Using 8 NLP Principles to Improve Your Students’ Performance Part 2

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How to Get Your Students to Hear You

Part 2 – Improving Performance With 4 NLP Techniques

We learned in Part 1 that we are all products of patterns we have created – consciously or unconsciously – for our entire lives. Nothing about us is because of chance. This can be good, as we may have developed patterns that serve us: that work for us. But it can also be bad, as we have unwittingly developed patterns that are destructive, or at best unproductive.

To recap, there are 8 essential principles of NLP that hold true for everyone – no matter who you are, how much money you have, how much you weigh, or how long you’ve been riding or training.

  • There is no such thing as failure in NLP; there is only feedback
  • Everything that happens is neutral
  • The meaning of a communication is the response you get
  • The map is not the territory
  • You Cannot Not Communicate
  • What you think is what you get
  • You don’t know what you don’t know
  • If one person can learn to do something, so can you

By recognizing the truth in these principles, or presuppositions, we are able to begin to shift how we see the world, and start making adjustments in how we communicate. But how can you take your training business, and your students’ performance, to the next level?

NLP offers several techniques to produce and reproduce excellence. The ones I use the most in my practice are:

  • Modeling
  • Circle of Excellence
  • Theatre of the Mind
  • Anchoring


The theory of Modeling says that we can achieve excellence in anything by finding a place where it already exists and copying the traits and behaviors present when excellence is present. This is a wonderful exercise for your students:

  • Imagine someone riding with ease, poise, confidence . . . excellence. Keep that picture in your mind for a moment.
  • Look at the person’s body position, from the tip of their feet to the top of their head. Memorize it. Put yourself in that position.
  • What are you thinking about that allows you to be in that position? What are you feeling?

These are the thoughts and feelings you want your student to develop. This is modeling, and is useful to you as the trainer too.

Meanwhile, back in real life . . .

Ask them what they ordinarily think about when they’re on their horse? What do they feel? What ordinarily occurs? And what about you? Where is your mind when you are in the ring?

  • Are you thinking about work?
  • Are you thinking about the last conversation you had with your spouse?
  • Are you thinking about how you are going to lose weight?
  • Are you thinking about your financial situation, or maybe a horse you want to purchase?

When you think about anything other than the peak performance you expect, don’t be surprised when your performance doesn’t measure up. What you think is what you get.

Circle of Excellence

The Circle of Excellence is the people and images, sights and sounds, you surround yourself with that are indicative of excellence, and that exude excellence. As a trainer, you can do this mental exercise for yourself, as well as using it as a tool with your students.

Here’s how it works: Picture yourself in the middle of a circle, and then fill that circle with whatever has contributed to your excellence (trainer, parents, spouse, a horse, etc.) and whatever is proof of your excellence (ribbons, trophies, etc.). Accessing that mental image—and its corresponding confidence and self-esteem—recreates that excellence. Remember, the subconscious mind responds as if that circle is your reality.

It is important to note that when NLP refers to excellence and what has caused it, it’s referring to what we can directly observe as the cause of excellence. This isn’t about theorizing about what actions might have resulted in or contributed to a state of excellence. This is about cause and effect. What people, actions, places, and processes have contributed to your success? Visualize them and place them in  your circle.

Theater of the Mind

With real-life practice, some moves will be done excellently, but others less well. With mental practice, however, it is possible to repeat, in your mind, time after time, a move that you remember doing in the past. If the original move was really good, the imagined ones will be just as good. It seems that this repeated imagined activity stimulates nerve connections in the brain in the same way that real activities do. This sets up pathways for repeated excellence and, because there will be no errors in your mental activity, the repeated movements will enhance the skill when put into practice in real life—often more so than real-life practice.

                                    NLP Made Easy, by Carol Harris (Element 2003), p. 101

If you’re thinking that Theater of the Mind is characterized by visualization, you’re correct. We must recognize the power of our imagination; it is 88% of our mind! The better you are at using your imagination, the more successful you and your students will be when you use Theater of the Mind later. Here’s how it works:

  • You are making a movie of yourself. You’re the director and you’re also the star (what could be better?). We’ve all done this a million times, and since the advent of music videos, most of us put music to our movies, as well.
  • Whenever you are called upon to use Theater of the Mind, you’ll create the entire scene. What do you look like, who’s around you, what’s around you, what kind of day is it, what are you wearing, and what does your horse look like? This will all be a part of your movie. The object is to create as realistic a vision as possible of the outcome you’d like to achieve.
  • Add as much sensory information as you can pack into your movie. It’s 3-D, it’s scratch and sniff, and you can even taste it.
  • Remember to also add internal dialogue. In movies, there are voiceovers to tell us what the characters are thinking. What are your characters thinking? What are they feeling?

Here are some tips for you, and to share with your students, for enriching Theater of the Mind experiences:

  • Learn to control your imagination. Practice visualizing. Imagine that your hands are lighter and lighter and your feet are heavier and heavier. It might sound like hocus pocus, but if you can master these exercises, that means you can affect your body with your mind. That skill is highly desirable—in fact vital—to success using Theater of the Mind and hypnosis.
  • Learn to use your imagination when preparing for constructive activities, such as riding. The next time you are preparing to ride, pay close attention to everything around you. Attend to things you usually take for granted, like your gait, your posture, and everything about your horse. Though these details may seem like minutiae, they will be helpful later when you are creating one of your Theater of the Mind productions.
  • Develop your creativity. Visualize new inventions, new services, new movies, new approaches to riding, new approaches to training.
  • When your perception tells you that you’re up against a wall, let your imagination run wild. Brainstorm. Don’t judge your ideas or edit them—just let them flow and associate freely.
  • Practice and practice and practice until you are comfortable using your imagination easily and effectively.


Anchoring is a technique that creates a response through the use of association. It’s based on classical behavioral conditioning and involves creating a trigger that will be connected to a desired response. It completely bypasses your conscious mind and creates an instant reaction. The conscious mind can’t stop the reaction you have programmed.

Anchors can be just about anything: a touch (e.g., when you take the reins), a sight (e.g., when you see the ring you’re about to show in), or a complex set of movements (e.g., when you mount your horse). The key is to attach the anchor to a desired emotional response. For example: when you take the reins, you immediately relax . . . . I have found that anchoring is the tool that creates the most powerful and lasting changes in my clients.

Again, when you combine NLP with hypnosis, you create the opportunity to speed up and deepen the changes you want to create, putting you on the fast track to excellence. It is a powerful combo, whether through self-hypnosis or with a certified hypnotist.

Remember to practice these techniques yourself. Once you are completely comfortable with the process, it will be easier to use them with your students. Stay tuned, because there is more. In the next article, you will see how word choices that get amazing results for one student may not work so well with another.