Thom's online class in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming).
Week 2: Primary motivation strategies: moving toward pleasure, moving away from pain. Goal setting. There is no failure, only feedback. There are no mistakes, only outcomes.
Thom Hartmann NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) class week 2
Thom Hartmann program, 23 November 2004
see, hear, feel, moving toward pleasure, moving away from pain
... It's the second hour of our Tuesday program. We're going to continue with this experiment of an on-line, or an on-air course in neurolinguistic programming for activists. Using a tool that is traditionally a therapeutic tool, although it's widely applied actually in the business world as a sales marketing tool and it has been very effectively used largely since the elder Bush campaign, the Bush-Dukakis campaign, by the Republican party, as championed by folks like Frank Lunz. Using this tool, teaching this tool to progressives, democrats, liberals, and any conservatives who happen to be listening.
So last week we talked about visual, auditory, kinesthetic, you know, what motivates people, that is, how to reach in to a person and, to use a kinesthetic metaphor, and touch them with a message; how to step into another person's world.
This week I want to talk about primary motivation strategies. This sounds very didactic - what is it, 'primary motivation strategies'? Well, it's really simple. It's really very simple. We never stand still. None of us. We are always doing one of two things, and only one of those two things. We are all always, every moment, either moving towards something we want, moving toward pleasure, or moving away from something we don't want, or we're afraid of, or we want to avoid, we're moving away from pain. So we're always either moving toward pleasure or moving away from pain. These are the basic strategies that govern literally every moment of our lives. And people make decisions based on these strategies. And there's this whole science, frankly, of decision-making, and how these specific strategies are brought to bear on it. But first let's understand what they are, because understanding this is the key to understanding what motivates people and when you understand how people motivate themselves internally then you can have a little more of an opportunity to influence externally the direction they may want to move in the future.
To put this in a political context, there are generally 2 types of political figures and political themes. The first is to move toward a positive vision of the future. This is moving toward pleasure. This is Jack Kennedy, "Our best days are still to come." Ronald Reagan: "America is the shining city on the hill", paraphrasing as I recall George Bernard Shaw. And then there are the second, that's the first political strategy, to hold up an ideal. This is what Roosevelt did so brilliantly. He became president during the great depression and everybody was terrified of the future. And he said, literally, "You have nothing to fear, we have nothing to fear but fear itself and let's move to a positive vision of the future".
His 'four wants' [freedoms] speech and all these things, you know, he started holding up ideals, positive visions, things to move toward. Franklin Roosevelt was very much a moving toward pleasure guy, and it's one of the reasons he was such a brilliant leader. Abraham Lincoln, same thing. He was talking about holding the Union together. And it wasn't an anti response. It was a proactive vision that he held.
Jefferson the same. I'd say George Washington the same. Some of our greatest presidents held these very positive visions or were proponents of them. The second way that politicians motivate us is to say that they will protect us from some fear, either in the present or the future. In other words, they will help us move away from pain. So these are the two great political techniques: to hold a vision, a positive vision, say let's move collectively towards pleasure, or let's collectively move away from pain. Truly effective political campaigns always incorporate both strategies, by the way. As, and this is true of any kind of motivation strategy.
Consider America's founders who were steadily moving us away from the pain of British occupation and economic oppression by the East India Company whilst simultaneously moving us toward this grand egalitarian experiment in self-government, grounded in the dreams and ideals of the Enlightenment, in the high quality of community that they saw among the native Americans. They said, "You know, we can have this, we can do this. We can create a nation where we actually govern ourselves. Yes, it's only been done once before by the Greeks and it didn't last very - we can do it though, and we can do it in a way that will last. We've seen the inklings of it in the Greek experiment. We've seen the possibility of it in the Iroquois nation, we can do it here in North America." And the whole world looked on and said, "Come on, they're crazy!"
But they held such a strong powerful positive vision that even though at the beginning of the American Revolution only about a third of the Americans supported the revolution, by, you know, a year or so into it, everybody was on board. Well large, not everybody. Many, many more people were on board. When you consider these two types of strategies, moving towards pleasure and moving away from pain, it's useful to think of them as if they were two of the four basic forces of nature, you know, the entire universe is held together by four forces. There's the strong and weak nuclear force which you can never see, these are the forces inside an atom. And then there are the two more visible forces. The, you know, Newton talked about gravity, gravity is one of them. And Ben Franklin first really enlightened us about electro-magnetism, the other one, with his kite experiment, with lightning. And if you think of electromagnetism, lightning, electroshocks as the moving away from pain strategy, and you think of gravity as the moving towards pleasure strategy, it's really a good analogy. These are great metaphors to use to understand these.
Here's why. moving away from pain strategies produce immediate powerful rapid results. If you can scare somebody enough you will get them to change their behavior very quickly. Just like if you get an electric shock, you know, you let go of that outlet or that, you know, you pull your finger out of the wall socket. If lightning strikes near you you get out of the way. moving away from pain strategies produce an immediate, "Wow!" You know, "Gotta do something." That's the kind of upside of them, that's the benefit of them. The downside of moving away from pain strategies, these electricity strategies, is that over time, they exhaust people. They numb people. And they actually wound people. It's like whipping a horse to keep it going. At first it works really well but after a while it becomes less effective, and if you keep doing it over and over and over, harder and harder and harder, eventually that horse will drop dead of exhaustion or it will give up and stop trying to avoid the pain and just sit there and whimper when you whip it. In either case, you can see that there is an absolute limit to the moving away from pain strategies, how far you can push them. So, they're useful in the beginning; they're powerful in the beginning, but over time, they lose their power, they become ineffective, and they can actually damage and wound.
Moving toward pleasure strategies are more like the natural force of gravity. Just like gravity is the weakest of the natural forces it is also the most steady and constant. It's keeping you and me right now glued to our seats or our feet on the floor. It steadily acts through our lives, it never varies. It's just always there. Although moving toward pleasure strategies don't usually produce immediate shocking stimulation or immediate changes in behavior, like moving away from pain strategies do, they can last over the long haul, and they can motivate a person throughout their entire lives. If you can help instal a positive moving toward pleasure strategy in others or yourself. You know, consider how the moving toward pleasure story of a free society, this vision, this story, this hope (to talk about it visually, auditorily and kinesthetically) of the fathers continues to inspire us even two centuries after these guys are all dead! And we're still being inspired by it. It's like gravity.
On the personal level we all use these strategies in our daily life. In, when I teach workshops on this stuff, one of the common things that I'll do is I'll look out in the class and I'll say, "Who has trouble getting up in the morning, waking up in the morning, getting out of bed?" And, you know, and then, I'll, you know, ask a few questions and figure out who in the classroom has the most trouble and who has the easiest time getting out of bed. You know, for example, the last class I taught on this, just a few months ago at Omega Institute in New York, and there was a guy in the class who had three alarm clocks. Each one had three snooze buttons or, you know, had a snooze button that had three cycles on it. So he had nine cycles, and he set these three alarm clocks 15 minutes apart. So he'd go through nine pushing the snooze buttons before he finally got himself out of bed.
And, you know, I asked him, "What goes through your mind in the morning when you're pushing that, you know, when you're hearing that buzzer and you're reaching over to push that button?" And he told me this story about visualizing himself showing up late for work. Now, this is a moving away from pain strategy. Visualizing himself showing up late for work, his boss firing him. Then he sees himself standing in the unemployment line. Then he sees, and feeling humiliated, then he sees himself, his unemployment running out, and being evicted from his apartment. Then he sees himself living under a bridge, and being, you know, beaten up and robbed by people who want the last little bit of money or clothes that he's got. This, he runs this picture through his mind and that propels himself out of bed so that he won't be fired, right. It's a moving away, it's a fear-based strategy. And it's probably what he learned as a little kid. Probably, you know, his mum came in and said, "If you don't go to school, they're going to come and arrest you" or something like that, you know, enough times that he internalized that strategy.
Then you'll look around the room and say, "Who has no problem getting up at all?" And I remember in this last class there was a woman who said that she always wakes up five or fifteen minutes before her alarm would go off. And I said, "What do you think about?" and she said, "Well, before I go to sleep at night I think about, you know, the people I'm going to see the next day, and what I'm going to do, and all this, and the interesting conversations I am going to have, the relationships I'm going to have." And she was really motivated by this; she'd wake up in the morning thinking about this.
Here's the real irony. When I asked this guy what he did for a living and I asked this woman what she did for a living, they were very similar jobs. They both worked in offices. They both had complaints about their jobs. They both had things they liked about their jobs. Very similar situations. But one was using fear and dread to get him, and he had started out with just one alarm clock with one snooze button and over time he had to go all the way up to three, and the other one was having no problem getting up because she was using a moving toward pleasure strategy. This is just an example of how they work.
Now, how do we apply these things to politics? How do you apply this to creating a persuasive political message? How do you use this information to help influence people? I mean, this is why we talk to people, right, to try to influence them? In a positive way. We'll get into that when we get right back. Thom Hartmann here with you, twenty minutes past the hour.
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Yes, here's that positive attitude. SonOfOne in the chat room says, "I can see that a boss who has a positive attitude would help with my waking and work attitude." And, absolutely true. However, you can install it in yourself.
Here's, just to wrap that story up, the interesting thing. This guy who had all this problem with all these alarm clocks - the class ran over, it was a week long class, this class that I was teaching at Omega. And so I said, "Tonight, before you go to sleep, think about what's going to happen tomorrow that's going to be positive and that you're going to enjoy, that you're looking forward to, and ask yourself a question - ask your unconscious mind to give you an answer when you wake up in the morning about something that you might ask or something you might say or something you might do tomorrow that'll be interesting, that will be fun. And the next morning this guy comes in to class and he's just like amazed. "He says I woke up 5 minutes before my", you know, actually, he said he woke up right at the moment when the alarm would have gone off. Just as it was about to go off.
We all have the ability to do that. We have this incredibly powerful unconscious mind. I learnt when I was a little kid I could just imagine an alarm clock in my head and before I fall asleep set the hour, set the alarm, push the button - in my head! And I would wake up automatically in the morning at that time to the minute. And I'm not special in this regard, I mean I know many people, anybody, I'm convinced, anybody can do this. But anyhow, so he just employed a new strategy. He just tried a moving toward pleasure strategy to wake himself up in the morning and it worked! And, of course, once you try a new strategy and it works, you can just intentionally build it into your life.
The, another dimension of this has to do with goal setting, 'cause really that's what we are talking about here. We're talking about personal goal-setting or national goal-setting in a political context. And this is, again, where I think that the Democrats failed in this last election. You know, regardless of the election outcome and how it shakes out and all that other stuff, you know, and all those other arguments, this is nonetheless where the Democrats failed. And it's where the democrats have been failing for some time, frankly, in my opinion. And the Greens have been succeeding, by the way. Is in holding specific positive goals. "Here is our vision for the future." This is what Newt Gingrich did so brilliantly, even though it was so corrupt, I, you know, over the weekend I went back and read his "Contract with America". And it pointed to specific legislation and you go back and you read the legislation and basically three of his ten points in his "Contract with America" were tax cuts for the rich. Now that's what most of it boiled down to. But none the less, actually there were, you know, some good stuff in there, like, you know, let's cut back on congressional staff, and things. Although now we're seeing that the problem with that is congress people don't have time to even read bills that they have to vote on, so, you know, Newt's, but I digress. The point is that Newt put forward a, what was perceived as a, positive vision. Even though in my opinion it wasn't, it was largely a negative vision. But it was perceived and it was marketed as a positive vision. And you must, in politics, put this forth.
Now the neat thing about goals, and this is where most individuals, with individual personal goal-setting, be it professional or personal, you know, in your personal life, in your love life, in your relationships, in your family, in your business work. A lot of people have this idea that if you set a goal you must reach it, and that if they fail to reach it, they punish themselves. And so as a result of this a lot of people end up being afraid to set goals. I wonder if this kind of post-traumatic stress disorder has infected the Democratic party? You know, I'm not sure, I don't want to try and psychoanalyze an entire party. But the bottom line is that you don't need to reach your goals. You just need to have them. We all must all the time have a positive goal. There has to be that gravity, that sunlight that we are moving toward, that positive force that we are moving toward. Without that life becomes less meaningful. And so any politician who wants to offer themselves as a leader must have something to lead toward. And this is very straightforward stuff. So, number one: give yourself permission not to reach your goals, 'cause you can continuously recalibrate them, you can say, "OK, this is my goal today, and two weeks from now I might change it. But at least I have a goal. I know, you know, but as I get more information, I may learn that, "Hey! I really should be doing this plus something else, or this minus something else. This is called learning, by the way. It's called learning. Right after the break I'll just give you NLP presupposition that this is based on, wrap this thing up and take your calls, if you'd like. If you have any questions or observations on this, Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.
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Fearlessly exploring the truth of the day, here's Thom Hartmann." Song: "How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky? And welcome back, 1-866-889-8894 our telephone number if you have questions, thoughts, observations, particularly on this topic. We're going to wrap this up in just a few minutes and then move back into the best of the rest of the news with this hour, but I just, I want to just nail this down, make it absolutely clear, tell you the story so that you've got it, and you understand it.
The presupposition, the neurolinguistic programming presupposition that all of this stuff is grounded on is that there is no failure, only feedback. There are no mistakes, only outcomes. This is one of those sayings that is worthy of writing out on a piece of paper and putting it on your refrigerator with a magnet, you know, sticking it on the mirror in your bathroom until you have it memorized.
There is no failure, only feedback. That is to say, everything that happens, we can learn something from that will help us to do better next time. There is no failure, only feedback. Thomas Edison. You know, what, ten thousand tries to make an electric light bulb? There is no failure, only feedback. There are no mistakes, there are only outcomes. "D'you know, I made a mistake!" No, you only made a mistake if you failed to learn from it. And we're all capable of learning, in fact it's almost impossible not to learn. Therefore there are no mistakes, there are only outcomes. Might not be the outcome you want but it's the outcome and because you learn from it, in the future you can change that.
So, what this, and the other point that is really important to keep track of is that when you're experiencing anxiety, that's an indication that you are involving yourself in a moving away from pain motivation strategy. That internally you've got some sort of dialogue or you're seeing pictures or whatever of something scary that you are trying to move away from and that produces the anxiety. And you can replace that, once you become aware of your internal motivation strategies and your internal dialogue, and the internal pictures that you're using to propel yourself forward or away from things, you can recalibrate them, you can change them. When moving away from pain strategies are used repeatedly and for the same thing, over time the wear away at us, they diminish our enthusiasm and they often even lead to depression or apathy.
This is the secret known to political strategists. They know that negative advertising, one political form of moving away from pain, rarely produces any new votes for their candidate. People won't vote for candidate A just because you've convinced them that candidate B is a bum. Doesn't happen. Instead, they usually become the voting equivalent of depressed. They disengage from the political process and just don't show up at the polls. Negative campaigning is a form of voter suppression, it almost always drives down the number of people who show up at the polls. Interesting thing to know.
Another political form of moving away from pain is the "I'll save you from danger" pitch. For this to work, politicians must first convince us that there's a real and terrible danger that threatens us personally, and cause us to irrationally obsess on it. Consider the terrorist strike of 9/11. Three thousand people died. Now, you know, they're saying, "Well, you know, they could set off a dirty bomb, or a bomb in Chicago. If they set of a nuke in Chicago it could kill half a million people". Yeah, OK. Half a million people. You know how many people are going to die this year from cancer? 560,000 - over half a million, just in the United States! What's the real threat? And yet the last politician to talk about a war on cancer was Richard Nixon in 1971. Now why would that be? Well, here's my cynical answer. Cancer's profitable. The companies that spray cancer-causing things on our food supply, you know, inject it into our environment, they make a profit doing it. And the way that our health care system is set up right now, unlike every other advanced democracy in the world, whenever anybody is diagnosed with cancer, a whole bunch of people make money. A cancer diagnosis is worth about a quarter of a million dollars to the medical industry. In many cases as much as a half a million dollars.
Politicians throwing out the big scare, as they did with the threat of communism in the 50s is an old trick. Conservatives tried doing this with Bill Clinton's sex life in the 90s, and saying that "This is a dire threat of moral decay in America". If you can hold up something to fear, be it communists, nukes, gays, hippies, terrorists, or even promoting anti-Semitism as Hitler did with Jews, and as Bush's General Boykin does with Arabs, over the short term you can provoke a few people to show up at the polls because of their fear. Sure. You know, you poke people with a stick, you'll get an immediate response. But over the long term, you exhaust most of the people so much that they won't even challenge you any more, and they won't participate in politics, and that of course is the goal of demagogues, which ain't us, hopefully. But it is important to recognize.
That's why it is so important that we have a positive vision to offer America. A vision of a safe and secure America where people don't need to fear disease because everybody has health care and our regulatory agencies are keeping carcinogens out of our food and our environment. A vision of schools that work well for our children. Not just testing and threatening them (moving away from pain strategy) but working with and for them. And a vision of every child who wants to attend college being able to. I think I told you in the last hour that the new budget that was passed yesterday by the president is going to cut by a hundred thousand the number of students who will get PEL grants this year. The main college funding for most middle and low income folks, kids.
We need to hold up a vision of a society that cares for its least fortunate, modeling itself on the teachings of Tikkun and Judaism, Jesus' words in Christianity, similar teachings of compassion in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Humanism. A vision of a working middle class that is paid a living wage and can, if they just play by the rules, raise and educate their children, have health, security, and know that their retirement in old age is assured, is safe. A vision of a nation where dissent is not only tolerated but celebrated, because it is dissent that helps us correct problems within our body politic. A vision of a nation where anybody can start a business if they want, where local communities can preserve their own, unique local character, and massive corporate predators are broken up and under control.
And, like we talked about last week, not just a vision, but a story. And a steady consistent sense of what life in such a beautiful, positive world could be like. So, that's our NLP lesson for the day. There's no failure, only feedback. No mistakes, only outcomes. Understanding that there are motivation strategies that we all use and that they are embedded in every political message. And understanding that if you want to have a truly effective political message, it's appropriate in many cases to have a small amount of moving away from pain, "Hey, we really want to stop the unemployment problem, this is not good, we have people who are in soup kitchens and bread lines", okay. And have an overarching positive vision to solve that problem. And the way we're going to solve this problem is with a comprehensive program in the United States to, for the United States government to say to business, "If you want to play the business game in the United States, you have to play it by rules that will allow us to have a middle class". In other words, the minimum wage is now, you know, whatever we decide, but it's no longer five dollars and fifteen cents. And you have to allow people to form unions. And we're going to provide for health care for everybody, you know, whatever it may be, wherever you want to go with that.
So, our lesson for the day.
"Dear president Bush," You know, I'm sure the first time this was circulating was almost a year and a half ago, two years ago I think on this program. I read this on the air and it's flying around the internet again. For those of you who aren't, you know, web junkies. This is just a, this is a great example of the, how sometimes the absurdity of phony moving away from pain strategies can be used. Or not necessarily phony, just kind of preying on people's fears. All right? And this is a humorous way of highlighting it. This letter."Dear president Bush,
Congratulations on your election victory and for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As you said, 'in the eyes of God marriage is based between a man a woman' ". Yes, George Bush actually said that. He knows what is in God's eyes. He said, "I try to share that", ah, then the writer of this letter says,
"I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that in Leviticus 18:22 it clearly states that homosexuality is an abomination... End of debate. However, continuing to read Leviticus does raise a few questions. I need some advice from you regarding some other elements of God's Laws in Leviticus and how best to follow them.
For example, Leviticus 25:44 says that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. Now, a friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
Number 2: In Exodus 21:7 it says, that I can sell my daughter into slavery, mmm, I'd like to consider that. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price?
Number 3: I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of uncleanness - Leviticus 15:19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
Number 4: When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord, as it says in Leviticus 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
Number 5: I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Now, Exodus 35:2. clearly states he must be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it for me?
Number 6: A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, after all, it says so in Leviticus 11:10, he says that it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?
Number 7: Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
Number 8: Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?
Number 9. I know from reading Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
Number 10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does my wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton and polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone him to death as suggested in Leviticus 24:10-16? Can't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we can do with people who sleep with their in-laws, as it says in Leviticus 20:14?
I know that you, president Bush, have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thanks again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging."
I won't share the signature with you...
Song (Louis Armstrong): "I see trees of green, red roses too" Ah, me too. "I see them bloom for me and you." So, here's a moving towards pleasure song. "And I think to myself, what a wonderful world." Welcome back, my friends.
George W Bush ran on the campaign platform, basically, of moving away from pain. Dick Cheney threatening us, telling us that our major cities were vulnerable to nuclear attack, and quack, quack, quack. And the core message was that we should be afraid and that he could protect us. And as I said, you know, moving away from pain strategy can be very effective over the short term. It's the story of the little boy who cried wolf, you know. It's effective over the short term. Over the long term it burns out. People become exhausted by it. And the people who really know what's going on see through it.
As was pointed out by Kevin Johnson in USA Today last week, "Police scoff at Ashcroft speech", this article, "A day after Attorney General John Ashcroft", Johnson writes, "told the nation's largest association of law enforcement executives that the Bush administration had made the nation more secure from terrorist attacks and violent criminals, the group lashed back at the White House." This is the International Association of Chiefs of Police, folks that I think we should be listening to, don't you? "They said that cuts by the administration in federal aid to local police agencies have left the nation more vulnerable than ever to public safety threats." You see, they've got their own moving away from pain story. "The 20,000-member group also said in a statement that new anti-terrorism duties for local cops — which have come as state and local budgets have declined and historically low crime rates have crept upward" As a result, by the way, I would add of conservative economic policies wiping out the middle class. " — have pushed police agencies to 'the breaking point'."