Future Pacing is the one NLP Technique that every practitioner will need to master as it is used in almost every NLP change pattern and is, perhaps the easiest to learn.
Whenever we finish working with a client it is a good idea to check that the new behaviour will be effective in the future and to do this we have the client mentally rehearse what will happen the next time that they need to access a particular resource. In NLP we like to use the term ‘Future Pacing’, it makes it sound so much more complicated and specialised than it really is!
How to Future Pace
The Future Pace process is as simple as having the client imagine themselves at some time in the future where the old pattern of behaviour would have occurred, and then have them step into (associate fully) their future selves, at which point the newly installed behaviour pattern should assert itself and their reaction will be one using the positive resource.
For this process to be truly effective their imagined future should be as sensorily complete as possible containing visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and auditory digital (self-talk) representations within the construction. The richer the scene the better the response will be.
The Practitioner should explore any feedback or issues that arise with the client to identify any problems with the change work and to ensure that whatever modifications to behaviours have been made are ecologically sound and are effective in the future situation.
If the client is unsure or uncomfortable about the results then this is good indication that the intervention has been unsuccessful and that whatever has been installed will not be an effective solution. In this case it is advisable to revisit the issue at a later session, with a note to look for behaviours and beliefs that would be more appropriate.
Naturally if time allows then additional work could be included in the current session, however the Practitioner should be aware that ‘Process Overlap’ can occur where multiple behaviours vie for control of the future situation, which can be disorienting for the client.
Why Future Pace
The Future Pace process is an important part of any work and has a number of benefits for the client and the Practitioner. Firstly, any time that a client future paces their new approach it increases the likelihood of automatic success as it is a great form of practice. Mental rehearsal of a new skill can be as effective as actually executing the ability and so the future pacing of change work is a dry run exercise.
Secondly, it works as an ecology check for the client allowing then to ‘try it on for size’ to make sure that the new pattern fits in with who they believe themselves to be, it can also help identify other areas in their life where change needs to happen to ensure that they remain congruent.
Finally, it is used as a way of confirming that the change will actually achieve what the client wants. If there are any doubts in the clients mind this will show up quite rapidly in the Future Pacing process and it will allow the Practitioner to improve the efficacy of their work and ensure that the client gets the best possible results.
Although Future Pacing is tucked at the end of most NLP change patterns it shouldn’t be considered an afterthought and the more effort that is put into validating the effectiveness of your work the greater your success as a Practitioner will be.