Solution Focused approaches to creating the future you want.
Have you broken your New Year’s Resolutions already?
All is not lost!
A YouGov survey states that one in five Britons (21%) say they will make a New Year’s resolution for 2023. Last year, 7 out of 10 people who made resolutions did not keep them.
If you have broken your Resolutions already, help is at hand.
An easier way to create lasting change
What if there was an easier way to create lasting change.?
Here’s a simple, practical and painless approach of creating lasting change. Using the power of your subconscious mind, your neurology, and the plasticity of your brain, you can create the life you want.
You can start the process of change, right here and now. All you need is your imagination and a human brain.
Three key steps to lasting change
Three key steps to creating lasting change, without putting yourself under undue pressure, are:
- Frame your Best Hopes
- Imagine your Preferred Future and make it vivid and compelling
- Create a habit of taking Small, Steady, Steps forward.
Solution Focused approaches work with the neurology of your mind to embed a vivid vision of the future, and you find you will more naturally take steps towards it, without much conscious attention.
Let go of your New Year’s Resolution
So, if your New Year’s Resolution has been broken already, as the Disney song in Frozen goes: “Let it go”.
Why we break resolutions?
For many, dramatic change and fixed goals can just feel too daunting; and overwhelming.
You may have the best intentions; setting ambitious goals focused on losing weight, getting fit, giving up drinking, breaking bad habits, changing your job or moving on on on some other way. You may have found yourself slip back to old comfortable habits, self-limiting beliefs kick in (I am not good enough, typical of me to give up), lose your motivation and break your resolution. Then its back to square one!
Over Christmas, we tend to overdo things. The ‘cold turkey’ (excuse the pun) of giving up drink, cutting down on food, taking up exercise or starting a new project can feel overwhelming. Its a cold and miserable too, not the best time to make positive change. Its the time we hunker down and seek comfort. However, it’s a great time to germinate the seeds of growth and change; just as nature does.
Anxiety, stress, and trauma
If you are dealing with anxiety, phobias, past traumas, relationship conflicts and external stresses then commitment to dramatic change is all the more challenging. If that’s you, forgive yourself, accept where you are now. It’s time to take a step back in order to leap forward.
1 Frame Your Best Hopes
What are your Best Hopes?
Best Hopes are your aspirations, dreams and goals when all obstacles have been removed. By suspending critical judgment (the ifs, buts, and cant’s) you can imagine the possibility of a better future.
Right there and then, you start the process of transformational change.
Now think about what you would you like life to be like in six months’ time. What would life be like if you were following your heart? Living according to your beliefs and values? Meeting your own needs? Following your dreams? Using your skills and talents to the full? Fulfilling your potential?
What would be different? How would you feel?
Would you be happier, more content, more secure? Would you feel that some essential creative part of you had been fulfilled? It’s important to get some sense of what you might feel like, or would like to feel like, if you realised your Best Hopes. This is an acid test that your Hopes really reflect your authentic self.
The key to knowing that your Best Hopes are achievable and realistic is how they make you feel.
Creating a Pull Motivation
How much of what you do is motivated by fear? Or pleasing other people? Of course we have to consider other people when we think about our Best Hopes - our family, our children, our colleagues. However, the more fulfilled and satisfied we are, the more those around us will benefit.
Best Hopes based on negatives (I want to be less anxious, to get out of this relationship, to leave this job) are push motivations. Yes, if the push motivation is strong enough it might get you out of something you don’t want, but it won’t help you get what you do want.
The key to lasting, positive change is to create a strong pull motivation and a positive, compelling vision of the future that naturally pulls you forward.
Describing your Best Hopes is a more creative, satisfying and pleasant way to begin the process of lasting change.
It begins with day-dreaming. Just take time out with a friend or close family member, or on your own, to think about what it is you really need and want. At this stage, don’t worry too much about whether your dreams and hopes are realistic or achievable. Just indulge in some ‘blue sky thinking’ and creative imagining.
Challenges and Blocks
Envisioning the future is not easy if you haven’t got a clear idea of how you want the future to be. It’s even harder if you have had a challenging life, full of abandonment, loss, pain and disappointment. If that’s the case you may need the support of a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist to help guide you through this process. Nevertheless, you might find this article helpful.
Meeting your Core Needs
As you start to frame your Best Hopes, keep your fundamental needs in mind. That will help you avoid creating aspirations that please or impress others but are not authentic to your beliefs, values and motivations, or are unrealistic and unachievable in the time frame.
Beyond basic needs - air, water, food, shelter, sleep - all humans also need to meet a number of fundamental emotional needs. Our needs are competing and complementary. We need privacy and we need to belong. We need some control over our lives. We want to be able to make our own decisions. We need meaning and purpose. We may need more creative freedom, or more challenge and competition.
Framing your Best Hopes
So, you write your best hopes in broad terms focused on the future. You are just dreaming and imagining and hoping. Initially your Best Hopes might sound a bit like this:
“This year, my Best Hopes are to meet someone and steadily build a stable and secure relationship. I want my work and home life to be better balanced. I want to earn more money so I can save for a deposit for a house. I want to get fitter, healthier and stronger, and achieve my ideal weight. I would like to start preparing for a physical challenge like a mini-marathon or a long hike, or maybe a sponsored event.” Or
“I want to make new friends. I want to feel more stable, secure and safe. I want to have a job and I live in a shared house where I get on with my housemates.”
Notice how these Best Hopes are framed in the future. We would naturally tend to do that. Think about what we want or what will happen without a time-frame. That’s a very positive start. All you are thinking about is what you want and what you hope will happen in future.
Best Hopes Checklist
Best Hopes suspend your critical judgment (the ifs, buts, and cant’s) and take account of:
- Your aspirations, hopes and dreams
- Your needs: safety, security, stability, stimulation, connection
- what makes your heart sing
- what brings contentment
- What brings you joy
- what brings you peace
- What gives you purpose
- What gives your life meaning
- and goals when all obstacles have been removed.
Once you have written down your Best Hopes, you can just check through this list and make sure you haven’t included any negatives. Your primitive mind is like a toddler. It doesn;t understand negatives and tends to ignore them. So try not to write things like, “I don’t want to be so anxious” rather you would write something like, “I want to feel calmer and more in control.” Instead of, “I want to leave my horrible flat” write, “I want to live in a nice clean home”, or “I want to live in a better environment where I feel safe and secure.”
Remember your primitive mind is listening and responding to what you tell it, or what you suggest.
2 Imagine your Future
Now we take your Best Hopes and we make them feel real.
We use them to create a strong vision of a Preferred Future.
Your Preferred Future is your vision of the future, based on your Best Hopes, but coloured with feelings and sensations. Your vision of the future is framed to create a strong emotional pull. When we think about imagining our Preferred Future, we are thinking about what life will be like after we have realised our Best Hopes or achieved our goals.
We think about what we will see, hear, feel (even smell) when have realized our Best Hopes. We think about these things as if they are happening right now.
The Day After your Best Hopes are Realised
Imagine it’s the day after your Best Hopes are realised. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Where are you and what are you doing?
- What are you thinking about, talking about or reflecting on?
- Who are you with?
- What can you see, smell, hear, feel, touch?
Here’s an example: “It’s 1st July 2023 and I am on holiday in the Maldives. My partner and I are walking along the beach, watching the sun go down. I can taste my Margherita as I paddle through the warm shallows and feel the warm water on my feet and calves. I feel my partner’s hand in mine. I smell the clean fresh air and feel the warm breeze against my skin. We are talking about the mini-marathon we ran earlier that month and how proud we felt when we achieved it. We feel closer than ever having shared this challenge and got through it together. I feel so safe, loved and secure. We are finding it so much easier to talk to each other. I am talking about how much I enjoy my new role as a senior designer and I love my new work environment and supportive colleagues.”
Doesn’t that feel good to read? Can you imagine being there? Can you capture the sensations? It’s a very powerful vision. it elicits strong emotions. It helps to generate endorphins such as oxytocin (the love hormone), dopamine (the motivation hormone) and serotonin (the feel-good hormone).
Embedding this strong, powerful vision of the future, writing it down, reading it, picturing and then letting go of the outcome, you find you subconscious mind is naturally focused on making this picture of the future a reality. It becomes a deeply embedded vision.
You have created a powerful pull motivation.
And that’s how manifesting works.
Your Subconscious Creates your Future
Practising visualizing future events to ‘lock in’ the image (sounds, smells, sensations) into your unconscious mind.
Your primitive, instinctive, subconscious mind starts to experience the images and sensations as real. Your hypothalamus pumps out endorphins – chemicals that make you feel good or motivated - when you think about your vision.
Your imagination literally starts to change your brain chemistry. Your clear vision inspires you to keep moving forward.
The Science of Success
There is science behind vision boards, neuro-linguistic programming goal setting, hypnosis and manifesting.
Nina Lichtenberg writes in Neuroscience magazine that envisioning the future for just 5 minutes a day could rewire your brain for success.
The Power of Visualisation
Several studies indicate that the brain can’t distinguish between a memory and a vision of the future. Practising visualization of future events helps you to keep taking positive steps forward towards to realizing your vision. Your future vision becomes more dominant than past negative memories, helping you move forward from past negative experiences.
This vision may take some persistence and discipline to truly embed, which is where hypnosis can be helpful. Otherwise, affirmations, meditation or modalities like EFT tapping might help you on your way.
The Default Mode Network
The part of our brain involved in imagining and envisioning our future is called the default mode network (DMN).
Joseph Kable, a Professor at Penn University in the USA, and his team of researchers, discovered that when we envision the future, two sub-networks work together. One sub-network envisions the future event, while the other determines whether that event is perceived as positive or a negative.
Forging new synapses
Imagining the future forges new connections or synapses between neurons, or the electrically excitable nerve cells in the brain. in effect, imagining the future helps you rewire your mind.
By imagining how you want life to be, rather than you don’t want life to be, and detailing how you want to live, feel, think, react and interact therefore naturally helps you to reduce ruminating and procrastination and negative thinking. Being future focused - while simultaneously letting go of the outcome - helps us break bad habits and change destructive behaviours. We find we have changed the way we think, act, react and interact.
An Authentic Vision of the Future
Neuro-linguistic Programming is the science and art of using language, and the power and plasticity of our minds, to make the changes we want. NLP Goal setting is a very useful, and tried and tested process. Well framed goals can really motivate us. But goals can also be cold, hard, abstract outcomes that can loom over us, intimidate us and overwhelm us.
When our vision of the Preferred Future is drawn from our Best Hopes, it is authentic, it comes from our heart. It feels right. It gives us hope. It makes our heart sing or brings a sense of satisfaction and contentment when we think about it.
A SMART Vision of the Future
A well-framed Preferred Future vision feels like it is already happening. However, drawing from NLP Goal setting we can apply the SMART acronym to test our vision.
Good goals are SMART. That’s an acronym meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.
My version replaces Achievable (which after all is very like realistic) for Authentic, and Measurable with Meaningful. Now let’s look at our Preferred Future Vision and apply the acronym. Let’s use our example.
“It’s 1st July 2023 and I am on holiday in the Maldives. My partner and I are walking along the beach, watching the sun go down. I can taste my Margherita as I paddle through the warm shallows and feel the warm water on my feet and calves. I feel my partner’s hand in mine. I smell the clean fresh air and feel the warm breeze against my skin. We are talking about the mini-marathon we ran earlier that month and how proud we felt when we achieved it. We feel closer than ever having shared this challenge and got through it together. I feel so safe, loved and secure. We are finding it so much easier to talk to each other. I am talking about how much I enjoy my new role as a senior designer, and I love my new work environment and supportive colleagues.”
Yes, our Preferred Future Vision is specific and not too general. We are rooted in a moment in time with specific sensations and a sense of place.
In NLP goal setting, the M stands for measurable. It refers to measuring success (income received, mountain climbed, sales achieved etc ). The Preferred Future however, is ‘qualitative’ not ‘quantitative’ - more about feelings and sensations, than numbers and facts. What you imagine you also, in some sense, experience. The Maldives vision is full of connection and sensation. For this vision to be meaningful, safety and security need to be core needs. If you need a little danger, some degree of risk and excitement, this vision of the future would not feel meaningful or motivating.
If your goal would make your mum happy, or your boyfriend, or your dog, but doesn’t fill you with joy, it may not be authentic. If you are framing a vision of the future on what you think you ought to be doing to impress others, then it cannot be authentic. As you read your vision, how does it make you feel? If it feels right, it probably is authentic? If it makes your heart sing? If it makes you feel safe and comfortable, or excited and energised, it is authentic. You can only judge authenticity with your gut, and your heart.
If going to the Maldives would stretch your finances and makes you feel concerned when you think about it, maybe its a stretch. You might change the location to the Canary Islands or Cornwall. What is the state of your relationship now? What are the state of your finances?
Miracles can happen but if your vision doesn’t feel realistic, feels overwhelming or creates any sense of fear or trepidation, or alternatively seems dull or unexciting, then maybe this vision is not realistic or achievable. If, for example, there’s a lot of friction in your relationship right now, it might feel more realistic to say, “We are no longer arguing and we are making new plans. I am beginning to trust again and feel we have a future together.”
If the vision is full of unrealistic possibilities (I have won the lottery, Brad Pitt has proposed to me) then you are likely to be disappointed. If, however, you have a business, and a great business plan, love entrepreneurial opportunities, have plenty of drive and energy, and your vision is to be a millionaire in 2 years, that may be very realistic.
Trust your intuition.
It helps to have a time-frame for your Preferred Future. Your unconscious mind has a sense of time. Several actions need to take place between now and the Preferred Future. The time frame therefore needs to feel realistic too.
So now you have reviewed your Preferred Future you are ready to move forward.
Let go of the Outcome
Now let go of the outcome. Don’t strive. Don’t push. Don’t force.
You might or might not achieve the exact vision of your Preferred Future but you will move forward in some positive way. Imagine you were planning a journey to Vladivostok. Six months later you find yourself in Timbuctoo. You will still have travelled forward.
We cannot control every aspect of the future. We can only set our intent, envision it, and allow our future to unfold. The outcome, however, will always take your forward to a better future.
Trust your clear, visual, creative vision of the future to take you forwards in a positive direction.
3. Small steps forward
Now you aim to take incremental, steady steps towards that vision. Not great leaps. No mad plans. Or obsessive drive. Just small, steady steps.
Notice what’s good and better
By creating daily habits of noticing what is good or better, you retrain the mind to think, act and react very differently. You become more stable, more focused and more positive.
You change the way you think, act and react.
Every day, and every week, think about what you have done that is good or positive. What actions did you take that will take you closer to your goal? What have you noticed that shows you are moving towards your goal (renewing your passport, searching for holidays on line, updating your CV, getting an interview, losing a pound or two)?
Train yourself to look for what’s good, better or was challenging but you handled it better. Keep a diary, a journal, or just note the changes on your phone notes. You can review back from time to time and see what progress you have made to keep you motivation.
Develop an attitude of gratitude
Develop a habit of gratitude for what you have now, and really appreciate the small things. The positive mindset that creates will also keep you motivated and upbeat as you move forward. That might be things you take for granted – hot water, heating, warm clothes, or big things like family, a beautiful home and a job that pays the bills. Many studies over the past decade have found that people who count their blessings are much more likely to be happier and less depressed, and less likely to be pulled down by toxic emotions.* See References
Keep a Journal
By reviewing your journal or notes from time to time you will see your progress and that will keep you motivated and positive.
Step by step; day by day; week by week; month by month, you will find yourself pulled forward towards your compelling, exciting, comforting or challenging vision of the future. You will change your mindset and find yourself more positive, more motivated and happier.
Quite naturally. Quite easily. And quite comfortably.
However, if you find you are struggling to make progress on your own, it might be time to seek some professional support.
Getting Help and Support
There are many different paths you might choose to help you develop a positive mindset, and realise your hopes and goals including coaching and neuroscience-linguistic programming or NLP.
What’s holding you back?
However, when you are keen to keep focused on now and the future, but feel held back by anxiety, irrational fears, phobias, past traumas, negative behaviours or unhelpful habits, Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help you. Solution Focused conversations are framed around Best Hopes, the Preferred Future and small steps forward. A trained and qualified Solution Focused Hypnotherapist will keep your on track and keep you moving forwards.
Finding your own solutions
Solution Focused approaches utilise carefully framed questions to facilitate you to find your own solutions, and to help you imagine, create and realise the future you want.
What is Solution Focused Hypnotherapy?
The wonderful thing about Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (sometimes combined with other Solution Focused disciplines like NLP, Rewind Trauma Therapy, breathing techniques, tapping and other modalities) is that clients do not need to talk about the past, nor disclose sensitive information they prefer to keep private.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy or SFH gives you back your personal agency - control over your thoughts, actions and reactions. And ultimately, control over your life. SF Hypnotherapy integrates the ancient wisdom of hypnosis integrated with core elements of tried and tested Solution Focused Brief Therapy.
A Solution Focused Hypnotherapist is trained to help you focus on now and the future, and can support you as you learn to change the way you think, act, react and interact.
By working with the plasticity of your mind, the power of your imagination, and subconscious mind, you can create the future you want and effortlessly transform your life.
Forbes Magazine: Alison Escalante: Scientists Discover What Really Happens in the Brain When We Imagine the Future.
You Gov Article by Peter Raven: How many Britons have made New Year’s resolutions for 2023?
How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain, Joshua Brown and Joel Wong, The Great Good Magazine, Berkeley University