me kay cooke

Molly finds a formula to improve her French

10 year old Molly explained that her French language grades at school were falling fast but she didn’t really care. She was not feeling motivated to make any effort in this subject.


She had decided learning French was of no interest to her since she didn’t want to become a French teacher when she grew up. It seemed that simple. Her ‘off’’ power-switch thinking told her “it’ll be boring”.


On the other hand, Molly made a huge effort to learn science. Her ‘on’ power-switch thinking told her “this will be interesting”.


I wondered if her thinking was in fact, a bit like a science formula:



“It’ll be boring” > feeling uncomfortable > no effort.

“It’ll be interesting” > feeling inspired > effort.


Molly’s ‘thinking’ conversations inside her mind, sounded something like this:

QUESTION: “why should I have to learn French?”

ANSWER: “it’s not going to be useful to me”


QUESTION: “why should I learn science?”

ANSWER: “it’s going to be useful to me”


We called the answers ‘judgement’ that helped her decide where and where not, to place her attention and effort. Her judgements were based on remembering her past experiences rather than thinking ahead to her future choices.


We chatted about developing a champion mindset, and researched real champions like Einstein, Da Vinci, and Tesla, who shared at least three characteristics:


  1. They used visualisation to explore what they might be able to see, hear and feel in the future.
  2. They had an attitude of curiosity about everything in the world around them and just kept exploring everything, which in turn expanded their thinking into genius minds.
  3. They cooperated with others to learn and achieve more.


Could Molly imagine keeping her mindset open and expanding?

Did she know yet what her own potential is for a champion/genius brain?


Would she like to learn how to develop this?


If so, we’d need to adjust her current strategy for motivation and begin to make a few changes. This is of course, what smart learners of all ages, do.


I wondered about the science of thought experiments and what would happen if she explored a different kind of question and answer in all her classes.


Perhaps she could start by discovering what happened when she changed the question inside her mind:

OLD QUESTION: “why should I learn French or Science?”

NEW QUESTION “how easily can I learn this (subject) whilst enjoying it and having fun?”


And then change the answer:

OLD ANSWER (attitude of judgement) : “it’s either useful to me or not”.

NEW ANSWER (attitude of curiosity) : “I wonder what is possible for me to learn with my brilliant brain?”


Perhaps Molly hadn’t, until now, realised how smart people (lawyers, surgeons, politicians etc) had studied many brain-balancing subjects all at the same time, including maths, sciences, creative arts, sports and languages. That way they had kept their options open and expanded their whole brain capabilities.


So we looked at a new formula for her to think through:




“HOW EASILY can I do this?”

“HOW MUCH FUN can I have doing this?”

“WHAT is possible for me to learn today?”

“WHAT is my potential for champion/genius mindset?”


NEW FEELINGS – we wondered which ones would she notice first:

Motivated, curious, open minded, interested, fun.


NEW BEHAVIOURS – we wondered which ones would surprise her most:

Focused attention, cooperation with others, listening to inner genius and listening to others’ experiences, asking questions to self (e.g. “what am I capable of?”) and asking questions to others (“please can you help me?”), visualising yourself doing these things easily and having fun.


Molly’s interest in science can help her to realise that these experiments have no right or wrong outcome, they simply expand her capabilities in thinking, feelings and behaviours. The champion mindset!


Today’s tip is about developing a champion mindset in this case, while playing a sport. We’re going to use the example of tennis but the mindset applies to all sports.


This is based on a real coaching session with an 11-year-old girl.


It may be helpful for any young person at school as well as any adult looking to brain train for success.


Why is a champion mindset important?

Have you ever experienced thoughts like:

I’m not as good as before”

“I’m not as good as him or her”

“I’m going to lose this (match)”


Because this type of thinking can make you feel disappointed, which in turn can lead to you not performing as well. This is called de-motivation and it doesn’t feel good does it?


Do you remember that time you really wanted to win a match/situation (your goal), and as soon as you realised you couldn’t win the match/situation (couldn’t achieve your goal), you felt disappointed with your performance?


When you feel de-motivated, it feels bad doesn’t it, and also affects your whole performance.


The good news is that when you develop a different ‘mindset’ like one that champion sports people use – you get to stay feeling motivated.


It’s all about changing the goal, and here’s how to do it.


A new mindset strategy

First of all, know the difference between a short-term goal and a long-term goal.


A short-term goal might be to eat a snack because you’re hungry, whereas a long-term goal might be to have a healthy body.


If you only focus on the short-term goal i.e. to satisfy hunger, you could easily eat lots of unhealthy foods every time. This may be OK in the short term, but can have disastrous long-term consequences for health. People who teach their brains to only pay attention to short-term goals often forget the really important future person they want to be.


So you can see that ‘winning the tennis match’ is a short-term goal. It is a useful short-term goal so long as you also have a strategy to stay motivated and feeling great so you perform at your best and we can call this your champion’s mindset.


Using this champion’s mindset, you don’t let feelings of disappointment de-motivate you. Instead you learn how world-class sportspeople stay motivated and start to train your mind to think like them.


How world-class sportspeople stay motivated is by believing in ‘continual improvement, which means they keep asking themselves “how much can I improve my performance?” rather than “how can I win the match”.


A great question to ask yourself is “just how well can I play next time?” or even more important “how much fun can I have playing tennis next time?”


Having fun creates powerful brain chemistry that helps you learn faster and more easily.


Let’s look at taking feedback from the last performance and feeding it forwards into the next performance.


Mental rehearsal is key

Using your imagination – on purpose – is a really smart way to imporove your performance and success. Developing your mind’s eye through the skill of visualisation (I call it Imagineering) will really help you learn and revise at school and become a better performer in all areas of life, including sport.


Here’s how: Close your eyes and imagine yourself playing your next sports match (or other performance).

See yourself performing effortlessly and easily moving your body around the court, pitch or track and if you’re playing tennis, notice how you serve and return with absolute precision.


Now use your imagination to become that future you and what do you see? What do you hear as the ball rebounds perfectly from the centre of your racquet? How does it feel when your muscles and joints are smooth and powerful?


This is a mental rehearsal for a short-term goal. It sets your brain towards a useful target, which is, to get better at playing tennis.


Where else might this be useful?

There are so many ways you can use this strategy, perhaps you can think of some right now?


Let’s look at going to sleep at night.


The long-term goal is to be healthy, alert and full of energy.


The short-term goal is to wake up each morning feeling refreshed.


What could stop you doing this? Mind clutter! Lots of thoughts bouncing around inside your brain!


So use your imagination to mentally rehearse the short-term goal by imagining a cool, blue mist beginning to rise up inside your mind, slowly dissolving away each of the ‘mind chatter’ words. Notice how it swirls and hear the sounds as each words dissolves. Feel the coolness and refreshing mist spread calmness throughout your resting body.



What next?

There are many ways you can develop your champion mindset including:

  • Asking yourself ‘good and useful questions’ to achieve your goals
  • Taking more tips from world class performers
  • Dealing with feedback from others
  • Switching off unhelpful mind chatter
  • Developing your Imagineering skills


These are my ideas – what do you think we should talk about next time?


One last thing – remember:

“Whatever you are practice, you get good at” so the more you are practising this new strategy, the more you are improving your thoughts, feelings and performance.


Until next time – remember Happy Brain – where you learn about your thinking, learn about your feelings and learning how to drive your happy brain!

NLP First Aid

As first ‘mum’ into the emergency room following a car crash involving my son and his two mates, I was fortunately able to quickly know that (despite blood and bruising) my son was going to be OK. However it was also apparent that one of the other boys (Chris) was in quite a bad way.
Eventually, Chris was left alone for a few moments, stabilised, in a semi conscious state.  At that time, his relatives were still unaware of his situation, and I asked permission to go into his cubicle with the intention of retrieving his mobile phone to call his family. Chris was clearly scared and distressed, trying desperately to make sense of the situations and things he had heard, felt and seen regarding his injuries.
Chris had long been a regular guest in our home and I knew him well and I quickly had to realise my immediate choices:
1. I could stay focused on the task of retrieving the phone and leave him to his mind’s distortions of what was happening to him and what he had overheard the medics discussing.
2. I could become emotionally involved in my own drama of the experience. 
3. I could dissociate enough to utilise the NLP & NHR skill set that I know can bring about instant and amazing results.
I chose the latter.
As is so often the way when we operate through unconscious competence within the other person’s map of the world, it’s hard to recall specifics, but I can share some key NLP first aid points that noticeably improved Chris’s state:
Neuro – generating my own strong internal state of calm, confident energy re-assured his unconscious mind, as did pacing and leading his breathing.
Linguistic –  utilising Milton Model language patterns to inoculate against and temporally shift his rising panic, whist stacking presuppositions of his recovery (when you/as you/because/the first thing …). 
Programming – quickly ascertaining how he was stressing himself in order to swiftly interrupt those patterns, re-frame his panic and re-direct his attention.
The truth is that within a few minutes, his essential monitor readings, at least the ones I could track, such as oxygen level, heart rate and blood pressure, (luckily I had previously worked in health assessment) improved significantly.  Enough for me to return to the task in hand; ringing his parents. 
Shortly after that, I overheard a medic asking an old lady (also involved in the accident) in the adjacent cubicle ‘how is your pain?
Just stop and think about that for a moment – her attention was being directed to how much pain she was experiencing. And notice the presupposition (powerful hypnotic language) that the pain belonged to her.  
Words are powerful and the way that these subtly different words land on your neurology, shifts your experience. It is not rocket science and, for example, if you say ‘this’ pain or ‘that’ pain, which feels more real and close up? Consider the differing impacts of these commonly heard questions: 
* “How is ‘this’ pain?”
* “How is ‘that’ pain?”
* “How is ‘the’ pain?”
* “how is ‘your’ pain?”
There are many reasons that I am grateful to have learned the discipline and art of the Bandler Technologies, and this real life story illustrates yet another. All boys were released from hospital within a week and made full recoveries.
This actually happened several years ago and I have previously written about it. Yet it seems particularly relevant in this world of uncertainty, where we see and hear of terrible emergency situations beyond that which might be deemed an accident.
What are your NLP skills? Could they improve? Have you considered the contents of your own personal NLP First Aid Kit? It’s something I teach and believe to be an essential core skill.
If you are interested in developing your NLP skills or learning NLP anew, contact me to discover what we offer, from free taster sessions to bespoke applications, to full training and certification.
Next free taster: August 11th in Hexham.
Next Practitioner training: Starts September 7th

The Matter Of Respect

Did you know we each have an inbuilt ‘respect-o-meter’ inside our minds? It’s a filter that measures and monitors how we deal with the matter of respect.


My professional ‘respect-o-meter’ red flags whenever I hear the notion of ‘respect/disrespect’ connected to someone’s unhappiness.


Taking a cursory glance at dictionary definitions of the words respect and disrespect, we can see them being used as both nouns and verbs.


Respect: Admiration for qualities, skills, achievements, and regard for the thing or person’s wishes or rights.


Disrespect: No admiration for qualities, skills, achievements, and no regard for the thing or person’s wishes or rights.


That seems pretty fair and clear doesn’t it?


How do you ‘do’ respect?

For me, I am aware that I deeply respect some things and many people; I also disrespect other things and certain people. Of course they do not need to know my perspective since it’s mine, from me, for me, by me.


Yet so often we hear people complaining about the issue of respect as if ‘respect’ is a commodity to trade with:

“Show me respect”

“You should respect me/him/her/it”

“S/he is so disrespectful”

“I deserve more respect”


In order for these statements to even make sense we have to assume we know what is meant about the commodity being traded i.e. what is meant by that person when they discuss ‘respect’.


NLP teaches us good quality detective work (Meta Model) to move from our assumption (that we know what someone means) to clarity of meaning.


Typical questions I hold in my mind as I seek to understand:


  • What is this person’s measurement of giving and receiving ‘respect/disrespect’?
  • Do they believe it’s possible to earn ‘respect/disrespect’?
  • When and where might ‘respect’ be expected or even demanded?
  • How is it possible for them to be offended by a lack of respect from another source?
  • How is their self-respect altered by incoming or outgoing respect?
  • Why is there a difference between the noun (have respect) and the verb (respecting)?



NLP begins with a well-formed goal because one person can only have rules and ambitions for themselves. Trying to force respect is asking someone to act differently, without negotiation, which is not only trespass and conflict inducing; it’s also quite disrespectful!






Melissa’s Magic Mirrors

  • Do you ever feel under pressure from the outside world?
  • Do you feel anxious around specific people, or in a particular place?
  • Would you like to feel more resilient and confident?



Many people find Melissa’s Magic Mirrors a great way to deal with bullies. You teach yourself how to feel stronger and more resilient when people around you appear threatening.

This exercise is designed for children and adults and can be adapted to suit the individual – so do bespoke it!

Melissa (officinalis) is a (clinically proven) strengthening herb commonly known as Lemon Balm – more about it later.

Magic Mirrors have been used throughout history, all across the world, to deflect bad spirits and direct lightness into the environment. How many mirrors can you find within the your personal or working environment? What effect do you perceive they have?


Melissa’s Magic Mirrors – Here’s How

IMAGINE you are surrounded by a bright lemon coloured cloud or mist. Yellow is a colour often associated with inner power. Have it swirl around you in an anti-clockwise direction growing up from beneath your feet and making a swirl-knot above your head.

Now be sure to make this cloud appear transparent, which means you get to see out through it and look into the world around you. See what happens when you imagine someone looking at you only to see the yellow mist, it might make you giggle.

When visualising this lemony yellow mist, imagine what it feels like (what’s the temperature of your mist?) or sound like, and how do the sensations change when you swirl it faster or slower – which swirl speed helps you feel stronger?

As you take a big, deep breath in through your nose, imagine the yellow mist flows down inside your lungs and when you breathe out slowly and fully, let begin to expand the yellow cloud surrounding you.

Once you have mastered the swirling yellow mist, you are ready to add the extra layer of protection with magic mirrors – lots of outward facing mirrors. Perhaps your mirrors will all be the same size and shape, or maybe different sizes and shapes. Once you have designed the outer mirror shields, go ahead and put them in place.

When you have installed the magic mirrors all around you – facing outwards, any ‘mean or hurtful words’ will simply start to bounce off the mirrors and reflect straight back to the people saying them.

Some people find it quite fun to visualise the hurtful words like word-arrows shooting back at the bully, whilst others imagine the word-arrows bouncing around in the air, all out of control.

Listen for the imaginary sounds of the word-arrows pinging around.

Now check to discover where in your body do you feel most confident? Perhaps it’s your shoulders, or your back? Maybe it’s somewhere else?


A bit more about confidence:

Anecdotes provide compelling evidence for the success potential of this visualisation and its ability to boost self-esteem and a sense of control.


A bit more about Melissa: 

We like a plant called lemon balm who’s formal name is Melissa officinalis. We call her Melissa for short. Melissa helps you feel confident, uplifted, as well as calm and with less anxious feelings. She has heart shaped leaves and tiny white flowers. Her lemony aroma and flavour also keeps bees calm.


Information for teachers and parents:

Science shows the phyto-chemistry of lemon balm is clinically proven in humans to induce calm, lower anxiety, agitation and restlessness, relieve pain (headaches), colic and palpitations (jumpy heart beat), improve memory and help with concentration, as well as treat addiction.

 It works by increasing the effects of our brain inhibitor (calming) signal GABA, but also works on the brain attention signal (acetylcholine). It’s also gut calming (spasmolytic) and sleep inducing (sedative) as well as anti-viral/bacterial/fungal.

 Our favourite way to take lemon balm is a fresh or dried leaf tea, hot or cold. It makes delicious ‘lemonbalmade’ by adding lemon juice and honey, and can be used in salads, soups, sauces and seafoods but not necessarily at medicinal dose level. Lotions made using its essential oil will be more effective (but it’s one of the most expensive so beware adulterated products).

Safety: Lemon balm is one of the safest medicinal plants; side effects are not reported, widely recommended for children.

Always consult a registered medical herbalist & inform your healthcare practitioner before taking or giving a child any herb medicinally. And be sure of the identity of your plant.


Partners in Wellbeing for facts and science about safe plants for brain boosting and mind coaching/brain training: |

Integrity Within The Model (top tip for NLPers)

“She told me I was better than Tony Robbins” he said.

“(Better) at what?” I enquired.

“Making her feel fantastic” he smiled.

“So how did you do that? I asked (the NLPer)

“She just has to think of me and she feels amazing” he replied.

“But surely her dependency on you for fantastic feelings, contravenes our NLP ethics of a client’s ‘freedom’ of thought, emotion and behaviour?” I challenged.

“I have a special gift, and I can make you feel fantastic too” he offered.

“I gotta go feed the dogs” I retreated, thinking he sounded like a pawn on a chessboard – limited by single units of behaviour for his own feel good.


Have you ever have conversations like this? Where a person’s personality ‘needs’ (e.g. to feel important) are apparently more important than the skills available.


Can we do more to promote integrity when working with clients? Do we need to pay more respect to the reputation of our NLP profession?


History is littered with macabre anecdotes of people using their skills for personal gain across a myriad of professions. Can integrity be taught? I believe so and I believe it starts with increasing self-consciousness. Which is what we help our clients to do, only how many NLPers apply to self first? I wonder.


So you know you’ve got good NLP skills right?

And yet professionally, you’ve probably experienced strong emotional reactions to certain situations/people? Probably you didn’t get the best result because your personality hijacked you in some way.


Maybe you gave a presentation and ‘needed’ everyone to love your performance, leaving you vulnerable to frowning faces.

Perhaps you tried to ‘rescue’ a client by providing your (ill fitting) solution for them, leaving you frustrated by their lack of change.

Or have you ever found yourself sitting in judgment or even getting angry with a client? I certainly have.


Since a skilled NLPer feasts on feedback, reflecting on both process and outcome of client work is key and taking a Meta position helps evaluate both self and others (suggest using neurological levels as an evaluation tool).

The Law of Requisite Variety (key NLP presupposition) states that a brain with the most neuronal connections will have the most (thinking, feeling, behavioural) flexibility, just like the queen on a chess board, most powerful because she can move in many directions, unlike said pawn.


Think Meta again.


What are the structures of integrity?

Humans are primarily motivated by ‘what’s in it for me’ which makes the Ancient Greek aphorism ‘know thyself’ important, unless you are happy leaving your unknown, unconscious drivers in charge.


At the very least be clear about 3 things:

  • Is what I want to have happen in this situation ‘well formed’?
  • Is there conflict between my personality needs (approval, attachment, validation, security, certainty (right/wrong), etc) and the stated goal of my client?
  • How am I benefitting from this situation (money, experience, research etc or personality needs)?


At first, you may wish to reject your insights when answering these questions, until you realise there is nothing to judge or fear. Instead, by bringing your consciousness into your own deeper structures, you remove cognitive dissonance; gain self-esteem as well as clarity of the processes that enhance your work.


I suggest that before we ‘help’ other people, there are smart conversations to be had with oneself – the Meta Model becoming a mighty tool for self-awareness and not just for gathering information from the deeper structures of other people’s minds.















Chamomile Breathing


Chamomile Breathing – A guide for children, yet perfect for all!

Chamomile breathing is a simple technique that is proven to help you feel calmer and more relaxed. It’s so easy to learn, you’ll be able to do it at home or at school, or whenever, wherever, you want to feel relaxed.

Here’s how to do it:
Imagine you have a chamomile flower sitting right inside your tummy. Is it fully open yet? Maybe you can visualise the textures, smell and sounds of it.

As you take a big, deep breath in through your nose, you can imagine the air flowing down inside to open up the flower head – expanding it until it is completely open. Next, as you breathe out through your mouth you can imagine the flower head gently deflating and folding itself up into a little bud.

The deeper your in-breath, the fuller the imaginary flower head becomes. Your tummy will look like it has a balloon inside it when you make deep in-breaths.

The longer your out-breath, the smaller your tummy becomes. Your tummy will feel like it’s shrinking inside if you are making long out-breaths.

Make your in-breath and out-breath last for the same amount of time – maybe each to a count of 3 or 4?

After a short while you can begin to make the out-breath last longer than the in-breath – maybe in-breath for a count of 3 and out-breath for a count of 5?

Feel your tummy muscles expand and deflate, see the chamomile flower inside your imagination, gently opening and closing its petals.

Check to discover where in your body do you feel most relaxed? Perhaps it’s your shoulders, or your back? Maybe it’s somewhere else?

Remember! When your body feels relaxed and your mind becomes calmer, you feel happier and more able to cope with life’s whirlwinds.

Where else could this technique be useful to you? At school? Before bed? Somewhere else?

A bit more about the relaxation:
Obviously you are not really breathing into your tummy! In fact you are breathing into the lower lobes of your lungs and your diaphragm pushes against part of your nervous system telling it to relax more.

The visualisation technique (of a chamomile flower) helps your mind to learn faster, become more creative and solve problems more easily. Did you know that Einstein (a very smart guy) was a big fan of visualisations?

The plant called chamomile really does help you relax. Perhaps you’ve heard about chamomile tea or essential oil? There are special chemicals in chamomile that tell your nervous system to relax; one of these is called pinene. As you inhale the chamomile scent, special chemicals can reach your brain and help you relax more and feel less stressed. Maybe you will even feel a little sleepy. Chamomile is often used to help people sleep better.

Information for teachers and parents:
The breathing activity acts on the parasympathetic nervous system proven to calm. And science shows the phyto-chemistry of chamomile acts on the calming (GABA) pathways in the brain; chamomile can be mildly sedative.

Chamomile is a gentle herb that is popularly drunk as a tea. It is also popular as an essential oil (added to an aroma diffuser or as drops in a bath or on a tissue). There are many safe ways to experience the calming effects of chamomile including making a poultice for pain.

The flowering plant is called German (Chamomilla recutita, syn. Matricaria recutita). Its effects are anti depressant, reducing osteoporosis pain and the essential oil treats generalized anxiety disorder.

The non flowering plant (lawn) is called Roman (Chamaemelum nobile treneague, syn. Anthemis nobles). Clinically a mild sedative, anti-convulsant (childhood), analgesic (teething and earache), digestive and sleep promoter and its essential oil is verified for nervous afflictions like insomnia and anxiety.

Always consult a registered medical herbalist & inform your healthcare practitioner before taking or giving a child any herb medicinally. And be sure of the identity of your plant.

More facts and science about safe plants for brain boosting and wellbeing:

Teaching Excellence

I’m beyond excited to announce the launch of an outstanding book Teaching Excellence – the definitive guide to NLP for teaching and learning.

Not only is it packed with the wisdom and experience of its author Kate Benson (International Director of Education for the Society of NLP) and the co-founder of NLP Dr Richard Bandler, it is wonderfully unique in its usefulness to anyone interested in fast-tracking both teaching and learning. Of anything. Anywhere.

Yes I’m biased – I’m part of Kate’s education team and have been privy to the development of this book.

Yes it’s exciting – this book’s potential to impact the education world is mind blowing.

Yes this is short – straight to the point so you can check out the link for yourself.

Hard back copy is a limited edition – click here for more

Marketing Unconsciously

Have you ever been shopping and found your eyes fixating on bargain signs? Those uniformly simple and brightly coloured images that trick us into thinking we can save money. Over time, how many things have you bought on impulse?


Not everyone succumbs to that automated behavioural response of course, but if you owned a retail store you’d be very keen to understand consumer behaviours wouldn’t you?


Did you know that supermarkets hoodwink our attention by using coloured labels (especially yellow) because research suggests we buy more of those items? And the same is true of product positioning on aisles (proximity to door) and display height (eye level) on the shelves.


Now freedom and choice are synonymous with NLP training, which often delivers that moment of realisation; we are indeed surrounded by emotional triggers and hypnotic phenomena and yes, even people messing with our minds. It’s called marketing, teaching, parenting, managing and many other things. And waking up to how we are being subliminally influenced is a good thing, of course.


Did you know that people buy more food when their olfactory nerves are stimulated by smells of fresh baking/cooking; hence many supermarkets have now installed ovens, and spontaneous café treats just sort of happen to us.


Remember the times you bought a perfumed product (on impulse) after inhaling a particularly delicious fragrant mist, lured by the neuro-chemical reaction occurring within your mind?


And speaking of the brain, let’s not underestimate the impact of music and sound on our mood (and therefore buying behaviour). Background music influences both crowd mood and speed of footfall. Yes we can artificially speed up (move on) and slow down (browse) human movement and mood, on purpose using tempo, volume and genre. A trick so often overlooked by unaware people managers.


Sales promotions are designed to induce an artificial need in us, seducing us to aspire to being like a ‘successful’ celebrity, so you know you’ve ‘made it’ by owning ‘that’ brand. The temporary buzz comes from a shift in identity.


Bear in mind that every basic sales training dictates ‘every customer has a need – find it, and sell them the remedy’ – sales assistants become skilful in building fast rapport to quickly elicit the need e.g. to conform/feel prettier/feel powerful/feel successful/feel attractive/be the same/be different and oh, so many more.


Paying attention to the processes that influence behaviour is empowering. It’s about using your brain on purpose. And if none of this feels relevant to you, remember that temperature also affects our emotional connections – apparently people like people/products/adverts more when they holding something warm, like a cup of tea. Useful to know this kinaesthetic tip when you are selling your house, in a business meeting, or simply making new friends. It’s all in your mind, so make it matter!

Recall Strategy Performance

How does your child answer their exam paper?


Does s/he answer in the style of ‘I know OR I don’t know’?

This style of learning and recall is certainly encouraged within an educational system that gets funded or rated based on the quantity of pass marks.


Perhaps your child answers with a creative evaluation of information that synthesises knowledge to create new levels of understanding, with expanding applications to the world in which we live? An expansive line of thought for all.


I recently worked with a teenager who, despite having an awesome ability to think creatively, and to work his mind through abstract forms, had learned not to value this imagination, beyond the notion of ‘silliness’. After many years of learning to suppress his vivid imagination, he was now operating through compliance and following procedure.


The ‘problem’ that surfaced, hence his reason to see me, was his relatively poor marks during a series of mock exams where he appeared to underperform.


Actually, it was only his recall strategy that was underperforming, because instead of opening his mind to explore many possibilities when answering an in-depth exam question, he was using a digital type response; he either did or didn’t know the answer and his brain had habituated stopping at that first yes/no junction.


Accessing information from the deeper structures of memory is a bit like switching a flashlight on to retrieve information and the teenager in question used only a first derivation. He searched and found a chunk of relevant information that immediately fuelled a feeling of relief, signalling (premature) completion.


His retrieval strategy was too short – a single unit of enquiry.


So I worked with him to switch the feeling of relief, to one of curiosity that broadened his options to explore new and novel pathways to more information, and look beyond the initial ‘find’.


To do this we explored a subject he was familiar with on the white board where he generated a mind map of words, phrases and key facts. Very soon he had written enough to be satisfied, yet nowhere near enough to reveal his true depth of understanding,


I explained that by learning the ‘language’ of his deep structure memory, he would be able to recall faster, easier and more knowledge. I asked him if he would like to learn that language, which starts with imagination, pictures and stories. It also includes, rhythm, associations, and feelings.


He began to draw pictures to illustrate each arm of the mind map so far. This process helped his ‘mind’s flashlight’ to illuminate beyond the first on/off switch towards additional paths of knowledge.


He then began recalling a new layer of information that we added to the mind map, coded in specific colours.


I asked him to teach me something about subject, a strategy to keep his (metaphoric) flashlight illuminated. He became animated in his teaching role, laughing and stepping into the shoes of an expert. And while feeling confident and having fun he remembered a whole new level of information, the application of which he further clarified through past times, through the present time and into the future.


We joked (great brain chemistry to open minds) about something unrelated, yet it instigated a tangential thought trail, that led to another idea about the original subject, and then another. This process is called ‘chaining information’.


His ability to build ‘association’ to the subject became even more self-evident as he recalled in great detail one teacher’s story about another man’s experience. This nugget of detail had been strongly imprinted through sensory-based imagination, and expanded the limits of his thinking abilities beyond operating a digital and linear strategy.


Imagery is the language of the mind’s deepest structures.


A reminder for teens, parents and teachers:


  1. The more creative revision sessions, the more ‘lateral’ parts of a mind are engaged, by
  2. Having someone teach the subjects involves several layers of retrieval, first to assimilate the information, then to understand it, and then to articulate it. Each retrieval makes information more accessible over time.
  3. Colour helps separate and link/code subjects or themes.
  4. Drawing activates powerful visual-kinaesthetic channels.
  5. Stories and anecdotes are very useful to encode new information – the more sensory channels are involved the simpler the encoding.
  6. Many teenagers need to move to think. And whilst they may not be able to do this during exam times, they will be able to remember moving around during revision sessions. For example, utilise different rooms or locations for different aspects of a subject.
  7. Questions are the best way to quickly reach the deeper structures and help expand depth and breadth of knowledge, e.g.
  • What else do you know about this?
  • Is there anything else about this, I wonder?
  • What if you were close up/next to/inside?
  • How is X different to Y?
  • How is X similar to Y?
  • How is that thought related to the subject?
  • What’s missing here?
  • Like what?
  • What kind of X is that?
  • What else / what if?
  • How might this specific point be useful to you in the future?


My client loved comic strips and cartoons and I invited him to draw a cartoon of a specific chain reaction within a nuclear generator, which happened to be the subject he was revising with me. I wondered also, how much fun he might have helping his siblings shine their internal flashlights into the depths of their memory banks. What else … What if …