An important NLP coaching principle relating to the management of change states that all behavior serves a positive purpose, even behavior that’s ostensibly ‘negative.’ For instance, the positive intention of fear is often safety. Fear of public speaking might be motivated by a person’s subconscious desire to safeguard himself against possible humiliation. Moreover, if the positive intention of the behavior that needs to change is not explicitly accounted for in the desired outcome, people will often find substitute behaviors that may become just as problematic as the original behavior.
An example: A person who quits drinking and then discovers that alcohol was actually a good stress reliever will need to find an alternative way of relaxing. If such a substitute is not found, he might either revert back to his old habits or start smoking to achieve a similar result as the original payoff.
Goal-setting requires awareness of the GOOD INTENT of all behavior
It’s advisable to acknowledge the favorable offshoot(s) of an otherwise unfavorable situation before setting out to change it. No author doing a book reading wants to humiliate himself before his audience—right? But no author wants to read to an audience with his stomach tied in a knot either. So, if I had to coach a nervous author to improve his public speaking skills, I would advise him to thank his fear part for keeping him safe up to now and explain that its presence during book readings will no longer be necessary since he (the author) has decided to embrace confidence instead—we all know that a confident reader is not likely to obsess about the risk of humiliating himself. Can you see how responding to the deep structure expression of a problematic behavior (the desire to avoid humiliation) is more productive than responding to fear itself?
Goal-setting is also a LITERARY concept
Not only do goals motivate WRITERS to be productive and creative but they inspire the actions of STORY CHARACTERS too—on the flip side, however, their actions may lead to the breakdown of their goals.
I suggest you look at the value of the positive intention of behavior in the context of creative writing as it pertains to character development through a study of Lionel’s Shriver’s novel: So Much For That. You might want to refer to the introduction as well as #1, #2, #3 and #4 of this series for a recap of the book description before continuing with this part of the discussion.
We’ve already learned that our protagonist has carefully mapped out his life from age sixteen. His wife says, “You’re a planner, Shepherd. You always look before you leap.” And yet, when fate renders her a victim of ill health, she accuses him of having been irresponsible. His response is: “And now you’re the one who has to pay for that. It’s not fair. I should be the one who’s sick. I wish it was me. I wish I could shoulder it for you.” What do you think could possibly be the positive intention of the guilt that has just taken hold of our protagonist? I invite you to read this book to see how Shep’s irrational response in this instance motivates his future behavior. Will he eventually recognize the deep structure of his guilt? And if he does, will he be able to adapt his attitude appropriately?
Follow my blog to learn more about CREATIVE WRITING as well as the dynamics of BEHAVIOR CHANGE and CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT and how to implement these concepts in storytelling. Please watch out for the publication of my creative writing guide (title and publication date TBA soon), which will offer a more comprehensive discussion on Story and Character Development based on a Life Coaching Model.