Add as bookmark

Does Changing Pictures Motivate You?

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 132 - February 2007

One of the most useful things you can know about yourself is how you become motivated to do something. If you cannot get motivated enough to perform a necessary task, perhaps it is time to change your view.

Claire wanted to change her career and work for a City stockbroker. On three occasions she had gotten to the interview stage and then been turned down. She felt that there was an extra piece of information she needed to produce at her interviews to make her a serious contender for a job.

Claire knew:

  • ‘What she had to do;
  • She knew by when she had to do it (She had an interview the following Wednesday);
  • Yet she could not quite get around to doing the task.
Claire said she needed to produce an analysis of the top 100 share price projections for the interview, but kept putting it off. As she spoke, her hands seemed to keep pushing an imaginary object down towards her left foot. “What’s the hand gesture about?” I asked.

Claire said: “I guess that’s me pushing the task away. I don’t want to do it, so I keep pushing it away so it stays small and dim and distant down there.” I asked her what would happen if she turned up for the interview without the share projections. Claire looked uncomfortable and fell silent.

Elicit your Strategy for Being Motivated

I asked Claire if she had ever done a similar task well, and how was it different from this time. She said when she had done the task successfully she was motivated and saw the task as ‘big and bright and throbbing in intensity, colourful and up close’ to her face. And what motivated her, I asked. She realized it was the fact that others wanted her to succeed at it. Emerging is Claire’s motivation strategy for doing a similar task successfully. I asked Claire to pretend I was a temp come to fill her role, and to describe what she was ‘seeing’, ‘feeling’, ‘saying’ to herself that motivated her to successfully finish the task.
  • The main difference between Claire’s ‘motivated’ and ‘unmotivated’ state was in how colourful and close she pictured the task. She practised switching her unmotivating picture from ‘small’ and ‘dim’ and ‘distant’ to seeing it as ‘big and bright and colourful and up close’ to her face. She really felt motivated to do it now, and was able to describe every part of the procedure linked to performing the task successfully.
Finally I asked Claire if she had a timescale for completion and she said confidently: “Yes, now I’m motivated to do it, I will complete it by Monday afternoon.”

Changing Unhelpful Pictures Changes Motivation

Things an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) coach will notice as you tell your story are:
  • R = Representational systems (what you ‘see’, ‘hear’, ‘feel’). The coach will notice how you are picturing, feeling and storing your thoughts around doing an unwanted task;
  • O = Orientation. The direction the conversation is going in, body postures and gestures such as pointing;
  • L = Links. How you link each piece of the sequence of information together. For instance, do you first ‘see’ something in the external environment, which triggers an internal ‘feeling’, which then brings up remembered ‘images’ or ‘words’.
  • E = Effect. What is the Result obtained by using each step in your thought process? How motivated are you to do the task? Does it get you the result you want? If not, what needs to change?

Identifying the Feeling

Often it is a feeling that needs to be changed. Thelma got a ‘feeling’ like a dark heavy cloud over the back part of the left side of her brain each time she felt stressed, and had to write a piece of copywriting to deadline.

First came the feeling, then she saw pictures of lots of pages of paper in front of her face so that it obscured her view. Each paper represented a different project, and it made her feel as if the work was never-ending, and that she could never focus entirely on one piece of work on its own.

Changing the Feeling to an Organized Picture

I asked Thelma what would happen if the projects were not all screaming for her attention, and directly in her face, supposing each project was a sheet of paper which was laid in a neat row from left to right at floor level.

Thelma said that what would motivate her was if she could choose one sheet of paper labelled ‘project’ at a time, and bring the image close enough to be within her vision, but not enough to block her view. She would focus on only one task at a time, make sure she knew the procedure for doing the task before starting, and give herself a reward for completing on time.

Think Motivation

If you cannot get around to doing a task you really know you should, ask yourself: ‘What are the ‘pictures and ‘feelings’ I associate around doing this task?’ ‘And how can I change them and make them more motivating for me?’


  1. No Article Comments available

Post Your Comments:

About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


top of the page