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Switch on and tune in …

Steps to Success:

Lae’ula … in Hawaiian, being lae’ula (lie oo’lah) is “to live brilliantly. To experience extraordinary success. To master your craft” at least, according to a leaflet about sunglasses which I picked up.

It sounds like a great state to aspire to. Following on from the theme last week of living with passion, I’m drawn to the notion of living brilliantly, yet often I find myself on autopilot.

I call it ‘stuck in my head’. I can get to a place and have simply tuned out how I got there or will be doing certain tasks or chores and I find that time has slipped by unmemorably.

While I say that I am an advocate for taking the time to smell the roses, I find that sometimes I am oblivious that the roses are even there.

We all experience the world through our senses, those of sight, hearing, taste, smell and feeling. The problem is, we are constantly bombarded with sensory information from every angle.

Our brain has to cope with the environmental information it is receiving so we can navigate our surroundings, be aware of space, relation, temperature etc, recognise and interpret the sounds around us and meanings of things from the simple red light/green light to understanding interpersonal relationships and social appropriateness.

Then throw in the deluge of modern day information: the conversations we’re in or overhearing, the blaring radio, TV, signs on every wall (and along on East Broadway), the influx of e-mails, Facebook, twitter updates, magazines, newspapers, even sunglass brochures!

The volume of sensory input is so huge and constant that our brains normally automatically filter out all the redundant or unnecessary stimuli.

This process is called ‘sensory gating’ (the same process we engage when we deliberately focus our attention on something in particular) and without it, the world would seem too overwhelming for us to function in.

However, I want to make sure that my sensory gating is not filtering out too much, at least of the good stuff!

Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), a study of how our brain function, language and behaviour are interlinked, uses the abbreviation VAKOG for what it calls the representational systems (the senses) we use to interpret the world: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic (sense), Olfactory (smell) and Gustatory (taste).

NLP suggests that while we are constantly using all of our VAKOG systems, some are more dominant depending on the context: we may naturally be using our visual sense more when watching a movie, or our kinaesthetic when playing sports etc.

But it is also suggested that we can get stuck in patterns or strategies of which senses we use and when.

Doing similar kinds of tasks and jobs each day might keep us in a particular mental strategy for long periods of time, not engaging our less dominant senses much. This is what I believe contributes to the autopilot feeling.

The problem is that we might be filtering out information from the other senses, possibly to the detriment of our performance. And we may be missing opportunities, ideas, possibilities, new ways of doing things etc if we are not open to receiving them.

I have found that a great exercise for throwing off the doldrums of autopilot is to deliberately engage my other, less dominant senses at any given time and experience the world through them.

It seems to present a different perspective to a situation and in doing so, I automatically feel more alive and engaged.

The world seems brighter, fuller and more attractive. Who wouldn’t like to shake it up a little and discover a bit of that brilliance?

Try experimenting with the following:

Spend a day or even just an hour, really paying attention to each of your different senses in turn.

Have a visual day — really engage your eyes, look at colour and shape and texture, widen your visual field, look up or down if you don’t usually and notice what you notice.

Have an auditory day or hour. Hear the sounds not just in your immediate vicinity but beyond, further … what sounds have you been filtering out, what are the component parts of that sound.

Spend some time with your kinaesthetic sense, noticing how things feel and what you sense. How do your clothes feel on your body, the temperature on your skin?

Sense how your body feels in the environment. What else can you physically sense around you?

Similarly with taste and smell, concentrate on and use these senses deliberately for a period of time. What have you been unaware of? What do you do differently or notice when you are using each different sense?

For me, doing this reveals just how much of the world I could end up missing out on. And now when I notice I am feeling a bit ‘switched off’, I re-engage some of my senses and the world around me brightens up.

Another really beneficial way of utilising VAKOG is in rapport building with others to aid communication. NLP theory suggests that we subconsciously reveal which senses we are using by the language we choose.

For example, someone who is saying “picture this … do you see what I mean, what’s your view?” is probably dominantly using their visual sense.

Whereas words like: ‘sounds good, can you hear what I’m saying, I’m all ears’ indicate someone mostly engaging their auditory sense.

Kinesthetic words would be to do with feeling or sensing: ‘it feels right/wrong, or I have a gut sense’ etc and similarly for Olfactory and Gustatory: something smells fishy, the whole thing stinks … or I can almost taste it, a sweet deal etc.

If you recall the article I wrote last year on creating rapport, the aim of rapport is to meet the person you are trying to connect with on their level.

This can include which representational system (sensory method) they are using.

When you hear their words indicating a particular sense they are engaging, you can switch that sense on yourself and interpret the ideas through it and as they shift from one representational system to another, denoted by their language, you can adjust your communication to remain in sync.

The idea is that the transfer of information should be easier and more effective when both parties are using the same representational system.

And if you have practised switching your dominant senses through the experiments above, this should be easy.

Switching on the world and tuning in to others: our awareness of VAKOG can be a useful tool on any quest towards living brilliantly and being lae’ula.


Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner.

For further information contact Julia on (441) 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com.

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Published February 19, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated February 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm)

Switch on and tune in …

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