Meta-programs are something that drives the way people behave in the real world. Oftentimes the outward manifestations of these meta-programs are what people describe as “personality”. Traditionally, personality is thought of as being unchanging and if you are born with a certain type of personality, then you are stuck with it.
In psychology, the theory that personality is unchanging resulted in different types of models such as the Myers-Briggs model and other similar models. According to these models, personality is fixed and people can be fit into categories based on their personality traits.
However neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) takes a different approach. Instead of types, NLP uses meta-programs. These are the predominant behavioral patterns. They are not fixed, but can be changed with a certain effort. People even adopt different patterns in different situations.
In Part 1 on meta-programs, there was a general overview and a description of two basic meta-programs. Here we will delve into four more.
3) in-time or through-time or between-time
Different people perceive time differently and this leads them to behave differently too. A basic distinction is in-time or through-time. These basically describe a person’s approach to activities having a time aspect.
People can represent the flow of time as different paths or lines in space. That reflects how they experience time. They have different timelines and plot them in their mind differently. Timelines are largely about visualization and picturing things in your mind. You can plot events from the past or future at different places on the timeline and this has an effect on how you experience and think about them.
In-time people live in the moment and for the moment. They are not too worried about the future and devote their full attention to what they are doing now. They are not too worried whether they will arrive late for a meeting or similar things. They often arrive late and don’t see anything wrong with it.
It is very hard for in-time people to plan ahead or even look at the past in an objective way. They also have a very hard time estimating how much time it will take for them to achieve something.
Many in-time people see events through their own eyes and can have an internal feeling of the past and present being both as now.
This is an individual trait, but can also be a cultural trait as well. For example certain cultures tend to be more in-time, for example the Spanish. In Spain, for most people, time has no meaning and if you set up an appointment, most will come late. They live for the “fiesta”.
Through-time people are the opposite of that. For them planning is important and so is organization. They are much better at planning and organizing their actions. They like to analyze things and often give off the impression that they are not absorbed in the activity taking place.
Another trait of through-time people is that they are punctual and realize the importance of time. They see events as flowing in front of them and therefore can often disassociate themselves from them. They know that time passes and that things interact with each other and that actions are connected to each other. One action can have repercussions at other points in time.
These two different ways of viewing time and reacting to its flow have severe repercussions on people’s behaviors. You can often tell pretty easily which people are in-time and which are more through-time. There are certain expressions that give it away. For example in-time people often use buzzwords like “live for the moment” and often talk about the “now” and “feeling”.
On the other hand, the speech of through-time people reflects the importance that they give to the passage of time. They often use time related phrases such as “next time” or “in the future”.
In-time people often react badly at traditional time management techniques. Through-time people on the other hand are often very good at time management.
This has repercussions on planning and following a plan through. It will be much easier for a through-time person to plan out goals and then set out a course of action to achieve them. So in this, it is better to have a through-time mindset, however an in-time person might enjoy the experience of being in the gym more.
As stated before, there is no “better” meta-program. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages and is better for certain situations over others. It is also perfectly possible to adopt one meta-program in one situation and another one in another situation. However for drafting goals and then achieving them, the through-time meta-program is the one that is the one that achieves results.
4) passive or active (reactive or proactive)
Are you a person who likes to act without thinking and jumps straight to action, or are you a person who likes to think things through, analyze and then act? This is the basic difference between the passive and active meta-programs (also can be called reactive and proactive). An “active” person acts without thinking much about the consequences, while a “passive” one analyzes things before taking a course of action.
This schema basically determines the moment when you act, immediately or later after reflection. If you are a passive person, you analyze and look at all the implications that your potential action could have before you do the action itself. You think of the consequences of your action. You also look at the implications and impacts of your future actions. The advantage is that once you act, things usually go smoothly with very few surprises. The main disadvantages is that this can slow down the process of taking action and can sometimes result in too much analysis of minor details. You are also often late at taking decisions.
If you are active, you take actions without thinking much of the consequences and are often seen as a man of action. You act and worry about the consequences later. However a potential problem is that this could result in unforeseen consequences and difficulties down the road.
5) internal frame of reference or external frame of reference
Are you a person who knows by themselves when they did a good job or a bad job and doesn’t need others to tell them? Or are you a person who needs and seeks external validation? This is the basic premise of this schema, which basically describes how you evaluate yourself and different situations.
With an internal frame of reference, you know yourself when you did a good job and are the judge of how you do. You want to resolve problems yourself and rarely ask for advice from others. You take your won decisions and guide yourself by your own judgments.
In fact, many people with an internal frame of reference are very suspicious of praise and sometimes can even feel shamed by it. They prefer to be judged by their own criteria, instead of some external criteria. They are often very good at motivating themselves. However a problem with this is that sometimes they don’t listen to the advice of others, even if it is good advice.
If you have an external reference you like to measure yourself against others and by others. You do things based on external sources and can get lost when there is not frequent feedback on your actions. You like praise and try to do everything to get it. When in trouble you like to seek the advice of others. You need frequent comments and praise to get motivated and to progress.
A person with an internal frame of reference can get things done by themselves and can motivate themselves. However a person with an external frame of reference might have trouble doing that. For such a person, it is better to work with a mentor, or at least a workout buddy. They are probably the ones who do better with coaches looking over their progress.
6) optimist or pessimist
Just ask yourself the classic question: “Is the glass half-full or half-empty?” An optimist will answer half-full and a pessimist will answer half-empty. This answer is based on the perception or reinterpretation of reality of the person answering. The amount of liquid in the glass is the same in reality, just different people perceive that fact differently.
An optimist looks at what is there, while a pessimist looks at what is missing. For an optimist, half of the glass is filled with liquid, while for the optimist half of the glass is not filled with liquid. It’s just a different way of perceiving the same reality.
An optimist focuses on the opportunities that something will bring them, while a pessimist looks more at the risks and dangers that come with it. Optimists usually think of the best case scenario, while a pessimist’s mind is usually thinking of the worst case scenario.
An optimist will usually be upbeat about things, always looking at the positive side of things, while a pessimist will usually be down, always looking at the negative side of things. A pessimist may have a very negative outlook on life, which in certain categories can prevent them from enjoying life and believing that they can change their circumstances and things becoming better. They can then see any type of self-improvement as a waste of time and not engage in it.
There are of course times when pessimism (which can be called in some cases “realism”) can be useful, as too much optimism can sometimes be counterproductive (just think of Pangloss in Voltaire’s “Candide”), but if you want to invoke a positive change in yourself, in that circumstance it is better to adopt a more positive optimist outlook.
Yes, you can improve for the better. You just need to know yourself, play to your strengths and if you have weaknesses, then you need to change them. Meta-programs are a great way to analyze who you are and who you want to be. In order to succeed, you can adopt one of two strategies:
1) select strategies that play into your predominant meta-program
2) if you don’t like your predominant meta-program or think it would be more effective if you changed it, then change it!