January 1, 2013
2013 – a new year has just arrived! And what does that mean? Lots of things. One meaning is about time: the field of NLP is now 38 years old (1975), the field of Neuro-Semantics is now 19 years old (1994), and this past November we celebrated the 10th year of Meta-Coaching. And to put everything into historical perspective, the beginning of the first Human Potential Movement occurred 74 years old (1938). I put it beginning in 1938 because that was the year that Abraham Maslow began the first modeling of excellence project- when he began his “Good Humans Studies” using Ruth Benedict and Max Wertheimer as his first self-actualizing subjects.
That study became the very first modeling excellence project as Maslow and his colleagues set out to find the characteristics of those people who had found the secret of living at a higher level than just coping with the lower, animals needs of survival, safety, love and affection, and self-importance. Maslow discovered that they were living for the self-actualizing or being-needs -the truly human needs. He discovered that people who did so were often, and sometimes frequently, blessed with joyful and ecstatic moments that he called “peak experiences”- moments of pure happiness.
Ah, yes, moments of pure happiness. Such moments were seldom if ever directly pursued by the subjects of his studies. What they pursued directly were one or more of the being-needs- knowledge, meaning, excellence, beauty, mathematics, music, justice, contribution, making a difference, etc. Yet in the pursuit of something great that was outside of themselves, they found themselves lost in some fascinating engagement as they extended themselves and became their best selves (actualizing their highest and best potentials) and then, Eureka! Suddenly, and unexpectedly, they would have one of those moments of pure happiness.
Many other wise men and women have noted this same phenomenon, namely, that happiness is a consequence of giving yourself to something great, something bigger than yourself. This was also Viktor Frankl’s notion of happiness. Happiness results as the by-product of forgetting yourself in a task that draws on all of your imagination and talent. Paradoxically, happiness does not come when directly pursued. Nor is happiness the same as “pleasure,” happiness is of a different quality, a different dimension. Instead, happiness comes as a consequence of giving the best of yourself to something that for you is the highest of your values and visions, that makes a contribution to the rest of humanity.
So in wishing you a Happy New Year! from a Neuro-Semantic point of view, we are wishing you many moments of pure happiness, of ecstatic joy and delight, of peak experiences where you are “surprised by joy” as you find yourself totally engaged in something that brings out your best, that is highly meaningful and significant to you, and that requires the kind of playful effort of giving something your all.
To say Happy Neuro-Semantic New Year! is to wish that you find your highest and richest meanings and that as you do, you turn them into your best and most competent performances. Then you will be able to step up to your highest being-drives and experience one of those moments of self-actualizing, a peak experience.
All of this fits Neuro-Semantics because closely related to the idea of meaning and meaning-making, purpose and intentionality which lies at the heart of this field is the notion of happiness- or joy – or flow – or a peak experience – or lost in an engagement so significant and meaningful that you seem to experience a transcendence of the moment and for a brief time live in the eternal now. And that’s the very point of our flagship training, APG – Accessing Your Personal Genius.
The point of APG is that your personal genius state is not so much about increasing your IQ, or becoming a genius like the classical geniuses of the twentieth century. The point is becoming the best you that’s possible for you to become. It is to become fully and completely you – you with all of your resources available so that when you engage yourself into what’s meaningful to you, you can get so focused that you get lost in the moment. And when you do this-you will have many of those moments of pure happiness.
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi noted in his dissertation work on Flow – the structure of happiness – it is not when you are in the moments of flow that you feel happy or joyful. No. In those moments, you feel engaged, captivated, enthralled as you put forth your best and highest efforts. It is in the moments afterwards as you reflect on that flow experience that the sense of satisfaction and joy comes. Actually for him, we enter this flow state when we are engaged in an activity in which we have control of our actions and responses and so can develop a sense of mastery in that area. And because this is meaningful to us, it generates feelings of being happy.
If peak experiences are those happiest moments of life- moments of rapture and creativity that give us a sense that “Life is Good!” then may 2013 be a very happy new year for you and yours. May you have a Happy Neuro-Semantic New Year!
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.