The way we behave and communicate is determined by our mental filters. Each human responds to external stimuli differently and that makes us who we are. This has a great effect on what types of preferences we have, how we work, how we talk and how we get motivated. Since each human is unique, they also need a personalized strategy in order to succeed in life.
Before you embark on setting out your own strategy for success in life, you should first understand who you are, why you function the way you do and why you make the choices that you make. This will be the basis. You should then try to come up with what you want to achieve in life and where you want to be in the future. After you have these two points, then you need to link them and perform a gap analysis, looking at what is missing right now and what is preventing you from achieving your long-term vision.
There are different sets of tools that can help you do this. One set of tools comes from neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a branch of psychology developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s in the US. They based their studies of human behavior on a hypothesis of a connection between the neurological processes of the brain, language and behavioral patterns that were learned through experience. These in their opinion are not set, but can be changed in order to achieve the things that you want to achieve in life.
The different tools that come out of NLP can not only be used to analyze yourself, but can also be used to analyze the people around you and help you understand them and communicate better with them.
One way of analyzing yourself and your behaviors is through the analysis of meta-programs. Meta-programs are mental processes that guide and direct other mental processes (hence the word “meta”). These meta-programs are one of the filters that determine how we process information, behave and communicate. Other filters include values, beliefs, attitudes,decisions and memories.
These mental filters then affect how we take in information through our senses and then delete, distort and generalize things. In this post I will focus on explaining what are meta-programs and how they work. I will try to get into the other filters in some later posts.
Meta-programs have a huge impact on how you do things and how you respond to things. They impact and determine your habits, motivation, perseverance, as well as many outside factors, such as your opinion of others.
Meta-programs filter our perception. They filter perception without regard to the specific content. They can be used in two basic ways: to guide personal change, and also in order to communicate with others. By learning about meta-programs you can better understand yourself, your behavior, as well as the behavior of others. They can also be used to predict the behavior and actions of yourself, as well as of the people around you.
Meta-programs determine how we behave, but they can also be changed. So in no way are they static. Also as they depend on the context, you can use one meta-program in one context, while using its opposite in another context. Each person is a combination of these meta-programs and so a person’s behavior and communication is usually not dependent on a single meta-program, but instead on a combination of them.
The premise that these meta-programs are not static, but can in fact be changed is very good news. Whenever you have a problem and ask for advice on how to solve it, you often hear people advise you: “just be yourself”. That is often not very good advice. If you keep on being yourself, then you will continue on having that problem. That is because some of the internal frames that we have, can prevent us from achieving what we want to achieve.
Instead the way you should move forward, is to see what you want to change and change it. You can use the concept of meta-programs in order to do that. You can change your own meta-programs. If you find that one of your internal meta-programs is limiting you in some way, you can adopt a course of action to change that meta-program. However first you need to find out which meta-programs are the ones driving you.
There are several main meta-programs (some people have come up with lists of over 60 or more meta-programs):
1) toward or away
2) options or procedures
3) in-time or through-time or between-time
4) passive or active
5) internal or external frame of reference
6) optimist or pessimist
7) centered on yourself or centered on others
8) specific or global
9) perception (emotion) or logic
10) sameness or differences
11) independent or cooperative
12) introvert or extrovert
Meta-programs are at the origin of your motivation and also your internal mental processes. People are combinations of different meta-programs, with very few people falling on the extremes of the spectrum. Keep in mind that there are no good or bad schemas of meta-programs, so the only way to judge the utility of the schema is to base it on your particular circumstances and the context.