NLP Applications: On Motivation

By Jason Pasquet

Last time, I introduced some of the basic ideas behind NLP, and shared a small exercise for you to participate in. This time, I’m going to shift the focus to how it applies to motivation.

Stated as one of the most motivating fundamental core “presuppositions” in NLP philosophy is: “There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.” This encourages us to believe and view our mistakes not as insurmountable obstacles, but as opportunities for deeper self-introspection and for greater progress in the direction we want to go. Our “feedback” gets its shape by two additional presuppositions that combine to embody the heart of NLP: “Experience has a structure” and “The map is not the territory.”

To further illustrate, the clarity of our experiences can be traced to the structure of how our neurological system classifies them. We understand our world through the five senses or modalities of touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell, which underlie our sensory experiences. These experiences create our inner representations of the world around us, giving us our unique “map” of the territory so to speak. This map is entirely subjective; it is one’s own interpretation of the territory, not the actual territory itself. Which explains why people have unique ways of behaving to similar information received from the senses, i.e., two people eat a bowl of chicken soup, and one enjoys it, while to the other it is appalling to taste.

When you get the time, read this Wikipedia article on “Representational Systems”; it will help to outline a basic NLP understanding of the way information is stored, recognized, and given reference in our lives. Then, if you’re curious enough to have gotten this far, I’ll show you a way you can change the inner representation of these systems for increased motivation.

Picture courtesy of Life’s Too Good

In this day and age, the need for healthy “motivation” is absolutely essential for successful progression in areas involving personal growth, the development of relationships, as well as important fields of professional involvement.

Motivation can be simply defined as action in response to intrinsic and/or extrinsic stimuli. Intrinsic stimuli involve internal factors, such as our hunger, needs, wants, or desires that motivate us. Extrinsic motivation is based on an external reward system, an example being “carrots and sticks” or something outside ourselves as a stimulus to action. Our responses, our choices that we make are due to these internal or external stimuli, which are the bases that propel us to action. The well-known “emotional roller coaster” experience and lack of direction, initiative, and confidence can be traced back as direct symptoms of conflicting motivational factors.

These are important signals telling us to evaluate ourselves and to face the issues. They’re telling us specifically to get in touch with ourselves, but most of the time we don’t. Even though we sometimes know that we should change for the better, the desire for even trying to change is absent, leaving us feeling victimized by circumstances and ultimately giving us a lost sense of control in life.

I know that most people can all relate to this. I’ve personally understood from family, friends, and from my experiences how frustrating this can be. There is hope. You have all the resources you need to change, and one of the remarkable things NLP gives is more choice to choose from. The limitation you’re experiencing is in your “map,” not the territory, and the map can be changed. You can get the desire back!

In taking a deeper look at our representational systems, we discover that within each modality there is a more complex array of distinctions known as “Submodalities”. They are the essence of how we code our experiences and the key to the choices we can make to change any unpleasant memories and improve our future outlooks. The only way you can truly and fully understand submodalities is by repeated personal experience. This helps to get in touch with the ones matching to your specific representational preferences for each system.

After you’ve read and understood what constitutes these smaller features, and the language that is used to describe them, you can attempt the exercise “Basic Motivation Strategy” outlined by Robert Dilts. This will identify and help you to adjust your specific submodalities through visualization on the outcomes you desire for boosting your motivation. For other NLP motivational insights, in NLP, The New Technology of Achievement by Steve Andreas and Charles Faulkner, there is a significant chapter on motivation which clearly expresses the different types of motivational direction we go through. And also describes other factors involved in motivation, like our values and inspirations. They also give a great introduction to those who would like more information on how NLP psychology works.

I hope you will continue to enjoy getting and staying motivated with NLP!

Jason Pasquet is a Customer Service Specialist for Howard County Library System.

He is aspiring in the fields of psychology, life-coaching, NLP therapy, and counseling.



  1. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I like it.

    I acquiesce with this statement: “Our “feedback” gets its shape by two additional presuppositions that combine to embody the heart of NLP: “Experience has a structure” and “The map is not the territory.”

    NLP is really helpful to be motivated and to keep us motivated, isn’t it?

    • Jason Pasquet

      Your welcome, Kai. I’m very glad you enjoyed it.
      Indeed it is! Once we grasp the methodology of NLP it becomes such a powerful tool to keep us motivated in our lives.

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