Manage Yourself, Manage Your Life

Manage Yourself, Manage Your Life

by Ian McDermott and Ian Shircore
Piatkus Books 1999
ISBN: 0749919906

Are you getting what you want out of life? Do you dream of a more rewarding career? Would you like a happier, more fulfilling relationship? MANAGE YOURSELF, MANAGE YOUR LIFE is your essential guide for living in the twenty-first century. Based on powerful NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) techniques, this practical handbook will help you create the new life that you deserve.

Table of Contents and Reader Reviews at and

Visualizing Change
Think as if the change you seek has already occurred, in order to get clear about just how you achieved it. Or, if you're not sure you want to change, check out how your life will be further down the line if you don't do anything now.

If NLP had nothing else to offer the world, the fact that it has developed clear, systematic and practical ways of helping people work towards finding out what they really want would be enough to make both business and individuals sit up and take notice.

Until your personal idea of happiness is defined in terms of what really has value for you, it's just so much public property, without the power to move and motivate you.

The essential rules of goal-setting are simple, though the skills and principles involved are rarely understood. The basics can be summed up in three sentences:

1. Your goal must be positive and stated in overtly positive terms.

2. Your goal must be specific and capable of being written down.

3. Your goal must be verifiable.

The insistence that your goal must be formulated in positive terms is a very important discipline. "I don't want to smoke any more" is the classic example of a negatively phrased goal. Because it is impossible to imagine not smoking, except by referring back to the idea of smoking, this would guarantee that the would-be non-smoker's attention was focused back on to cigarettes every time his or her goal was considered. You simply cannot envisage not doing something, without thinking of that very thing first and then, somehow, trying to negate it and drive it from your mind.

"I want to cut down on the number of customer complaints we receive" is another false positive in the same class. There is no not in sight, but it still urgently needs to be re-cast, preferably into some constructive form such as "I want our service to amaze our customers, so that they will happily pay a premium to deal with us".

You are trying to establish what specific sensory signals will demonstrate, beyond doubt, that you have succeeded in reaching your goal. When you can define the evidence that will prove to you that your goal has been attained, you will be able to focus, clearly and unambiguously, on what you want. This clarity gives you a sense of purpose and direction that starts to pay off almost immediately - long before you are even close to achieving your desired outcome.

If you want to be more successful in future, you're going to have to do something different.

Goal exploration and setting
1. What do you want?
2. What will that do for you?
3. So... what do you want? (Loop back now and start at #1)
Stick to the script. Allow time for the first answer to develop before moving on to the second and let the second answer go where it will, too. Even if the immediate reaction is, "I've just told you", this is usually followed by a revised, clarified, or expanded version of the first answer, which begins to carry the process of exploration forward.

Three steps to a resourceful state
To tap in to the sort of state in which you can deliver your best, all you need to do is make use of a simple three-step technique, developed more than two decades ago, in the early days of NLP.

1. Get clear about what state you would ideally wish to be in.

2. Recall a specific occasion in the past when you have been in that state.

3. Re-live it as vividly as you possibly can.

The more specific sensory data you bring together to help you reconstitute the successful experience of the desired state in the past, the more powerfully it will act to influence your present state.

Yet, strangely enough, it is not your ownership of the experience that seems to matter. If you have never actually lived through the state that you believe is right for the situation you face, you may still find, as many people do, that you can use your imagination to tap into someone else's strengths and persona with remarkable effect. And the person who becomes your model for this exercise does not even have to have existed. Your chosen model can be a mythical or fictional character, just as readily as a real person, alive or dead.

Once you have chosen your role model, step into the shoes of this person who embodies what you need and try the feeling on for size. Breathe as you imagine this person would breathe. If you have some privacy, go a little further. Stand the way your model would stand. Walk like he or she would walk. Try on a couple of typical facial expressions and the odd turn of phrase. Get inside the character and start to feel at home there. Explore the new perspective that comes with a new persona. Feel about your situation the way you imagine your model would feel. In less time than it takes to read this, you will have altered your mood and your state.

The basic idea summed up in the NLP precept "If what you are doing isn't working, do something different" seems so obvious that you would imagine everyone would realize it and act on it all the time. Most people don't. In practice, they often take one of two other, equally unproductive courses - they redouble their efforts and do more of what's not working, or they spend time and energy defending their position, justifying their approach and trying to convince the world there was never any alternative.

Be active
If, for example, you choose to do something vigorous, like running or swimming, when you are in a pessimistic mood or inclined towards anticipatory anxiety, it will have a remarkably clear-cut effect. It will alter your metabolic rate - and, with it, your state. You can't mope when your pulse is racing. You can't swim and fret at the same time. The choice you exercise in deciding to swim or run is a decision to adjust yourself towards a more resourceful state from which to handle your problems.

Have you noticed how unsatisfying it can sometimes be to take the day off and do nothing? It ought to be a pleasure, a delightful break from the pressures and hurley-burly of your normal schedule. Yet some days spent lazing around can leave you feeling as tired as you were before. Doing what you enjoy it invigorating and empowering. Doing nothing can sometimes do nothing for you.

Mental Blocks
Move the goalposts, so that what's troubling you is no longer seen as a beginning. To see how this works, take the example of writer's block. Writer's block is seldom a block to writing absolutely anything at all. It is frequently more a problem over getting started. So forget the beginning. Start writing - or tidying up before doing your accounts or whatever else you have to do - at some arbitrary middling point and do what supposedly has to come first later on.

Imagine what your life would be like if it turned out to be the same throughout, consistent from beginning to end.

Without these transitions, your life would be static, boring and staid and you would inevitably remained undeveloped as a person. The process of adjusting to the new is part of what makes a life transition.

Many people are all too used to the feeling of being on the receiving end of change -- and they just don't feel good about it.

On the whole, life is not black and white. Most changes are double-edged. There are new opportunities and maybe the loss of the old familiar ways. But to a much larger extent than people tend to think, you can choose how to handle the transition.

If there's no time to draw breath and you're racing headlong towards change, it's very easy to feel out of control and at the mercy of external forces. If you're going to be in the driving seat, and have to give yourself time.

Comfort zone
It is a characteristic of transitions -- the ones that really matter, anyway -- that they tend to take you beyond the limits of your established comfort zone.

When a particular event moves you out of the zone and into the unknown, the knee-jerk reaction that says you should dig your heels in resist is not doing you any favors. The key to managing this sort of situation is not to cling to what's familiar but to work at expanding your comfort zone and increasing its effective radius.

Think of it as the zone within which you feel you can, generally speaking, handle whatever crops up. You won't always know what is going to happen next, but in this area you feel competent and resourceful enough to deal with most things that occur.

Getting Things Done
We have a deep need for closure, for the feeling that something can be ticked off and marked down as over, finished and dealt with. There is great satisfaction, even in little things, in knowing that a task or a problem does not have to occupy any more space in our attention or our memory. Lack of closure, however, can make everything much more stressful. Uncompleted tasks and unfinished business impose demands on you, dragging you to and fro from one issue to another and making it cumulatively harder to get anything properly sorted out. Achieving a sense of completion, even about small things, in day-to-day life can make a real contribution to your morale and energy levels. Even the tiniest completions can make a difference to how you feel.

Unfinished business clutters of your brain, your desk and your life. Unpaid bills, unreturned library books, unanswered messages and untended relationships all conspire to put you under pressure. But you can dramatically increase your sense of being in control of your life if you choose to manage it so that there are fewer loose ends in it.

Start paying attention to how uncomfortable each item on your list makes you feel. Pick out whatever makes you feel most uncomfortable. Know that anything you do that enables you to get closure on this - or even to move towards it - will have a disproportionately beneficial effect on how you feel inside.

1. Carry out a quick stocktake to identify which items on your to-do list are causing you most discomfort.

2. Pick the one pick the one that makes you feel most uncomfortable, but also a few quick wins, i.e. things that would be quite quick and easy to do.

3. Consider what you can do to complete - or move towards completion - with this key item.

4. Begin - and while you are at it do the quickies too.

The idea of quick wins is important. These are the tasks that really can be knocked off very quickly, at no great cost in time and effort. They can be removed from your to-do list, once and for all, if only you decide to do them now.

Do the easy things that will make life simpler - and do them without hesitation. In getting rid of them, you will clear the decks and streamline your remaining to do list, reducing the pressure of your obligations. But you will also get, with each completed job, the positive kick that comes with achieving closure.

It is well worth thinking in terms of spring-cleaning your life from time to time, to make sure that everything you carry forward with you is of some use to you.

It's pretty obvious that health means more than just the absence of disease, even if many of us fall into the trap of taking our health very much for granted until we are deprived of it.

In day-to-day life, the only time it ever spontaneously occurs to us to register that someone appears healthy is if this person also looks happy. It's hard to imagine the two being separated. For most of us, our perception of health is almost always tied in with some notion of being relaxed and cheerful, with positive behavior, a lack of anxiety and an abundance of energy.

Wealth is easy. You can work at it, build it up, bank it and rely on it to be there for you when you need it at a later date. Health is different. Because people think you can't store it up for later, they treat it like the weather - as something that happens to you and that you cannot begin to influence. Yet we know this is not true.

One of the problems with health is that some people feel their well-being is hardly even their own business - it's almost as if it belongs to the medical profession and not to the individual concerned.

If you smoke, or take drugs, or recognize that you are far too fond of alcohol, modifying your habits is obviously going to make a difference -- and you don't need anyone to give you a lecture about how vital it is to put yourself back in control. If you simply lead a dull, sedentary lifestyle, you already know that getting up and doing something to make your heart beat faster will have all kinds of positive payoffs. If you eat too much, sleep too little, drive too fast, hate your job, wish away your time, argue with your family, work ridiculous hours, worry about everything or dislike yourself, it's just as important to make a change. None of this is doing you any good at all now - and it's certainly not setting you up to be in good shape in 20 years' time.

Happiness and health
There is plenty of medical evidence of the mechanisms that link your state of mind to the way your glands, your hormones and your immune system operate. If you are down in the dumps, you are weakened at every level. You are more likely to catch whatever bugs are going round. You are more likely to make mistakes or be involved in an accident. Your energy level is low. You feel more tired, think less clearly and have fewer ideas. Your judgment is impaired, about situations, people and yourself. All in all, you are diminished as a person.

Most people don't have to pause long to think about what gets on their nerves, at work, at home or traveling between the two. Routine niggles are often the worst, because things that annoy you at about the same time every day become embedded in your expectation of the day and can start to irritate before you have even got to them.

You don't need a book like this to tell you what you need to do improve your health. You know many of the answers yourself already, though you may be interested to ask yourself why you don't put what you know into practice in this area as much as you could. Many people have an unacknowledged feeling that they are going to fall so far short of the ideal that it is not worth bothering. This is a nonsense -- and dangerous nonsense, too.

Wherever there is a lack of balance, there is a risk to your medium to long-term health. Conversely, the more of a real, fluid, dynamic equilibrium you can build into your life, the healthier you are likely to be.

How have I managed to not generate wealth? Just for a moment, assume that wealth would already have come to you naturally, if you had not somehow stopped it from happening.

Wealth vs. Success
So ask yourself what you want this money for? That's what you're really going for - the money is just a means to an end. And if what you are going for starts to come your way before you get the money, make sure that you recognize it, value it and don't squander it in the name of creating wealth.

If there's something you feel compelled to do with your life, you've got to go for it - or you will never know if it would have worked. If you make sure the benefits to others is built in, right from the start, you stand a very reasonable chance of being successful and wealthy, not just on the outside but also in the way you feel yourself.

Work that does nothing for you but put food on your plate adds up to something close to slavery. There is more to life than that. And there should be more to work than that, too .

There is an extraordinary range of weird and wonderful jobs around, many of which call for unusual combinations of attributes. And the total number of careers that you can choose from is growing all the time... At the same time, there are completely new careers that have existed for only a few years. Every bit of new legislation or new technology has the potential to create a new niche. Every twist of public taste creates the chance to fill a new gap.

Talents and strengths
Imagine the dream job that would use as many of your strengths as possible. This is a job that uses the whole you - and that, ideally, could not be done well by anyone without your unique combination of skills and personality. If your dream job exists, it is worth going for it for the long-term payoffs of fulfillment and satisfaction, just as much as for the money. If it doesn't exist, bear in mind the possibility that social or technological changes might to bring it into being or that you might be able to create the opening to build a career or a business around whatever you are most suited to doing. But first you've got to have a dream.

The clearer you are about what you've got to offer, the more likely you are to spot the chance to capitalize on it, even if it means switching direction in mid-stream. Flexibility and the wit to spot the opportunity when it opens up for you are almost as important as talent.

What you do is your own business - and all businesses, big and small, benefit from watching the world around them and being ready to reinvent themselves if necessary.

If what you are doing now is only a means to an end, there is likely to be a time when the best route towards that end is no longer doing more of what you're already doing. Just working harder for longer may not do it.

Action plan
1. Stop doing what has failed and do something different.
2. Notice what happens when you do that.
3. Modify your behavior in the light of the feedback you get.
4. Do something different and better again.

Think of this process as a feedback loop that is continually taking the you closer and closer to your goal. To manage your career and your life successfully, you don't necessarily need to get things right the first time. What you do need is robust, usable processes, like this one, that will reliably move you forward in the direction you want to go.

But, if you're going to be in control of your life, just consider how much of it is taken up with working. When you decide to manage your life, it's essential to set your day-to-day priorities to reflect the realities of what is important to you. If you get this right, so that what you spend your time doing feels good and is valid to you, your work or your business or your job can be one of the most positive elements in your life.

Joie de vivre is not about ecstasy or ownership or the sensational thrills of the big, set-piece moments in your life. It is about feeling alive, feeling good, feeling engaged, every day of your life. It is about being alive to the little pleasures and minor joys of everyday existence and being able to draw fuel and sustenance from them, in very ordinary, unspectacular ways, to carry you through any problems you meet.

Good fortune
The good news is that you don't actually have to wait for a miracle. You don't have to wait to get lucky. You can start making your own luck.

We all know the clich├ęs that tell you money doesn't bring happiness, but there's little evidence to indicate that the absence of it is any kind of recipe for lasting bliss. Look at what you could do to make yourself really happy if you did suddenly have millions at your disposal - and then work back towards the strategies for getting the same sort of pleasures in less costly ways, until you do.

Every minute counts. Your personal happiness is likely to be determined by how you feel, minute by minute and hour by hour, as well as week by week. There seems to be absolutely no correlation between the amount of wealth available to you and how you feel from moment to moment. So why wait? Consider what's going to enable you to feel good and more alive right now.

Truly happy people - the ones with the naturally sunny and positive way of appreciating daily life - make the most of those good moments. They notice them, savor them and refuse to take them for granted.

A key part of the art of being happy and having joie de vivre is living the pleasure of the moment. But you can only do this if you notice it.

If you want to be happy, there is a trick to it. This trick is simply to maximize the number of times each day you feel happy.

Hobbies are people's own chosen ways of spending their time and increasing the stream of opportunities for small, personal delights... It may be just a question of how you spend a spare 10 minutes at lunch time... you may have your own little rituals and pleasures that give you private moments of joy or boost your spirits when your energy is flagging.

The biggest benefit, for most people, is the way you get into the habit of searching for and savoring the little everyday, unexpected, opportunistic pleasures that come your way - wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

One-line quotes worth noting:

Stop blocking yourself with problem thinking. Start from what you want and go forward from there.

If what you are doing isn't working, do something different.

Practice your flexibility by examining your routines and habits with an open mind.

Simply doing something you enjoy and that puts you in a positive frame of mind is good for your health.

One change implemented is worth more than any number of books read or good intentions.


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