Review and takeways from the ‘Get the Life You Want’ Richard Bandler and Paul McKenna experience
This blog covers the event itself and my key takeaways. To find out what the longer term impact of the event has been, check out my blog Has the ‘Get the Life You Want’ event worked for me? A report over time.
When I embarked on my October 2017 weekend of self improvement, attending the ‘Get the Life You Want’ event in London, it was with mixed feelings of excitement, trepidation, concern about feeling gullible, and mild embarrassment that I might be spending a whole weekend on what other people might see as hippy-like stuff.
The event centred on Richard Bandler (co-creator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP, my favourite tool in the self-improvement arsenal) and TV hypnotist Paul McKenna. But how was the experience and was it worth the £400 or so I spent on it? What did I learn or ‘fix’? And ultimately – has it helped to accelerate my progress and ‘get the life I want’?
I’ll delve into the answers to these questions and share some of the specific moments, methods, approaches and take-aways I got out of the event in this blog. You can also read my blog about the fall out after the event and whether it impacted my life in any way.
I’m happy to report that overall I came away with a feeling of deep happiness and optimism. I experienced moments of great bubbling excitement as I visualised my future, I felt the energy in the room as people focused on the positive and the real opportunity to make changes and improvements to their lives. I felt armed with more methods, all of which I’d seen demonstrated and had tried myself, to address challenges and reshape my thinking. And I marched away with a greater feeling of confidence, optimism and life purpose.
The Big Takeaway
For me, the overwhelming message, which reaffirmed my outlook on life, was:
“If you change the way you think, it will change the way you feel, which will change what you do.”
This statement is worth thinking about! I believe this is how we can achieve happiness and fulfilment in life. We have the power to control the way we think about everything and if we can become skilled in controlling the way we think – by learning how to run our brain rather than letting it run us – then we are able to change anything we need to in order to get the life we want.
I have believed this for a long time. But the valuable aspect of the ‘Get the Life You Want’ event was that it focused my mind and forced me to really implement the NLP-based techniques there and then.
It made me question more deeply the way I think, helped to create new thought patterns, and create a belief that I can have a better future than I ever imagined before. And I hope the claims of embedding unconscious suggestions in our mind to help us make better choices have an effect.
The proof of course comes in the longer-term impact of this, which you can read more about in this blog.
The Discomfort Zone
I also had some moments of discomfort – mostly early on. I briefly worried about the concerning similarity to a cult-like experience when an exuberant Richard Bandler took to the stage to rousing music with the crowd cheering and whooping. I initially questioned my own gullibility in believing in the whole thing when on seeing him I felt that he may not have applied his skills to every area of his life (which he openly admits) and I then made the mistake of reading the rather scathing wikipedia entry on NLP (but on reflection, I’d say to those skeptics: The world is not flat). But then I reminded myself that here in front of me was the man who co-created NLP, of which any reader of my blog will know I’m a massive fan.
Mr Bandler is certainly someone who doesn’t give a **** what people think of him, using completely inappropriate but many times humorous language and anecdotes to communicate his message. But I came to view him as someone who clearly believed – with overwhelming confidence – that he could help people address their personal challenges and blocks. I can’t speak for any of his claims of helping others, but I know the impact NLP has had for me personally (and for someone close to me) so whatever anyone else thinks, I truly believe that what he co-created in NLP is powerful.
A rather excited Life Reporter with the co-founder of NLP Mr Richard Bandler himself
I also arrived with a pre-conception of Paul McKenna as perhaps someone out to make money from all the vulnerable people struggling with weight, depression or lack of achievement (sorry Paul!), but I have to say that my pre-conception was turned on its head as I felt over the course of the two days that he really was invested in making everyone in the room get over their blocks and enable them to enjoy life to the fullest. I really enjoyed his sessions.
And then there was those rather awkward moments, like at a team-building challenge, when they made us do things that are slightly uncomfortable like turn to the stranger next to you and say hello in a stupid voice, but the effect was to make us more comfortable with the people around me and more energised and engaged in the whole thing. So I got over it and got into the spirit of it.
But let’s delve into the key moments, the impact different parts of the event had on me and my takeaways.
The Big Picture: You Have Control
The main premise of the event is that you can do whatever you like in your own mind but most people have “no idea how happy they can really be every day and how much better life can get; you just have to use your imagination and think big thoughts”.
If you face challenges and problems, which every one does and some more than others, you have to find a way to learn from them and manage the way you view them in order to diminish your fears and reduce the impact of them so that you make your life better. Easy to say perhaps, but the event then focused on different techniques to help us do just that.
State is Key: Editing the Movie in your Mind
The state you’re in is what influences your behaviour, which then impacts your outcome. To better manage current or upcoming situations, or deal with upset from the past, you need to consider the movie in your mind. The pictures and sounds that we think of are what creates our state.
As Bandler said, “If it’s not serving you, change it”. So a lot of the techniques focus on using visualisation methods to alter the pictures and sounds in your mind, and to change the way your mind views them.
Said McKenna, “If you have good pictures in your mind, you will feel good. If you have the wrong pictures in your mind, you’ll feel bad. If you think it will be hard, it will be.”
Throughout the event, we did lots of visualisation work on happy memories to make them bigger and brighter and increase the emotional intensity of it. We also added an anchor by touching our thumb and first finger together when we reached that emotional intensity so that we could recall that feeling in the future by using the anchor to trigger the same state.
If things worry us, it means the images in our mind are too big and colourful, and people can waste so much time of their life ruminating on past issues that don’t help them to move their life forwards. Whilst acknowledging that feelings like anger, guilt or fear are our friends and are there for a reason, no-one should live in that ongoing state once the issue has passed. The response needs to be at an “optimal” level otherwise it’s exhausting.
So we did lots of techniques to diminish negative mental pictures. We froze the images, made the border of the image our favourite colour, then made the image black and white, pushed them far away and made them crumble into tissue paper. Or we looked at the image as if viewing a movie and manipulated our viewpoint, the sounds by adding circus music or changing voices into high pitched crazy people. Anything to reduce the power of the negative images in our mind.
Early on we used one technique, which is what changed my outlook on the event from doubt to belief, because it was so simple but powerful and had an immediate effect, which has continued beyond the event. The technique sounds strange, but you essentially move the thought from your brain into your tummy (literally imagining it moving) and the feeling reduces or disappears.
It doesn’t seem plausible that such a strange technique could have such an impact. But it did. I pictured a time just a week before when I had to moderate a panel in Barcelona on the role of women in financial services. I was fully prepared and not nervous… Until about two hours before when suddenly the nerves hit. I managed to hide it effectively and the panel went really well. But I could have done without the anxiety – it wasn’t enjoyable. Every time I thought of it that’s the feeling that came back. So this was the image I used in this practice and I couldn’t believe how when I then thought of it again that feeling had gone and all I was doing was watching it without the emotional association. Even now as I write this, I can picture the run up to the panel which would have brought a pang of nerves but there is nothing.
These techniques were demonstrated with different volunteers from the audience and some of the results were quite fascinating to watch, particularly that of a firefighter who’d witnessed a traumatic event and was so clearly emotionally disturbed by it. McKenna used a ‘Havening’, a psycho-sensory technique with him that he claimed delinks the thoughts from the feelings by flooding the amygdala in the brain with delta to clear the memory of trauma that is stored there. There was no disputing the emotional mess this tough Scottish guy was in at the start. But afterwards, the emotion appeared to be gone. He was asked to recall the moment in vivid detail and while he could see it, he felt no emotion attached to it and was completely calm and relieved.
I still question my own sanity when recalling this as it sounds like some kind of miracle healing, but I again come back to my own experience with these techniques and how much they’ve helped me.
They also worked with people who wanted to quit smoking, lose weight, get over a miscarriage and fear of getting pregnant again, build belief in a future vision of success and more.
Visualising our Best Future
My favourite was the work we did to identify our core values and visualise our future. This is where I’ve found it difficult on my own. I believe in the power of visualising the best outcome you can imagine but have found it difficult to actually do. My mind wanders. Or I get disturbed. Or I don’t think I’m being ambitious enough in my visualisations either through fear of feeling idiotic or because I simply haven’t had enough imagination to make the image bigger and brighter.
But being in a room surrounded by hundreds of other people, and being led by an enthusiastic Paul McKenna, the images suddenly flowed. And we were encouraged to really intensify the emotions associated with the images. We then worked on visualising a timeline where you work backwards to imagine what needs to be done and experienced to lead to that future vision. I came away with a very clear vision of my future direction and what I’m aiming for, based on the values that are most important to me.
Paul McKenna’s book Change Your Life in Seven Days details a lot of these techniques in further detail if you wanted to try them yourself.
The challenge will be having the mental discipline to reuse these techniques to keep them going and be able to address other challenges or situations, which I hope to do by incorporating more into my morning routine.
Finally, my thought about what might be behind the experience is that we humans are just a bundle of chemicals and neurotransmitters with no full understanding of all the magic that entails. You can be skeptical, or like me, concerned about being gullible. But the fact is, this has worked incredibly well for me and for others I know. I like to think I am a rational, logical person and not too easily taken in as a fool.
I think that if there’s anything in your life you wish you could change or improve, or if you want to make it even better than it already is, why not have an open mind and look into this approach (but make sure you pick the right event or person to try this with). The worst thing that can happen is you might waste some money and/or time. But the upside might be worth so much more than that risk. It could just give you the life you want.
Thanks to Bernardo Moya and his NLPLifeTraining company for bringing Richard Bandler and Paul McKenna together in the UK so we could experience the Get the Life You Want event.
If you’ve been to one of these events or experimented with NLP, let me know what you experienced and whether it’s had a lasting effect for you in the comments below.