The Science Behind Tony Robbins - NLP

Tony Robbins' contributions to the field of personal achievement are legendary and he truly has a gift for understanding and communicating information so that virtually anyone can understand it. However, the science behind the majority of Tony Robbins' strategies is not something he invented. This is important because criticism of Tony Robbins and accusations that he is a fraud by definition ignore a field of study that is much, much larger than Tony Robbins himself.

The science behind the majority of Tony Robbins' success strategies is neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a psychological discipline originally developed in the 1970s by two men attempting to model human excellence. These men, John Grinder and Richard Bandler, set in a motion a field of study that has been enhanced and refined for the past thirty years and is widely recognized as one of the most effective methods of personal development available.

Unlike the overwhelming majority of psychological schools of thought, NLP does not focus on the content of experience. Instead, NLP focuses on the structure of experience in order to make positive change. What's the difference?

If I were trying to help you learn strategies for becoming more motivated in your daily life, conventional approaches might include getting you to think about how much better your life would be if you were more motivated, how much more money you might have, etc. Perhaps we'd talk about reasons you don't feel motivated - your boss is a jerk, there's never enough money to pay the bills, etc. That's the content approach to developing a motivation strategy. We might do this for days, weeks, months - maybe even years - hoping for a breakthrough.

NLP, on the other hand, looks at the structure of motivation. An NLP practitioner probably would have you remember a time when you felt totally motivated, and s/he would elicit your strategies for feeling motivated. If you're a primarily visual person (i.e., you see clear pictures in your mind when you think), you might feel motivated when you see something you want in clear detail, up close to your face, and in full, rich color. After you see something you want in such vivid detail, you might hear a loud voice in your head encouraging you to get going. Finally, you might see another image of you getting the specific result you wanted followed by a gut-level feeling of a job well done.

These various elements of personal experience are structural. They're visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (feeling). Each functions independently of content.

Once all of the various ingredients of your personal approach to motivation were discovered (e.g., how you communicate, the order in which you communicate, your physiology, etc.), the NLP practitioner would then help you develop the recipe for motivation at the structural level. What you would have at the end of this process (which probably would take less than an hour) would be your unique methodology for guaranteeing personal motivation in any endeavor you choose simply by applying the same structure to new experiences and desires.

NLP is a profoundly deep, complex, and interesting study of subjective human experience and there certainly isn't room to discuss even a tiny fraction of NLP's contributions here. However, it's important to note that the strategies Tony Robbins uses - and has refined - are based almost entirely on the science of NLP.

After publishing Unlimited Power (and openly discussing NLP), Tony Robbins refined and re-branded his approach calling it Neuro-Associative Conditioning® in his second book, Awaken the Giant Within, and he has since referred to his strategies this way. Regardless, the underlying technology is fundamentally the same as NLP which is an important consideration for anyone who tries to dismiss Tony Robbins' outright. There simply is too much overwhelming evidence that these strategies work.

(If you're interested in learning more about NLP, I highly recommend NLP: The New Technology of Achievement. It's very readable and has dozens of exercises you can use immediately to begin to understand and demonstrate the power of neuro-linguistic programming.)