Canary Coaching are spending the day tomorrow working with a fashion label in a large corporation doing mini coaching and styling sessions. I thought this article I wrote a while ago on NLP modelling and clothes shopping was particularly relevant!

Why is it that while some of us love shopping, are excited at the prospect of an excuse to buy something new and simply delight in ‘getting ready’ for a ‘do’ with friends, others hate it. Until quite recently, I was amongst those ‘others’. I hated shopping, dreaded getting invites which required shopping and getting ready left me in a heap in the corner, swigging gin with feelings of immense dread and ominous foreboding. Times of year when parties abound or weddings are in vogue, caused me to slump into a seasonal , shopping related depression!

No more. I decided to utilise my NLP modelling skills and carry out some private, informal research on how other people manage so much better than me. I decided to model the decision making process of choosing an item of clothing having tried it on. The results were enlightening. I interviewed a number of experts and non-experts to elicit their strategies, and what I found was, I think, a vital key to having good (or bad) self esteem – certainly in relation to clothes buying.

Numerous useful points came out of this model, some of which I will mention later, but most importantly, when trying on an item of clothing, each expert would not only visualise the items in their wardrobe that they would wear the item with, but they would visualise themselves wearing those clothes, in a particular situation, and being successful. An interview for example, they would try on their suit, and imagine themselves in the suit, in the interview, being fantastic. This is an excellent technique. Not only are they rehearsing a situation going well for themselves, boosting their confidence and eliminating insecurity, they are attaching or ‘anchoring’ this success to the clothes they are trying on.  Later, they would try the item on at home and repeat the process, thereby cementing this future rehearsal and anchoring.

No wonder they were excited to get ready – the experts had attached all kinds of good feelings and expectations to the clothes, and knew they were going to work, because they had seen it already. Non-experts, me included, did the opposite. They blindly bought clothes, uncertain, left the clothes in a bag at home until the dreaded day, uncertain, and then put them on again, further cementing the uncertainty, nervousness and fear. A perfect recipe for low self-esteem. 

I talked to my experts about where they got this strategy. A lot of them remembered with some annoyance their mothers saying to them ‘and what else will you wear it with?’ and ‘where will you wear it?’ and ‘could you wear it to granny’s anniversary as well?’.  My mother grew up on a farm in Kenya, so there was no reason for her mother to give her this strategy – all that she required were some run down jeans and a t-shirt!   Therefore, coming to England as an adult, she wasn’t aware of it, and has had the same difficulty as a result. The strategy therefore didn’t make it to me either!

So what now – I’m giving this model a go, and it’s working. I also gave it to one of my clients the other day who was a severe non-expert like me – in her initial interview she said ‘I would rather everyone had to look the same...I hate shopping, panic escalates, eventually just I grab and go. I don’t get excitement or happiness from shopping – on the way home I already know I’ve made a terrible decision.’  I received a text recently, following our session which read ‘This has been an excellent weekend for me and clothes shopping.  Bought my wedding cardi from Gap, a shirt and two dresses!!’. 


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It led me to thinking, what other strategies are we receiving/not receiving from our parents which are contributing to or adversely affecting our success in life? It is amazing that  

something I have struggled with for years, could be boiled down to a simple difference in strategy, which I can learn. 

For those of you wanting to implement this model yourselves, this is what the experts all had in common to make the decision making process work for them. 


General
  • curiosity - they would occasionally look in shops, online and in magazines at clothes, taking an interest and seeing what they liked and where it was from.
  •  a positive attitude towards clothing – they saw clothes and shopping as a positive experience and looked forward to it

State of mind before going shopping 

  •  feeling good about themselves and in a good mood
  • not under time pressure
  •  focused on shopping and not worrying about anything else

Trying on the clothes 

  • all of the experts tried on the clothes properly – none of this sticking a skirt on over jeans in the main shop area - something which a former me has done on many an occasion to avoid queues
  •  they would test the clothing physically - sit down, stand up, raise their arms, stand on tiptoes to emulate heels etc. to avoid such disasters as builders bum, muffin top, bingo wings, flashing when exiting cars, ankle bashers etc
  • they would visualise the item they were trying on WITH OTHER ITEMS THEY ALREADY OWNED;  then  they would visualise that outfit working for them IN A SCENARIO eg sitting in an interview which is going really well, in the suit they are currently trying on

What were they aiming for?

  • flattering – not too tight – none of the aforementioned muffin-tops etc. 
  • makes more than one outfit. 
  • fits with their image/vision of themself you - for example two of my experts wanted to look like they had made an effort and were smart without being too ‘dressed up’.
  • made them feel good because they believe they looked good.
  •  NO UNCERTAINTY.

What happened next?
  • they felt really good once they had bought the item.
  • they went and tried it on at home with different outfits they imagined – thus cementing the visualisation process 
   
Whatever your particular hang-ups or difficulties – the chances are that NLP modelling could make your as successful as the best! 



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Having worked as a musical theatre performer, and as a director/writer, I have experience of being both in front of, and behind the auditioning table. 

Why is it that some people are able to come in, regardless of the time of day, who is in the panel and who went in before them, and give the same performance they gave in front of their mirror, whereas others, regardless of talent, fail at the first hurdle?

If you’re one of the ones who sometimes nails it, and sometimes doesn’t - what factors are present when you don’t achieve? My guess would be that they are mainly mental ones. You still have the same amount of talent you had when you were at home, so why can’t you pull it out of the bag?

Thought Spiral
In NLP there is an understanding that your thoughts control your emotions and the knock on effect of that is that your emotions control your performance. The performers who nail it every time, are in full control of their thinking. So all you have to do is control your thoughts. Easier said than done? It might take a bit of practice, but not really.

The moment that seed of doubt enters your mind – ‘it’s not my day, she was way better than me...there’s no point even trying....’, a chain reaction is set off, your thoughts spiral into the realms of self-doubt and there is no way  you are going to go in there and give them  your best self. 

When I work with performers I work on dealing with this self talk which can spiral downwards and creating positive versions of these ‘triggers’. You know when your favourite song comes on and you feel on top of the world, regardless of where you are – that’s the sort of thing you can put in place so you can march in there with your head held high.

The Panel
One of the things performers do on a regular basis is second guess the audition panel – this becomes part of the thought spiral. Something I coach my clients to do is come to the realisation that there is nothing they can do about the panel. If they are going to go with people they have used before who are way less talented, or talk rudely through your audition, or make you sing for a part that is completely inappropriate whilst lying on your back and pretending to be a baby, there is nothing you can do about it. You can decide 

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that the profession is not for you and leave. Or save the story for your autobiography and get on with it. Your one and only aim is to go in there, and present the best version of yourself. If they don’t hire you this time, at least they will still see you next time.  

Preparation
Finally, many of the performers I work with are surprised by the amount of preparation those who nail it actually do - they may say otherwise due to the fierceness of competition – but performers are like athletes – regular training is essential. I regularly work with clients on tools for avoiding procrastination - a skilled form of self-sabotage.

 Top Tips
  • Prepare properly – know that you have done everything in your power before you go into the audition to prevent the thought spiral beginning with ‘I should have done more’.
  • Avoid procrastination – work out whether it’s the carrot (the chance of getting the job) or the stick (the chance of being blacklisted by the casting director) that motivates you. Use that as a motivator.
  • Set a goal for the audition that is self-achievable, that way you can’t beat yourself up afterwards. The goal is not to get the job, but to give the best account of yourself possible.
  • Look at it from the panel’s point of view. I have been there. It is the best thing in the world when at five o’clock after a full day, someone comes in and makes the panel smile.
  • Remember why you’re there in the first place. You’ve said a big ‘no’ to a desk job because performance is in your veins, you thrive off of having an audience. Go in there and thrive! 

I regularly coach actors and comics one on one, and also run group workshops, so please get in touch if you are interested (there is an equity discount!). 



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A lot is expected of of people today, and due to the demands of a pressured career, health is often something that gets overlooked. 

In general life coaching sessions, when I first meet a client, I ask them to make a values hierarchy. In NLP a value is a feeling – either of something we want more of, or something we want to move away from, e.g. less stress, more stability etc. People are at their happiest when they are living to their own personal values. I play a game with my clients saying that if the client could only have one of these feelings what would it be?...and then another, and so on until we have a list of about ten. Then, nine times out of ten, I say ‘what about feeling healthy’ or ‘not feeling unwell’. ‘Oh yea! I forgot!’. The exercise is often repeated and health often comes very close to the top, if not at the top. Because the truth is, if you don’t feel well, it’s almost impossible to enjoy all of the other values. 



Do we take our health for granted?
So why does health so often get left off the list? One reason is that many people have negative beliefs about exercise – often formed at school – ‘I don’t do exercise’, ‘it’s just not me’. These statements become part of your identity and can go unquestioned for years, rearing their heads whenever the topic comes up – these rules become an easy alternative to thinking things through and coming to reasoned decisions. If you ‘don’t do exercise’, you have the perfect answer to any exercise related question without ever having to think about it! Ask yourself – are those beliefs really relevant today? Would I not enjoy any type of exercise, ever? Often, with a bit of loosening, you realise that it’s a belief formed very early in life that has held you back ever since. 

What else? Another reason is that health in our society has become synonymous with looks and weight. This can be very off-putting for some people, particularly if you’re not into starving yourself, or dying your skin another colour, or being injected with potent poisons. However, if you think of it in terms of a value, feeling healthy, it can often change your mind.

Anything else?  Perhaps the most important reason we tend to ignore our health is we don’t really notice it till it’s gone – subconsciously we think we’ve got all the time in the world, and can certainly get away with those bad habits for a few more years.


Gradually declining health can be very subtle, and before you know it, you’ve got a struggle on your hands. However, there are signs. Ill   
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health will affect your working life and performance in your career because your body and your mind work in harmony – they are all 
part of the same system. Exercise is actually a perfect way to switch off your brain for a while and recharge. 

Things to watch out for – poor concentration, feeling sluggish and tired all the time, loss of appetite or ‘comfort eating’, frequent mild headaches, aches and pains in your back, shoulders and neck, unexplained tearfulness, irritability – there are lots more, but you get the picture.

So what? If you know that feeling healthy, or not feeling unhealthy is one of your values, you will be happier if you work towards that in your life. This needn’t involve massive change – you don’t need to run a marathon next month, you can do small things to bring more healthy feelings into your life.

TOP TIPS
  • Check your values - is feeling healthy, or not feeling unhealthy one of them? If so, what are you doing every day to fulfil that value?
  • What do you believe about yourself and exercise? How long have you been believing this? Is it still relevant today?
  • Watch out for the warning signs – poor concentration, feeling sluggish and tired all the time, loss of appetite or ‘comfort eating’, frequent mild headaches, aches and pains in your back, shoulders and neck, unexplained tearfulness, irritability.
  • Take small steps and get quick wins. Walk two stops instead of getting the tube, start the day with some fruit, join the gym at work and do 20mins in your lunch break a couple of times a week, walk around the block at lunch (and if you don’t feel you can go out, look hard at your values again. What really matters to you?!), go out dancing etc.



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