Thursday, February 03, 2011

Back to first principles

Let's go back to first principles.

Let's begin with what came into your mind when you saw this phrase. It's one of those deceptively simple phrases: none of the words are unfamiliar, but the meaning of the whole is curiously hard to express.

The meaning of the words would be one example of first principles: any attempt to understand communication through language finally runs back into the correspondence between words and what they mean. It is a first principle of language that to understand an expression you need to understand the words used in that expression.

The way we define a problem becomes the problem. That's also a first principle. If the problem is a battle, we fight to win. If the problem is a sale, we persuade until we get the cheque. If the problem is to understand, we seek more information.

In NLP, we say that all problems are choice points and there is only one way to handle a choice point: step outside it, find new resources, then integrate the resources into the choice point.

The first principles in NLP are unequivocal: you don't solve problems from the inside: you shift choice points by stepping outside them and moving back into them with new resources. Always. This is why NLP is both curiously pleasant and strongly effective: you are never caught with your guard down. You are always either disassociated or resourceful.

It's a slippery habit to form. It's easier to add information or backbone than it is to step aside, pull your shoulders back, take a deep breath and think of a time when life was good and so were you.

But first principles are foundational and inescapable. We ignore them at our peril (and the peril of those we are trying to help).

So. Step outside the problem. Keep your chin up and your throat relaxed and full. Breathe deeply. And become aware of that resource just outside the frame that is going to be the difference that makes the difference.

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