Black Belt NLP

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Firing on all neurological levels..

In my end note to the 50th Edition of Rapport Magazine entitled ‘Plan to surprise yourself’ I had one goal still outstanding from my 5 year plan. This was to attain my Black Belt in Shodokan Aikido. 2016 started with a few low points, some of which affected my regular training in Aikido. Work and family commitments increasingly conflicted with training. Catching up the missed hours so that I could join my peers at the July Black Belt Grading in Edinburgh became impossible.

A number of factors started to bubble to the surface. Questions about my environment, motivation, identity and purpose. Just about everything in our family’s little world was changing. With our daughter about to go to school in a different part of London we needed to move house, prepare for the new school and secure a new nanny for afternoon pick-ups (to name but a few). Two new businesses I had been developing for a while were starting to move from embryonic to needing bank accounts, trading agreements and staff. My Telecommunications business (NSN) was still growing and, although my business partner in his new role as MD largely managed the business, there was still plenty there to occupy my time (including NSN winning a national sales and marketing award!).

My Coaching Company Brighter Lives, which represents my long term purpose, had just taken on corporate clients for the first time and was also testing my time management and prioritisation. So how important really was this Black Belt? Why couldn’t I just accept that it might not happen until 2017? One answer was that so much of my new coaching methodology (Neuro-Somatic Coaching) that I have been developing from my Masters Degree in Applied Coaching focuses on the body, movement, proprioception and reducing fear in the body and raising conscious choice.

The Black Belt would give me the ability to create a space in which to experiment and continue my coaching research. Without it my research would suffer; and so would my mission and purpose. Admittedly my sense of identity struggled with this. Mid-May I set up a dojo space for an Instructor to support them in exchange for Black Belt coaching. They backed out from active Instruction at the last minute due to financial issues. Left with a two month commitment to the owner of the training studios, and no extra Black Belt training I asked a senior training colleague to be my co-instructor. I was nicely surprised when not only did she agree but my reasons for doing it going forward as a space for experimentation and development worked for her too.

One evening mid-April I reviewed my options, priorities and core drivers and came to the conclusion that I had to go to Japan and train daily towards grading. If I was to still meet or even beat the July deadline I would have to seriously play full out, modelling fiercely on all the excellence I could find and put myself out there without guarantee of being offered a grading. Gathering my resources, the support of family, friends and reaching out well beyond my comfort zone saw me landing at Osaka airport on May 29th at 10am in the morning. I was welcomed by my mentor Michael Mccavish, a 6th Dan Instructor in Osaka who had become a friend during my 6 years in Aikido.

I was on the mat in the Shodokan HQ at 12pm for private tuition with him, followed by a class lesson. I did approx. 50hrs of training, closing in on my return date, when during a private lesson kindly given by Nariyama Shihan suddenly the word ‘Shinsa’ (examination) was announced. An hour later he was congratulating me on attaining my Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt). At every stage of the journey I drew on my NLP training, leaning heavily on the Neurological Levels laid out by Robert Dilts, Values work from Tad James, my own developing work on Authoring the Self by awakening the body and aligning deep drives with conscious purpose.

I don’t think it is a gross exaggeration to call this application of NLP methodologies and principles – Black Belt NLP.

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Plan to surprise yourself

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Over the last 5 years I have set and achieved more goals than at any other time in my life. I have generally been a focused and driven person, but this last 5 years have been a whole other deal. It began with the final goal setting phase of my NLP Master Practitioner course wherein I laid out some key milestones i.e. become an NLP Trainer, design trainings, get a degree, launch a new company, make enough money to keep going, get a Black Belt in Aikido and teach it, find the right significant other, become a published author to name a few.

All in all I achieved, and in some cases exceeded, my goals. I started an awesome family (with exactly the right significant other) and achieved a Masters Degree in Applied Coaching along the way whilst designing my own integrated approach to coaching. My Telecoms company was listed amongst the fastest 50 growing UK Tech companies in the UK in 2015 (and in the fastest 500 in Europe, Middle East and Africa). My next grading in Aikido will be my Shodan (1st degree Black Belt) later this year. I had initially aimed for it to be in 2015, I did however achieve my Instructor certification at the end of 2015 so my core aim to be able to teach was achieved in good time.

In every respect I have either nailed my goals or knocked the ball out of the park; I faced failure dropping out of an undergraduate degree in 2012 only apply in 2013 for a Masters Degree. I honestly could not have achieved as much without first setting my goals out clearly, in a well formed fashion and along my time line out to, well right around now. I am in fact, for the first time in my life in fully uncharted territory, and in the process of setting out my next set of goals. It is an insanely exciting time.

However, I should return to the subject for this article – planning to surprise yourself. When I set out my goals I made them specific enough to focus my attention. Thus beginning the process of enlisting my unconscious mind to start marshalling the resources and connections that I would need along the way; adjusting my values and priorities in the process accordingly. I did not in fact plan to surprise myself. That I think it is a good idea is only afforded to me in hindsight.

Planning for surprises, at least to me, really means to allow room for how the lives, purposes and qualities of others will affect your own life plan. The most surprising factor in my own experience is that people will help you more than you expect if you respect them. For example my entry onto a Masters Degree programme was an unexpected opportunity that was offered by the same person that heavily criticised the design of a workshop I was putting together for the first time. Without respecting that person I highly doubt I would have even learned of the opportunity (I think that was a classic example of curiosity saving the cat).

There are in fact people you will meet along the way who will directly and indirectly enrich your journey. Some will clearly support you and help you and others will hamper and delay, if not outright obstructing the road ahead. My key learning throughout has been that people must always be related to as having value (which is what I mean by respect), and never as being unnecessary hurdles to be negotiated with minimum delay. This kind of resistance on your journey to achieving your goals is the most common and is actually pretty straight forward to resolve.

Resistance in Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a sign of a lack of rapport, and more importantly it means you are not accepting feedback. Over the last 5 years I have learned that not accepting feedback can be fatal both metaphorically and even literally. It can also mean that you are not learning, and not learning means not taking responsibility for your own progression. I also learned that whatever it is that you do not take responsibility for you will be reduced to time and time again until you do. This particular lesson has been a gift that keeps on giving.

I encourage you to take responsibility for meeting all kinds of new people and creating strong, deep value based relationships with them. Eventually integrating them with those already in your existing circle of relationships, and allowing yourself to be integrated into theirs. In my experience, all of the good things I have learned, experienced and been enriched by were outside of my comfort zone and there is nothing on this planet that will push your comfort zone to shift like other people. May you be pleasantly surprised.. and often!