Neural Pathway Highways and Ruts: Change Your Habits

Neural Pathways - Christian Espinosa

Isn’t it amazing how the human brain can be so powerful? You can even rewire it to achieve things you didn’t know you were capable of.

Before I understood how my mind works, I used to believe that events from my past will always have an influence on what I will become in the future. I thought I couldn’t possibly change my behaviors, especially when those behaviors were instilled in me since I was a child.

But when I discovered that it’s possible for our brains to create new pathways, I recognized how powerful it is and how this can improve a person’s behavior, health, and mindset. Keep reading for an in-depth understanding of how our minds work!

What Is NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming?

From the name itself, it basically means organizing and understanding the language of the brain. It involves taking control of both the conscious and subconscious mind to change one’s behavior and thoughts.

The practice of NLP started in the 1970s as a treatment for schizophrenia, phobias, depression—even allergies and flu. It is also used to help improve one’s work performance and discover how one perceives happiness. So, how does it work?

There are different tools and techniques in NLP that are used to control how we see negative things from our past and change our perception of them. As an example, if someone has hurt me with their words before, distorting their voice and how they said it may make me perceive the words in a more comical way.

Now, I’m going to compare NLP to the so-called ‘placebo effect’, also called the power of belief. If I strongly believe that I won’t live a long life, chances are I will really die young. But if I put my mind to outliving my grandmother, then there’s a higher chance I will do so.

Now, I will compare that to neuro-linguistic programming. In contrast to the placebo effect, NLP is about setting goals for ourselves. It is the power to control beliefs and visualize them in other ways. It also focuses on asking and answering the right questions—so, If I want to outlive my grandmother, I need to ask myself, “How can I outlive her?”

NLP is about having the right communication with our subconscious, which is believed to be more powerful than our conscious mind. NLP helps with sending the right messages to our subconscious so that it can interpret our goals better and understand what we want in life.

There are a number of studies that prove NLP works in treatments. In a study done by Structured Clinical Interview for DSM‐IV Personality Disorders (SCID II), a therapy group who underwent NLP had a significant decrease in clinical illness and an increase in their quality of life as opposed to those who hadn’t.

Understanding NLP presuppositions can increase your awareness and make you a better leader of yourself and others.

Neural Pathways

Another way we can change our behaviors and thoughts is by understanding how our brain works. The human brain is composed of thousands of neurons that are connected by dendrites. When we develop a new habit, these dendrites increase in number and form new connections in our brain.

These connections are called neural pathways. I sometimes think of it as a road—if I do something for the first time, the neural pathway is like an unpaved road. The more I repeat the task, the more it’ll turn into a habit. And when that becomes a habit, the neural pathway will finally be a paved road, much like a highway—strong and well-formed.

For every discovery I’ve had ever since I was a child, a neural pathway has been formed in my brain. When I saw a bike for the first time, a connection in my brain suddenly began to take form. When I first rode it and practiced with it, that connection slowly became thicker. And when I finally learned it, the neural pathways became dominant—the transmission of connection has gotten faster and stronger. Because of this habit, I was able to ride a bike on auto-pilot.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat Until It’s a Habit

Repeating the same actions or behaviors for at least three months or more helps develop a habit. However, that usually depends on the person. Not only that, it usually takes at least 10,000 repetitions to make a strong neural pathway. Similar to that, the more we think about something, the more our brains will make a dominant pathway of that thought in our brain.

Now, I’m going to get back to my bike riding skills. If I suddenly decided to stop learning it, that connection or neural pathway that formed in my brain would slowly deteriorate and eventually disconnect.

How Do Neural Pathways Affect Our Behavior?

As a kid, many of us grew up afraid of certain animals. We had an unnerving fear that somehow they would hurt us because that’s what some parents told us, right? That is why many people are still wary of adopting animals because of the pathway of fear that has formed in our minds.

Now, I will take that example and turn it into a good one. If I grew up believing that I am good at English, my brain will form a connection that associates me being good with words and in terms of communication. That connection will get stronger and stronger, creating a positive impact on me as an adult.

To put it simply, these connections influence our behaviors. The stronger the connection is, the more difficult it will be for us to change. The inability to change a pathway can lead to compulsive obsession and even addiction.

How Do We Turn Weak Neural Pathways Into Strong Ones?

Creating a new habit can be difficult, as it is part of human nature to focus on the negatives.

“I can’t do it.”

“I am too old for this.”

“How can I possibly change when I’ve been doing this for so long?”

However, there are tips and tricks on how to easily form new behaviors and change the perspective of the mind. Here are some:

  • Be mindful and take in all the good things. Don’t rush it; habits take time to build, so just enjoy the process.
  • Think of the positive emotions that are connected with a new habit. For example, a new habit in baking can be associated with a grandmother who also enjoys the same activity.
  • Thinking of the future outcome helps the mind build willpower, reinforcing the habit. If a new habit is associated with fitness, think of the physical changes and the positive effects that it will have on the body.
  • Repeat it until it becomes a habit. The key here is to create new neural pathways that will be strong enough to turn into superhighways.


It is possible to change our neural pathways by changing how we perceive things through neuroplasticity. In fact, we can consciously change by reorganizing our own thoughts. We think of our old thoughts and ideas—for example, being scared of the animals before—and turn them into positive notes. “Well, these animals are so cute and fluffy after all. And they won’t hurt me as long as I respect their space.”

So, when it comes to bad habits or the ‘ruts’ in our superhighways, how do we turn them into new habits? The first key to this is consistency and practice.

For example, a student who’s not so good at math has a bad habit of not turning in her assignments. However, with consistent practice and assistance from her teacher, her brain has reordered her perception of math, and her brain has created a superhighway, one stronger than the pathway of her bad habit.

With her new and developed habit, the old one becomes a choice—an option that she can opt to live without. And once the brain has chosen to use the superhighway because it’s stronger, the old pathways will turn into rubble.

The second key is commitment. Here’s another example.

Smoking is a bad habit. However, a chain-smoker feels a certain sense of happiness whenever they smoke a cigarette. For this reason, they find it hard to leave old habits and start with new ones.

As much as consistency and practice are important, it’s also necessary to start. By start, I mean create a pathway—even just a small one—in the brain that can eventually turn into a superhighway. It’s hard to create new habits, but commitment needs to start somewhere. There are many things our brain can accomplish once we’ve committed.

Final Thoughts

It can be challenging to put an end to our ruts and change them into superhighways. However, once we’ve fully accepted and embraced the power of our mind, we can unleash its optimum potential to improve our goals and personal life.

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Awareness: Models of the World

Awareness - Christian EspinosaBeing an effective leader requires many things. Aside from understanding our own skills and capabilities, we need to exert time and effort to understand what others can do and how factors in the environment affect our ability to lead. We need to look at the bigger picture and change our perspective on things.

Self-awareness and “models of the world” as used in the NLP Presuppositions are two of the most important concepts we should learn a leaders. Fully understanding what these ideas mean will make it easier for us to effectively lead individuals and teams.

What is Self-Awareness and Awareness of Others?

Simply defined, self-awareness is the experience of being aware of the different aspects of ourselves. Self-awareness can include feelings, behaviors, and habits.

Self-awareness is important because we can experience ourselves as separate and unique individuals once we have a better understanding. Being self-aware can empower us to implement changes by building on our strengths and identify areas that require improvement.

Awareness of others, on the other hand, is referred to as interpersonal awareness that teaches us how to understand other people and why it’s important to show understanding to them. Awareness of others is one of the cornerstones of effective leadership because understanding others will help us improve our interpersonal skills.

What Does “Models of the World” Mean?

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP, the term “models of the world” refers to an individual’s beliefs, filters, values, desires, and expectations. This term also talks about people’s learning and experience about the world.

In the first NLP presupposition, Respect for the Other Person’s Model of the World, this means we I should acknowledge how different other people are and accept their opinions even if it clashes with ours.

This presupposition also indicates that to be an effective leader, we should not change how other people look at certain things or tell them they’re wrong. Aside from being disrespectful, doing so will make other people feel unsafe and can discourage them from expressing themselves in the future. Once this happens, we’ll have to work twice as hard to lead people and convince them that we are effective leaders.

Every human being in the world has their own “model of the world”, and ours can impact how we see and interact with other people. This happens because our reactions to certain situations will depend on our own beliefs, values, and expectations.

While some leaders get angry the moment their colleague informs them of a project submitted past the deadline, other leaders would calmly ask their colleague why the project was submitted late and offer assistance to minimize any kind of delay moving forward. In the example provided, both of these leaders were in the same situation but acted differently simply because they have different “models of the world”.

How Can We Improve Awareness in the Context of Models of the World?

Since being a leader means working with people that have different “models of the world”, it’s essential that we exert resources to improve awareness. Understanding other people can help us predict how they would feel when placed in a certain situation and allow us to make sense of how they would react.

Improving our sense of self-awareness and awareness of others, while paying attention to the context of “models of the world” in the NLP presupposition, are important ingredients for us to become effective leaders. The more we understand ourselves and the people around us, the easier it’ll be for us to lead.

The following tips are useful for us to improve our sense of awareness:

1.    Prioritize Effective Listening

Communication is vital in every team. Regardless of how skilled the members are, if they’re not communicating properly, they won’t be able to achieve goals. However, for us to become effective leaders and understand others, it’s not enough that we know how to talk — we should also learn how to listen effectively.

Through effective listening, we can better understand ourselves and others because we’ll learn how to identify facts before judging any situation. Listening will help us analyze the situation and people around us, allowing us to come up with sound decisions.

Moreover, it is also through effective listening that we’ll learn how to remain calm despite challenging situations. When we listen to our team members every time they talk to us, we won’t be as surprised when certain things happen.

2.    Repeat What Is Said

Listening is an important skill that takes effort to master. Listening is different from hearing because the latter merely talks about a passive action. When we hear other people talking, we acknowledge that they’re conversing, but we don’t pay any attention to what their conversation is about. Listening, on the other hand, requires engagement.

For us to improve our listening skills and easily understand the environment and people around us, we should always repeat whatever is said to us during conversations. Being able to repeat what the other speaker tells us shows that we were actively listening to their message. Moreover, if we miss something and fail to repeat what the speaker said, the speaker can always correct us to ensure that we have a better grasp of the conversation.

Knowing how to listen attentively requires a lot of practice but is worth it in the end as it’ll be easier for team members to trust us. Most importantly, listening attentively can become our platform to understand members better because we’ll have insight as to why they act or think in a certain way.

3.    Show Empathy and Compassion

One of the biggest misconceptions people have when it comes to effective leadership is that leaders should always be authoritative and strict. For many, these traits will inject fear into their team members, which many think will translate to respect.

However, this isn’t true because team members who fear leaders will likely have a hard time expressing their ideas and working effectively in the team. Fear-based leadership will only cause the leaders to lose their credibility, and the team is often afraid to act.

Instead of being too authoritative and strict, showing empathy and compassion to our members is a better direction for us to take to become effective leaders. When we empathize and become compassionate towards team members, the communication within the team can improve. These traits can also broaden our horizons and allow us to view different situations in another light.

Instead of shouting at a member whenever they fail to meet their responsibilities, we should put ourselves in their shoes and understand their situation. Is the task at hand too challenging for the member? Did we give enough time for the member to accomplish the task? Was the member provided enough resources? Being empathetic and compassionate will give us more insight into my members’ problems and gradually improve our social awareness.

Learning Is Essential

For us to become effective leaders, it’s crucial to have the willingness to learn and the ability to put this newly acquired knowledge into practice. It would be challenging for us to lead individuals and teams if our knowledge and skills become stagnant.

Now that we have an in-depth understanding of self-awareness and the phrase “models of the world”, we can finally look at leadership from another perspective. Incorporating these concepts will allow us to understand ourselves and other people better, making it easier for us to improve our leadership skills.

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NLP Presuppositions for Leaders

nlp communication modelThe unpredictability of life is one of the reasons why living it can be very exciting. We never know what will happen next.

However, it’s also because of this unpredictability that many people struggle. Aspiring leaders find it hard to adapt to unexpected changes and become ineffective in their roles as a result.

Fortunately, all is not lost. There are 14 NLP presuppositions that we can apply to become better leaders. NLP stands for Neuro-linguistic programming, and these presuppositions are languages, thoughts, and patterns of behavior that are used by successful individuals to attain certain goals. These NLP presuppositions can help us strengthen our leadership capabilities, manage difficult people, and develop more effective strategies for problem-solving.

With regular practice, it won’t be long before we can adapt to the challenges of life and even come to use these challenges to our advantage.

Listed below are 14 NLP presuppositions every aspiring leader should take note of.

1. Respect for the Other Person’s Model of the World

The first presupposition is the foundation of all other presuppositions. As a leader, it’s vital to show respect for colleagues, regardless of whether their opinions clash with ours. Individuals have unique traits, and leaders should accept these rather than forcing them to change or telling them that their stance is wrong.

Respecting other people’s views, opinions, and beliefs makes them feel safe and encourages them to express their ideas to the team. As a leader, understanding this concept makes it easier to work with other people and harness their skills for the advancement of the team.

2. Behavior and Change Are To Be Evaluated in Terms of Context and Ecology

In relation to the first presupposition, it also follows that individuals have different definitions of what is good or bad, and right or wrong. What seems like a good option for one doesn’t always mean that it’s also the best option for others, and vice versa.

Another presupposition that we should incorporate in our lives is to avoid looking at every situation as good or bad, and right or wrong as this is very subjective. Instead, we should dig in deeper and understand why individuals choose a certain route.

For instance, before we jump to conclusions and think that a person using drugs is a menace to society, we should think about the reasons why they’re doing drugs in the first place. Once we understand the context of other people’s behavior and choices, we can suggest other courses of action that can be better for us, the person involved, and any larger entity.

3. Resistance Is a Sign of a Lack of Rapport

The diversity of other people can become an issue for leaders. People sometimes resent when rules and instructions are given to them. But when we follow the NLP presuppositions, the diversity of these individuals shouldn’t become an issue, as long as we know how to build rapport with them.

Clients who seem resistant are often not responding to how we are communicating, rather than rejecting our ideas. To counter this, we need to be more flexible and effective communicators to build a rapport with the client.

Building rapport as a leader is important because the more we influence other people, the easier it is for them to follow the instructions. This works because creating an impact in other people’s lives through rapport encourages them to trust us, and eventually, our leadership.

4. People Are Not Their Behaviors

How people behave is not a reflection of their identity. If someone often jokes around, we shouldn’t label them as the joker. If someone can’t finish a task on time, this doesn’t mean that they’re inefficient in their job.

We should keep in mind that people and their behaviors are two different things, and as leaders, it’s our responsibility to improve their behavior while accepting them as a person. We should never label anyone based on how they act in certain situations, as this prevents us from truly knowing and understanding that person.

5. Everyone Is Doing the Best They Can With the Resources They Have Available

There are times when people’s choices irritate us and cause us to jump to conclusions. For example, if someone turned down a job offer, we might think that this person is ungrateful or too proud to work for someone else.

However, if we follow the 5th NLP presupposition, we can understand that the reason for someone’s behavior is because they’re doing the best they could in the situation. If they refuse a job offer, they might have accepted a better one or plan on delaying employment for other pressing matters.

When we trust that other people are doing their best and adapting to situations with good intentions, we can easily approach them and provide resources to help them achieve their goals.

Technical professionals often have problems in fixing their people skills because of insecurity and poor communication skills, but keeping in mind that people are always doing their best in every situation can help address the problem.

6. Calibrate on Behavior

Leaders are expected to know a lot of things about their team members — and we can easily achieve this goal by calibrating on other people’s behaviors. This simply means that as NLP practitioners and aspiring leaders, we should take cues from how people act and use this information to look for patterns or any physiological sign that can help us determine any changes.

By doing this, we can identify problems and help a person change for the better.

7. The Map Is Not the Territory

As leaders, we should understand that people have different experiences and interpretations of these experiences. This means that their ideas of the world (their maps) aren’t the reality or complete picture of what’s happening (the territory). Further, their words aren’t always a clear representation of what they represent either.

Two people can go through the same things in life but still have different experiences, meaning our map of the territory can be different even if we have the same territory as other people.

8. You Are in Charge of Your Mind and Therefore Your Results

This NLP presupposition talks about accountability and how we should own up to the results of our actions and decisions. If we weren’t able to meet a certain goal in our life, we should change our mindset and actions to have better results. Everyone is responsible for their own thinking and the results of that thinking.

9. People Have All the Resources They Need To Succeed and To Achieve Their Desired Outcomes

Humans are capable of doing a lot of things, yet not all of us attain the same results or achievements in life. The reason? It has nothing to do with personal resources and everything to do with having a resourceful state.

Regardless of how smart someone is, if they’re in an unresourceful state, they won’t achieve any of their goals. When translated into leadership, the resources we give to our team are useless if they’re always in an unresourceful state.

10. All Procedures Should Increase Wholeness

Conflicts are common in teams because members often have opinions that clash with others. To become effective leaders, we should make the most out of these conflicts by reconnecting and repairing any disconnects or miscommunications within the team. Keep in mind that disputes usually start with positive intent and desire for the same outcome.

By integrating conflicts, we can increase wholeness and eventually form congruence within the team.

11. There Is Only Feedback!

Regardless of how much we try, there are instances when we fail in life. But according to the NLP presuppositions, there’s no such thing as “failure” in life, only feedback.

We can use our inability to achieve certain goals in life as feedback telling us that we should seek another course of action to have better results. By changing our mindset and turning negative experiences into something positive, we attract different and better results from our efforts.

12. The Meaning of Communication Is the Response You Get

To communicate effectively with other people, it’s not enough to simply convey your message to them; you should make sure that they understand what you’re saying.

This presupposition means that the success of the message you communicated is measurable by the results you get. If you instructed your colleague to finish a task and they delivered it, then your message was successful. If they submitted output but done so weeks after the deadline you’ve set, then the message you’ve communicated with them was ineffective.

13. The Law of Requisite Variety

As leaders, flexibility is crucial. The more flexible we are with our team, the easier it is for us to manage a team and become effective leaders. Whatever system or person is the most flexible in what it can do is ultimately the piece that controls all the others.

14. All Procedures Should Be Designed To Increase Choice

Having lots of choices in life makes us feel empowered and free. Being able to experience these things should motivate us to remain open and flexible all the time to have even more choices in life. We should never restrict ourselves as this only prevents us from having choices.

Achieve Goals

Applying NLP presuppositions in our lives requires time, so it’s important to be patient in our efforts. We might feel discouraged at some point in the process, but if we want to improve ourselves as leaders, we should stay focused and determined in achieving our goals by using NLP presuppositions in our lives.

Aside from incorporating all of the NLP presuppositions presented in this article, our efforts to become effective leaders are more successful when using reliable sources, such as my book “The Smartest Person in the Room: The Root Cause and New Solution for Cybersecurity.”

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