meta-programs or perceptual filters that we use in paying attention to things and sorting out what’s important.

  1.  The Energy stage relates to the meta-programs of toward and away from —toward the attractions that we want and away from the aversions that we don’t.
  2.  The Decision stage relates to the meta-programs of reflective and action in how we respond to information, events, and people. First we reflect on what’s currently going on and then we take action as we make a decision to do something.
  3.  The Creation stage relates to the meta-programs of internal reference and external reference. First we internally reference our matrix structure of meaning frames and create a plan using our know-how knowledge of what to do, then we externally reference the outside world that we live and move in for where and how the action plan will be implemented.
  4.  The Solidifying stage relates to the meta-programs of matcher and mis-matcher. First we perceive by matching for what is similar to the game plan that we designed and noticing and acknowledging what’s working even if in the tiniest bit as we nurture, support, and validate the person who has taken action. Then we mis-match by sorting for differences, what’s not fully congruent with the game plan as we test it out, give feedback, offer ideas for further refinements.

This now gives us four axis that relate to four meta-program continua. Each axis is one of these four core meta-program continua which governs how we think-feel-and-respond when we encounter new information or challenging events. Each axis offers a continuum on which two polar perceptual filters exist which informs how we think about and code the trigger that invites a change. In terms of change, these deal with

  • Our motivational energy for change: toward and away from.
  • Our decision readiness for change: reflective and active.
  • Our creating and implementing a new change map: internal and external referencing.
  • Our solidifying and maintaining the change in the real world: matching and mis-matching.

As we have modeled how change and transformation actually occurs in the four stages, we have designed these axes of change so that a coach (or anyone working with transformation processes) can dance with the client in following the client’s energy through his or her unique Matrix of frames. This enables the coach to find and use the most effective leverage points in that client’s mind-body (or neuro-semantic matrix system). The axes of change not only apply at the individual level, but also for organizations and groups and so provides a dynamically practical tool for Coaches as change-agents.

The process of change, like any and every subjective experience has a structure, and as such, can be modeled. For years, therapists have studied change. Yet their studies have focused on how hurting people change—how traumatized, limited, wounded, and stuck people change. It makes sense that those models of change see change as painful, difficult, a struggle, and something clients will resist and relapse from.

But how do peak performers change? How do self-actualizing people change? What is the structure to that experience? The Axes of Change model is the first non-therapeutic change model in the world, a model based on how top performers, well-functioning people, people who are not hurting and who do not need to change, but who want to change, how change- embracers change.

Introducing the first purely Coaching Change Model in the world Part II
Coaching is about change and a coach is a change-agent par excellence.
In the first part, we describe the need for a new change model in the field of coaching, one that is not based upon the premises and techniques of psychotherapy. We also described in some detail the component variables that we have designed into the Axes of Change model. We based this upon eight meta-programs as well as the natural change/ transformation process that well-adjusted and self-actualizing people experience. In this second part, we will detail out the facets of the Axes of Change model (for more about this see Coaching Conversations, 2004).
How does change work for change-embracers, that is for self-actualizing people who are not afraid of change and who do not resist it, but on the contrary, embrace it? Having modeled it in people who easily and enjoyable change, and who change without a lot of fanfare or emotional struggle, we discovered the key components that we mentioned in the first article in this series. These differ from psychotherapy-based models which start from the assumption that people will resist change and relapse back to old patterns, that people are coming from need rather than want, deficiency motivation rather than growth motivation (Maslow).
The Axes of Change Model What are the specific meta-program continua which make up the Axes of Change? In brief there they are as follows.
1stThe energy, emotional, or motivation meta-programs of Toward / Away From.


  • What do you want?
  • What have you had enough of?
  • What values or experiences are you motivated toward and what are you motivated to move away from?

This creates the push-pull energy, the propulsion system that plays off of attraction / aversion and pleasure / pain. The poles on the continuum between away from and toward relate to how much energy we have in feeling pulled or pushed and what’s our favorite or dominate focus of attention.

___________________Valued Experiences__________________
Away From, Pains— Aversions                            Toward, Pleasures-Attractions,  The Pull Toward
2nd — The response meta-programs of Reflective, Inactive, Active.


  • How do you respond or act when faced with information or a request?
  • Do you first reflect upon things?
  • Is your first response to take action and then ask questions?

The poles on the continuum between active and reflective provide the oscillation between thinking something through to have a well-formed plan or idea in our heads to just acting on something and seeing what happens.

_______________Response Preference and Style____________
Reflective Thinking, Feeling, Imagining, Analyzing           Acting, Doing, Taking Action

Inwardly focused in responding to data or challenge      Outwardly focused in responding
3rd — The frame of reference meta-programs of Internal / External.


  • Where do you focus most of your attention, on your internal frames or on external frames?
  • Are you more or less aware of your internal frames, understandings, thoughts?
  • Are you more or less aware of the outside world and what’s going on there?

The poles of the continuum between internal and external lies at the source of our oscillation between being mentally-and-emotionally inside or outside. It governs where we go first and where we feel most comfortable.

_____________Reference Focus________________
Internal maps and frames of the Game                                    External actions of the Game

Ideas, Thoughts, Words,                                                   Sensory Awareness and Calibration

Representations in the Movie in our mind

Strategy for how to do something                                        Present on the outside,

4th — The relationship meta-programs of matching and mis-matching.

______________________Relationship Style __________

Matching for Sameness                                                               Mis-Matching for Difference

Witnessing and noticing what fits,                                            Mis-matching for what differs,

Looking for matches between determining strengths   Monitoring and identifying what needs

and weaknesses new Game Plan and external actions         to be brought up to standard.

Coaching States or Roles within the Axes of Change What are the coaching states that a coach is called upon to access and use as he or she moves through the change stages and processes with a client? What states do we dance in and out of as we follow the energy and facilitate the desired transformations for the client in each Axis?
Axis I: The Push-Pull Dance

This dance stirs up energy as it exposes consequences, awakens dreams and visions, and loosens the current frames. It covers the pre-contemplation and contemplation stages of change. For this we dance between the poles of Awakener and Challenger.

  • Awakener: This is the role of inspiring, standing in awe of the magnificence of our clients, inviting new possibilities, seducing to what’s possible, evoking dreams and wild imaginations.
  • Challenger: This is the role of evoking current reality and highlighting its pain and distress and where it will take one if continued. In this role we confront, get in the client’s face and challenge to create a felt gap.

When do we shift from the Push-Pull dance and axis as Awakener and Challenge? When there is enough energy to explore one’s Matrix to understand the current box within which the client is embedded. To that we ask:

  • Is the person energized to explore?
  • How’s the motivation level to face reality as it is?

Axis II: The Decision Dance between Readiness and Leverage

This dance seeks to find and/or create the leverage point for change that leads to the decision to do it. Here we seek to facilitate the client to identify the highest frames of intention, the key to his or her Matrix, and the structure of transformation for this client at this time. Does he or she have permission to change? Does he believe that change is a possibility for him? Does he believe he deserves it? It is to evoke the beginning of an attractor frame in the system.

  •  Provoker: This is the role for teasing, provoking, and playing to get the client to turn up the push—pull energies to see just how ready the client is and if there’s sufficient energy to actually make something happen. We provoke the commitment. As provoker we challenge as in the first axis, yet the push is different. We are pushing now for probing inside for the frames of mind that will make the difference, and that will lead us to commitment. Before, we pushed and challenge for motivational energy around our Vision.
  • Prober: This is the role of exploring like a detective with total curiosity and persistence and tenacity until we find or create a frame of reference that will completely transform life. First we probe the existing Matrix to understand what it is, how it works, its structure, processes, and leverage point. This invites blinding awareness of current reality. Oftentimes a painful awareness of how we have created a non-productive pattern in our lives. As we do we will be wondering about what frame of mind would bring about a complete transformation? In the role of Prober we search and research, we put the spotlight on the unstoried features of our experiences, and we tease out the higher frames of mind.

When do we shift from the Readiness—Leverage axis to the next axis? When there is an awareness of the problematic frame, when there’s the discovery of the possibility of the leverage frame, and when there’s a readiness to do the Inner Game Work.Ask:

  • Do we know the frame that has created your current situation and state?
  • Is the client ready to change those frames? Is the client committed?

Axis III: The Dance of the Inner and Outer Games

In this dance we move with the client to create the Inner Game and then translate it into the performance of the Outer Game. This dance helps the client to close the Knowing-Doing Gap and to put into practice the know-how of the new game that the client wants to play. Here we dance to co-generate with the client a self- organizing energy that will become self-generative in the client. This is the experimenting stage for change.

  • Co-Creator: This is the role of co-creating with the client the actual meanings of belief frames, decision frames, identity frames, etc. that make up a new Game— the Inner Game. In this role we are co-developer with the client, we nurture and support the client, perhaps challenge the ideas and frames to make them realistic and tough and practical. In this role we work to solidify the frames that will map a new reality.
  • Actualizer: This is the role of coaching to bring the Inner Game out in terms of actions in the outside world. It’s the role of making the actions real (i.e., actualizing) and experimenting to see how the actions work in real life. This is the Action stage of change.

When is the Inner—Outer Game over? When the client has created a new game—has a new map with new resources and rules for how to play that game and has specific actions to do in the outside world, and when the client has successfully translated the actions to the outside world. Ask:

  • Does the client have a new game plan?
  • Does the client have an action plan?
  • Is the client motivated and aligned with the new game?
  • Is the client willing to be held accountable? Has the change occurred?

Axis IV: The Dance of Solidification through Reinforcement and ongoing Testing

In this final dance, we move with the client to solidify the new Inner and Outer Game so that it not only is implemented in everyday life, but that it becomes more and more integrated in every aspect of the client’s life. We do that by setting up a recursive process that facilitates continual improvement through continual learning and continual feedback for more and more refinement of the new actions. This describes the Maintenance stages of change.

  • Reinforcer: This is the role of providing reinforcements or rewards to the actions through supporting, celebrating, nurturing, validating, cheer-leading, acknowledging, etc. This role can be gentle and nurture or racus and “partying on.” The reinforcing can occur through one’s person, through a supportive community, through accountability structures, or through the person’s own acknowledgments. In doing so, the behaviors become anchored and more solid.
  • Tester: This is the role of testing to see how strong, robust, real, workable, and ecological the new behavior is. In testing, we feedback the changes and the results, we evaluate what’s working well and how to make it work even better, we set up accountability structures, we look for problems, we trouble-shoot, and we cycle back to the co-creating stage.

When is the solidifying dance over? It’s over when the client has so well integrated the new game that is has become a part of his or her way of being in the world. Now the client has the change and feels totally confident to keep the change. Ask:

  • Does the client have access to the new behaviors and game at all times?
  • Is the client continually learning and improving?
  • Are there accountability structures in place?
  • Does the client know how to reinforce, support, and nurture the change?
  • Does the client feel confident of keeping the change?


The Axes of Change model describes change-embracers and presents an eight-step process of change. Yet it is not a linear process at all, but a non-linear one, a systemic process, a process that’s more like a dance than how we think about a “strategy” in NLP.
The Axes of Change model is derived from the premises and principles that arose in the Human Potential Movement. Many of these principles were incorporated into NLP as the NLP presuppositions, especially the idea that people have all the resources they need and people are basically oriented to doing things from a positive intention of adding value to their lives.


Part III The Art of Measuring Skill Competency


  • What is the Axes of Change?
  • How does the model work as a cutting-edge change model for self-actualizing people?
  • How did we model the change process to create this model?
  • What are the four meta-programs that make up the four axes?
  • How are these meta-programs involved in the process of change?
  • What coaching skills do these eight meta-programs initiate?

These are among the most common questions asked of us about this new Change Model and in the previous articles we have presented what it is, how we designed it, and its relationship to NLP and Neuro-Semantics. With this foundation we are now ready to explore some practical questions about the model in terms of using it for facilitating change and transformation. After all, if coaching is foremost a domain of change, and the coach a change agent, then it’s critical that coaches have two things: first, a clear and comprehensive understanding about change as a process and second, the ability to translate that knowledge into practical and effective change skills.*1
This is where benchmarking comes in. Once we have translated the theoretical understandings of a model (any model) into practical and learnable skills that we can train, we then need to have some way to measure the actual competency of someone who claims to have the skill. Claiming the ability to facilitate change and actually having that ability are two different things. P.R. and image management does not reality make. Talent, training, passion, commitment, and practice are needed to make it so. So in this article, we will first describe the Coaching Change skills in the Axes of Change and then we will describe how we have and can benchmark those skills to test their actuality.
The Competency of Facilitating Change Skills

In the Axes of Change, the four axes of motivation, decision, creation, and solidification lead to eight distinct coaching roles for coaching a client through the process of change. These make up the dance of change and the coach’s skill lies first in stepping into the eight states and then being able to skillfully facilitate the accessing of the experience in the client. What are these eight states, roles, and positions?

  1. Awakener to a vision
  2. Challenger to current reality
  3. Prober into the matrix of frames that hold the current inner game
  4. Provoker to the decision for change from the present state to the desired state
  5. Co-creator of the new inner game
  6. Actualizer for the client to translate to a new outer game
  7. Reinforcer of the client’s successes
  8. Tester of the results for further refinements and continual improvement

The ninth role in all of this is that of being a Facilitator—the heart of coaching. It is from this central position that the coach facilitates or makes easier the client’s movement through the change process. In the Axes of Change we have specified many different things which are involved that demonstrate each of these nine coaching skills. Doing this provides an operational definition of what it means to facilitate, awaken, challenge, probe, provoke, co-create, actualize, reinforce, and test. It provides an understand of what it takes to fully express these skills.
Positioning these skills on four meta-program continua or axes awakens us to the fact that every coach will have a preference and natural aptitude in these skills. As we have a favored representation system, we also have favored poles regarding most meta-programs. For example, if you are more Towards oriented rather than Away From in your motivation meta-program, you will find Awakening easier and more natural than Challenging. So with Probing versus Provoking, Co- Creating versus Actualizing, Reinforcing versus Testing.
In Meta-Coaching, we use this insight to enable coaches-in-training to first play to their strength and to then develop the flexibility of consciousness to learn how to move to the other polar end of each axis. By using a Changing Meta-Programs pattern, we facilitate the developing of that flexibility so that the coach can more fluidly move through the dance of change with a client.
The Measuring or Benchmarking of the Skill Competency

  • Yet how do we know that any person is truly skilled?
  • What lets us know that one is truly competent to coach through these roles?
  • Once we have adequately described the skills involved in effectively coaching change, and especially the nine Coaching Change Skills in the Axes of Change, how can we measure these skills and determine any given coach’s actual competency in them?
  • How can a coach measure his or her own competency level?

The answer lies in setting a benchmark for the levels of degree of competency for the skill. If a skill is a process and can be distinguished at different stages of development, then we can identify the behaviors at each stage and plot a developmental pathway. We can specify the behaviors that give evidence of the degree of skill development from incompetent to competent and then on to the level of mastery. For that we use benchmarking.
Benchmarking has been around for three decades as a process for capturing the structure and essence of best practices in business. It began with the Xerox Corporation in 1979. Motorola then introduced benchmarking into its processes in 1985 as a way for bringing measurement into the learning, training, and development process.
What does benchmarking refer to in the context of business? It means taking a “best practice” and specifying its critical elements or components. As such, benchmarking is the continuous process of measuring products, services, and practices against the best competitors or industry leaders in order to close the performance gap and leapfrog over the competition. In this, Benchmarking is used to close the gap between what we are currently doing and to becoming the best-in-a-class.
If this reminds you of modeling, you’re right. Benchmarking describes a simple way to model the expertise of someone masterful in the performance of a high level skill. And while we can fairly easily benchmark tangible things like how to set up an assembly line and get the most proficiency and productivity from people, all of this becomes much more challenging when we turn our attention to benchmarking something less tangible or even intangible. So, how do we do that?*2
The Art of Measuring the Intangible

Measurements are comparisons.When we measure something we contrast and compare one thing with another. In benchmarking we take a skill, break it down into key behavioral components which we can actually see, hear, and feel. After we identify a development scale from simple to more complex to expert level, we give numerical values to the critical components to distinguish the degree of skill development as a skill moves from low to high competence. This sequence of numbers from low to high then enable us to see where a person is on the developmental scale.


0                                                1                                                           2                                                 3                                                4                                            5

By themselves, the raw numbers are of no value. To be meaningful and significant, we attach the numbers to a baseline or scale of some sort. Doing this enables us to then compare them against each other. By measuring we can know where we are, where we want to go, and identify the pathway for greater quality and improvement.
In scaling, we establish a sequence of marks at regular intervals which we use as a reference for making measurements. This allows us to rank attributes or characteristics. Every scale will have thresholds or boundaries at each end. The scaling that we have used in Meta-States for years (“From 0 to 10, how much are you in that state right now? How much more would you want to experience? What do you have to do to increase that state?”) now becomes more precise as we give each number on the numerical scale a specific meaning and attach to each specific behavior.
In doing this, our measurements become actionable, linked to the highest levels of a critical skill, and made as objective as possible. Actionable means that we can act on the measurement, we can do something about the scaled information. The measure informs us about two factors: first, where we are and second, what we can do to move to the next level. Objective is a relative term that calls upon us to make the measurements based on as few subjective feelings and opinions as possible. We do that by identifying sensory-based or behavioral indicators that give evidence of the experience. When we have a set of behaviors, then we have the behavioral equivalences.
This is where we use benchmarking to identify the behavioral equivalence of whatever state, skill,or experience that you want to improve. Essentially we are asking:

  • How would I know you are accomplishing X?
  • What would I see or hear that would indicate such?
  • What are the critical factors for success with X?
  • What behaviors are critical in this experience?

Scaling the Levels of Competence in a Skill

  • 5 — Mastery, level of expertise in the skill.
  • 4 — Elegant: smooth, seamless.
  • 3 — Competence: Skill present and working.
  • 2 — Awkward and clumsy stage, low level skill.
  • 1 — First signs of the skill emerging in fragmented ways.
  • 0 — Incompetence, no presence of the skill.

In Benchmarking the coaching skills (and we have benchmarked 26 of them along with 41 training skills), we use the basic scaling that measures how a skill moves through the competency stages. Using a 0 to 5 scale, we arrange things as follows. Zero (0) on the scale stands for the absense of the skill and even for manifestations of opposite behaviors. The range goes from 0 indicating that there is no evidence of the desired behavior to 5 indicating the highest standard for the skill. At 3 we have a good expression of the skill. That means 4 and 5 will be indicating the highest levels of the skills, the levels of elegance and mastery.
Once we have established a scale of the critical behaviors that reflect the developmental growth of a skill, we are then able to do something truly magical. We are able to give feedback to that criteria. That is, we can use our sensory awareness to identify the behavioral equivalents of the criteria and skill and feed this back as a mirror to the coach-in-training. This is what we do in benchmarking the coaching core skills and the coaching change skills which allows us to run a training that is truly competency based.
In the Axes of Change model, not only have we modeled and identified the stages that a self- actualizing person goes through in the process of change, but we have also detailed actual the signs and cues that give evidence of the skills necessary to navigate each of those change stages. This fulfills the dream of operationalizing our terms, specifying the procedures, and de-nominalizing what otherwise would be vague and abstract terms.2


  • While we can engage in long debates about how real something is if we can’t measure it, what senior management in business wants is some way to verify skill development and competency. That’s why we benchmark. We model the structure of a skill, set up behavioral equivalents, and then give feedback to that criteria.
  • This is the art of measuring skill competency and expressions what we have described in NLP for three decades, the de-nominalizing of abstract concepts. As such, this puts a powerful tool in the hands of anyone who wants to be on the cutting-edge of business, training, and coaching.
  • This is what we have done with the nine coaching change skills in the Axes of Change model to be able to thereby determine and document the presence of actual competency as a change agent.

End Notes:

1. The reader can find this in the two previous articles in Anchor Point and also in the book, Coaching Conversations for Transformational Change (2004). The next book is the first in a series, as a cutting-edge change model for self-actualizing people (in press, due November, 2004).
2. In Meta-Coaching, Volume I, Changing Change we have an entire chapter on benchmarking and two chapters on specific behavioral benchmarks that we have set for the seven core coaching skills and the nine coaching change skills in the Axes of Change.

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. is a psychologist turned researcher and modeler, he is an international trainer, entrepreneur, and best-selling author, co-founder of Neuro-Semantics (www.neurosemantics.com), he has developed of several cognitive-behavioral models including Meta-Coaching and the Axes of Change model.

Michelle Duval is a Master Coach, CEO of Equilibro, one of the fastest growing coaching organizations in Australia. Michelle was nominated as Business Woman of the Year in 2003 and her website (www.equilibrio.com.au) won the best website in the world in 2003, she co- developed the Axes of Change model.

You can find the Axes of Change model in the newly published book, Coaching Conversations (2004) by Hall and Duval. The central emphais in Meta-Coaching, Vol. I, Coaching Change (in press, due November, 2004) is on the Axes of Change. For more about Meta-Coaching and the Meta-Coaching system, see http://www.neurosemantics.com and click on Meta-Coaching. Meta-Coaching certification is now being presented in the UK, Australia, South Africa, Geneva, Paris, and in the USA in 2005.


If all of our limitations are limitations of our maps rather than reality (Previous article), then the case of our lives is one of inside-out limitations, rather than outside-in.  Yet for almost everybody, limitations feel like an outside-in process.  It certainly seems that what is creating limitations in my life are other people, how I was treated by my parents, friends, lovers, bosses, etc., by the circumstances that I’m facing, etc. It seems that way; it feels that way, yet in actuality, that’s not the way it is.

Why is that?  What explains this?  The principle is that our inside-out limitations (which are in our maps) color our perceptions.  Limitations seem to come from the outside, because that’s how we use our map-endowed limitations-we use them to color what we see.

The result of this is that much of what is inside us is projected outside. It is projected onto other people, onto the world, onto experiences, etc. In NLP this shows up as the process of “mind-reading.”  Yet even more than projection is the mechanism of filtering-we see the worlds that we see as colored through our filters.  This describes the power of a belief.  A belief, as an understanding and conviction about something (yourself, others, your work, money, business, discipline, etc.), works as a self-organization attractor within your mind-body system.  That’s why all of the great faith systems warned: Be careful what you believe because as you believe, so be it unto you as you believe.

After last week’s post on this subject, Cat Wilson, who trains NLP in Portland Oregon sent the following quotation from Jennifer James (2003) who said something that relates to this challenge.  She offers a solution: We can learn to recognize the distorting factors.

“Tugged in opposite directions by a familiar present and an uncertain future, we can lose our balance and our ability to keep things in
perspective.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can learn to recognize the many factors that may be distorting our perceptions.  We can sharpen our perspective skills.  In short, we can keep our eyes and minds open to the forces of change as they will affect our businesses and our lives.” (Thinking in the Future Tense, Touchstone iBooks)

Is this easy?  No, of course not.  Yet is it important?  Yes, absolutely. And is it possible?  Yes!  And that is one of the values of NLP Training, learning to recognize the distorting factors in our perceptions.  If you’re committed to learning that, I’d recommend that you start with learning and using the Meta-Model of Language.  It was designed to enable you to challenge the quality of your map-making.  And don’t just use the original 11 distinctions (The Structure of Magic, 1975), use all 22 of the distinctions (Communication Magic, 2001).  From there, focus also on the thinking pattern that you use in thinking- your meta-programs and the cognitive distortions.  These govern how you think.

Similarly, Neuro-Semanticist and Meta-Coach, Scott Pochron, who has made developmental psychology his focus (Scott presented a paper at the NLP Research Conference last year) wrote the following about the importance of a community of support for enabling all to engage in better thinking.

There is a real limitation though-a developmental limitation that impacts the way in which maps are constructed.  In this case, the challenge is not just the quality of the map, but the capability of the individual to coordinate maps of sufficient complexity to adequately represent the territory.

A simple example is systems thinking.  It’s estimated that only 20%  of the US population is able to think systemically (i.e., able to coordinate the interdependencies between more than two variables) without some form of support.

There is enough research evidence to confirm that there is a change over time in how individuals construct meaning and there are patterns in the structure of these changes from one stage to the next.  What is exciting, as Neuro-Semanticists and Meta-Coaches, this is the area we attend to-we can work with clients to understand both the structure of the maps and their map-making capabilities, and provide the support to enable transformation, which eventually can evolve the map making capability itself so they can be
self supporting.

I wrote back to Scott noting what a shocking statistic that is- “only 20% of the US population is able to think systemically … without some form of support.”  So what support do people need?  What do we have in Neuro-Semantics that an offer you support?

I’d first recommend using the Meta-States Model.  As a systems model, it will get you use to the system process of self-reflexivity and how to follow your own information-energy loop through your mind-body-emotion system. This non-linear facet of thinking will condition you to think about the variables as information moves through the loops and are transformed into neurological responses.

Once you have a good working handle on how you meta-state yourself (and others) with layers of psycho-logical levels, then focus your attention on learning how to use the Matrix Model.  This will enable you to identify the key variables in the system and a few key principles that govern the dynamic complexity of the system.  Then you will be able to follow the information into a person’s individual system until it emerges as energy “states” that the person operates from in speaking and responding.

This is what we do in Meta-Coaching.  We follow the data that a person is paying attention to and focusing on.  We follow it into his or her map-making system where the person then creates both limitations and resources by interpreting the meaning of the data.  When this framing of meaning creates a limitation-the problem is that limiting frame.  And that’s the leverage point of transformation in that person’s system.  What limitations in emotions, speech, behavior, and relational responses makes sense.  It makes senses to the meaning that the person maps about the data. While it may seem like the limitation is out there in that data, it is not. The limitation comes from the inside to the outside due to the interpretative meanings framed by the person.  Got a limitation?  No worry, the frame is the problem!  Time to reframe!

Dr. Michael Hall Phd.

Meta-NLP™ – Taking NLP to the Next Level

We’re UP to Something Big

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

  • What’s so meta about Meta-States?
  • How does Meta-States generate a new and higher Meta-NLP?
  • How does the Meta-States model make for a Meta-NLP?
  • What’s new in Meta-State that you need to know to keep up with NLP in the 21st century?

If you are familiar with the genius of the NLP model and to using NLP in running your own brain, accessing your most resourceful states, then you know about the first and second generation NLP models and patterns. These have come about from the first and second generation NLP developers, thinkers, modelers, and trainers. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for their marvelous discoveries and patterns. And yet, now that you have explored, discovered, and practiced many domains of NLP (time-lines, submodalities, meta-programs, meta-model patterns, reframing, hypnotic patterns, etc.), are you not fully ready for the next step in NLP? Are you not ready for the step that will put it all together, that will reconcile the various pieces, sweeten the entire model, and expand it into entirely new realms? If so, then you will soon discover that we’re up to something big.

If you’re an old hand at NLP, and have been performing the magic of language elegance, running your own brain, patterning new resources day by day, then you will especially see the value of moving up to a domain that generates the third generation of NLP models, patterns, and technology– to Meta-NLP.

Dr. Graham Dawes was the very first NLP Trainer in the UK who took NLP to the UK. He began the first NLP Training Center in London. He was also the first to catch a vision that many of us within Meta-States did not even see. Upon reading both Meta-States and Dragon Slaying he wrote in a review that “the Meta-States model would be the model that would eat up NLP” (Anchor Point review of Dragon Slaying, and NLP World book review).

  • What did Dr. Graham mean by that?
  • How does Meta-States enrich, enhance, sweeten, and outframe NLP?

To trace out more specifically how Meta-States generates a new extension of NLP, and in fact a “higher” form (higher in the sense of “meta”) of NLP, we have generated the following to show how the Meta-States model does not merely “repackage” NLP, but actually extends NLP and opens up several new domains. We have designated this as Meta-NLP. You can find this expressed in User’s Manual for the Brain, a textbook for the NLP Practitioner course that has integrated the levels of thought model (i.e., the Meta-States model) into basic NLP. The result? Bob Bodenhamer has found that it has installed an accelerated learning of NLP itself. So Meta-States takes and adds a “higher” expression of NLP in the sense that it creates a meta-level platform for understanding and working with NLP. Functionally, it begins to offer a unified theory for the field. I realize that’s a very ambiguous and perhaps heady thing to say. So you be the judge. Check it out for yourself.

Meta-States Generates a Meta-Frame that Shifts NLP to META-NLP

When I describe the meta-frame that unites all of NLP, you’ll probably want to dismiss it as “too simple.” “It can’t be that simple!” Yet it is. And that’s the elegance and wonder of the model, which many others have noted and written about.

The meta-frame boils down to the Levels of “Thought” which I modeled out from Korzybski’s “Levels of Abstraction” (or Structural Differential), Bateson’s Levels of Learning, and the Feedback loops governing feedback loops in the Cognitive models. And the mechanism governing and driving all of this ultimately comes down to reflexivity– self-reflexive consciousness or self-referential thinking.

What does all of that mean?

It means that as “a symbolic class of life,” we encode our “thoughts” in various modalities (i.e., the VAK of NLP along with higher symbols, words, diagrams, mathematics, etc.). Then we refer the symbols to themselves, we think about our thinking. We react to our reactions. This sets up a system of self_referential, reflexive symbols.

So, the “same stuff” that creates our neuro_linguistic states at the primary level_ our internal use of symbols (whether words or images, sounds, sensations, etc.), we also use at all meta_levels. We do so with this difference, at each higher level we build nested frames within frames and with each higher level, we create a different quality of experience.

Korzybski called this “multiordinality,” second and third, etc. “order of abstractions,” etc. We call them meta-states, meta-levels, nested frames, and even meta-frames. Traditional NLP never gave it a name, never called it anything and so did not punctuate for it. Accordingly, in NLP we have lots of disconnected and disparate domains: “beliefs,” “values,” “identity,” time-lines, “submodalities,” etc. In Meta-NLP we have risen above that to create a meta-frame, a meta-frame which embraces all of these meta-phenomena under a larger level umbrella. This does not repudiate NLP, it rather pulls the domains together under a unifying structure so that we can look at the same subjective experience through different lenses.

Levels of thought enable us now to see how and why The Meta-Model of Language, and its reverse, the hypnotic language of the Milton Model, and Meta-Programs and Meta-States all refer to the same thing– subjective experience. This gives us three pathways or avenues to the same thing. It gives us a triple-description of the structure of experience. We can talk about it in terms of linguistic encoding, perceptual filtering, and mental-emotional states.

In this way, Meta-States has tracked out precisely how Meta-Programs arise as the solidified form of former meta-states, how the use of trance and hypnosis moves us up into higher meta-states that we co-create with the hypnotist, and how sleight of mouth patterns (as Mind-Lines) give us conversational reframing direction (seven of them). Meta-States gives us a way to pull in separate and disparate domains: values, beliefs, identity, submodalities, etc. We now have a much more unified approach and perceptive of all of these meta-level phenomena. This enables us to see how they relate to each other, interface with each other, and how we can use them together in a coordinated way.

Since it’s Beliefs all the way up (or frames, or meta-states), we have not only a double-description of these higher level experiences, but a multiple description. We now know that “beliefs” operate as confirmed thoughts of other thoughts, “values” exist as beliefs about the importance of something, “submodalities” exist as conceptual structures (distance, intensity, color, etc.) that we bring to bear upon some visual image, auditory sound or kinesthetic sensation.

What is the value of having such a meta-frame that transcends and includes the NLP model?

It allows us to tie things together, see the relationships, and inter-relationships between domains, which in turn, enables us to create multi-layered techniques that utilize values, beliefs, submodalities, mind-lines, etc. at the same time. We repeatedly and constantly hear people say:

  • “It pulls everything I learned in my NLP trainings together.”
  • “Now I have a larger picture of it all.”
  • “Now I have a sense of what to do when.”
  • “Now it makes sense about how the patterns actually work.”
  • “Meta-States gives me the ability about why sometimes some techniques don’t work and won’t work, and what to do when that happens.”

Having a meta-frame gives you a sense of control and understanding about what’s you’re doing and the effect it will have. This gives us predictability. This moves us to a higher level beyond mere Desired Outcome, Look for Result… This puts into our hands a more informed awareness about patterning at higher levels.

Meta-States Enriches our Understanding of Logical Levels

Logical levels are an integral part of NLP from the beginning. Robert Dilts then added several logical level models (I’ve noted that in NLP: Going Meta…). John Grinder in fact, had picked up the scent of meta-states in Turtles All the Way Down… (1987) when he revisited Bateson and recognized that the way to manage first and second level attentions was “by means of logical levels.” Accordingly he developed an extensive and inelegant model for the prerequisite of personal genius as he sought to track out the way to build an internal “Controller.”

Meta-States has streamlined that process and has generated a four-step process for accessing your inner Executive Level and commissioning it to take charge so that our personal genius can “get in there and kick.” Knowing about the Levels of Mind enables us to manage the multiple levels of consciousness and manage our meta-mind as well as texture our everyday states with much more power.

In Meta-States we have discovered that the magic is in the mix, the mix of layer upon layer of thought and emotion and resource. This leads to texturing of states. Actually, the magic is the mix. We call this dynamic process of the systemic influence of state-upon-state “gestalting” in Meta-States and have many patterns for creating particular mixes for very rich and powerful states.

This explains why the higher levels are not a static and unmoving hierarchy like a ladder or step of steps. It’s far too dynamic, holistic, moving, and plastic about that. This means that the highest form of NLP training, Meta-NLP, involves learning to think systemically, in loops, and using feedback and feed forward loops.

This means that there are many more “logical levels” than just those enumerated in Dilts’ list of the “Neuro-Logical” levels. For an examination of this, see the article on the Neuro-Semantics web site entitled, “The Other Logical Levels.”

Systemic thinking and modeling enables us to track out complex structures. Then our modeling is much more full and complete.

Meta-States generates META-NLP As it Enables Us to “Do NLP” on Ourselves

Joe Peoples first expressed this in a training in New York City. He had found himself in a situation and at the same time, used some higher level of mind processes so that he could stay in the experience and access the needed resources for himself so that he could then have enough presence of mind to track with the other person and bring the best resources to bear for that person.

NLP always have talked about “going meta,” but then contaminated the process by linking it to the idea of a “dissociated” state. That was one question that I used to get a lot. “Isn’t this creating dissociation?” The emotions of Meta (see Anchor Point article on that, 1999) give us access to higher levels of emotions. The Andreases’ brought this up in Core Transformation (1991) although they used the “down” metaphor even though they also used the meta-question that implied an “up” metaphor.

“And when you get that fully and completely in just the way you want it, what will you have that’s even more important than that?”

Going up into those highest “Core” states puts one into some of the most profound emotional states, spiritual states, altered states of mind and emotion. This means that as we go up the levels of thought in our mind, we experience meta-feelings. Here the quality and nature of our emotions change as they take on a very different feel. For a fuller description of this see the new second editions of either Meta-States (2000) or Dragon Slaying (2000).

To “do NLP on yourself” you have to go meta, access your highest executive levels of mind. That’s Meta-NLP. In Meta-States, you will find that we have take the Perceptual Positions and used them as higher logical levels which we create in our mind, via our self-reflexivity, as we move up the levels, developing greater perspective and wisdom as we take on other perspectives. Then, installing a higher executive part of your mind to run this higher awareness allows us to do NLP on ourselves even in the midst of challenging experiences. This reduces and even eliminates incongruency and internal conflict, thereby generating even more personal power.

Because Meta-States works with and operates from self-reflexivity, “apply to self” (self-referential thinking and feeling) is built into the model. This explains why learning Meta-States to a great extent involves learning a different way of thinking. It involves following the circuits of thoughts without getting lost or disoriented. It involves non-Aristotelian or systemic thinking.

What difference does this make?

A lot. Mainly it means that in learning Meta-States, you deeply and profoundly learn the self-referential process of applying to self. This allows you to practice the NLP and Meta-NLP patterns on yourself. And that means that first and foremost, you become empowered and enabled to do and live what you talk about. And that, of course, makes you more integrated, whole, and congruent– the basis of personal power.

Meta-States Gave Birth to META-NLP By Introducing Meta-Detailing

One of the reasons and tools for “doing NLP on ourselves” arises from some of the most exciting new developments in Meta-States. This was introduced in The Structure of Excellence (1999) as “meta-detailing.” This gives us the ability to practically apply and implement higher levels of learning. And, it is, by the way, perhaps the heart of the structure of “genius” itself.

The Mind-to-Muscle pattern arose during the modeling of wealth building in the fall of 1999. It has now become one of the central staples in all NLP training. This allows us to bring the high ideas “down to the ground” as it puts conceptual knowledge into our muscles and bones. And when you know how to install implementation strategies, then wealth building, fitness, etc. become a piece of cake.

People who lack the ability to meta-detail fall into two traps. They either live in the ozone, creating great big bright ideas which they can’t specify into concrete action, or they live deep inside the zillions of details which cause them to lack vision or perspective. Synthesizing inductive and deductive thinking into a gestalt results in the higher level consciousness of meta-detailing.

And, inasmuch as meta-detailing describes one of the key variables that make up the nature of “genius,” as we learn to meta-detail our ideas, concepts, beliefs, frames, etc., we make things happen, we take effective action, we put the highest levels of our mind to work in everyday life.

Meta-States Generated META-NLP by activating the Higher Levels of Meaning itself

Basic NLP is about anchoring– user friendly Stimulus-Response. That’s associative meaning by linkage, connection. When we take a reference and represent it and set it as a frame (as a meta-state) we have contextual meaning– the meaning of frames and frames-of-frames.

This takes us into the higher levels of meanings– to Neuro-Semantics. Meta-States is Meta-NLP to the extent it flushes out, teases out, and provides the structure of how we build beliefs about various things and these become our higher frames-of-mind or meta-states. And because it’s systemic, this frequently occurs as an emergence. New emergent properties arise due to the gestalting of many of the parts. Then, out of the mix arises new and more profound higher states of mind.

In understanding and modeling “the structure of meaning,” NLP has fantastically offered marvelous insights into the very structure of how we create meaning. The Reframing models of NLP, developed from Satir and Erickson, from Bateson and others has enabled us to develop patterns for anchoring and reframing the Stimulus-Response linkages of our lives.

Meta-NLP goes further as it extends the reframing models. We began that as we modeled and then refined the unwielding “Sleight of Mouth” patterns. We published this in Mind-Lines: Lines for Changing Minds. In Frame Games: Persuasion Elegance (2000) we have taken this much further as we have noted how that “contextual framing,” that is, the meta-stating of frame upon frame in a nested holographic system enables us to now model, design, and work with meaning at its highest levels. This has enables us to specify new tools for modeling Cultures and Cultural Phenomena.


Yes, there’s a new meta in town. NLP itself has gone meta. Meta-States enabled it to actually fulfill its own vision as a meta-domain modeling the structure of excellence. It was there all along. The best NLP patterns are meta-level and meta-state patterns (the phobia pattern, time-lines, decision destroyer, etc.). We have now modeled that structure. It’s called Meta-States.

Come join the meta-revolution.


Beginning with Michael Hall the Meta-States of Neuro-Semantics began in 1994. Bob Bodenhamer & Michael continue to promote and develop the Neuro-Semantic model. New things are continuing to emerge on a monthly basis.