In NLP terms beliefs are known as presuppositions. NLP itself puts forward a number of beliefs that it suggests we all adopt in order to assist us create better lives for ourselves and others. These presuppositions are mindsets, we can choose to incorporate them into our thinking and act as if they are true. The Presuppositions of NLP and related beliefs are discussed below by students of our NLP Practitioner training course.


“Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men” – Douglas Bader

Upon reflecting on the presuppositions of NLP exercise I am immediately struck by the realisation that the presuppositions are in fact a very powerful and useful set of beliefs; a philosophical attitude and mindset that can only foster eventual excellence, acceptance, forgiveness, understanding and success. They are also a set of ethical principles that offer a framework, or structure that I can utilise to apply to any of my interactions with others, or life experiences no matter the context. The presuppositions are liberating; unlike religious dogma, which is often rooted within a mindset that transcends mere expectation of conformity to a creed – usually demanding obedience. To this end I really enjoy the fact that the presuppositions are at no time claimed to be absolute or universal truths; they are beliefs, and I now know that beliefs do not necessarily have to be true as long as they are useful. The principle impression that I have ascertained following my reflection upon the presupposition exercise is that that these are the central core, indeed the guiding light of NLP, and that they offer choice and a greater freedom of cognitive and behavioural choice.

Following the presupposition exercise I have learnt that my choices have until this point been limited and that I have not had enough flexibility of behaviour or understanding with regard to others. I have in fact been residing in a disempowered state. Adopting the presuppositions has helped me to understand that I have been too judgemental of others, and that I have allowed the judgements of others to impact too much upon me. The presuppostions are liberating, this realisation makes me feel relaxed and calm. I am able to be disassociated as I watch my previous self being secretive and suppressing my true beliefs and values through fear of ridicule.  I have become acutely aware of the fact that my reflections upon the presuppositions have led to something of an awakening.

My reflections have been expansive for me in so much as I was able to explore familiar situations but adopt new perspectives on the way that I had been perceiving others, their behaviours and thought processes. I am learning how to become better attuned to myself and to others; I have learnt that already I am also developing my ability to assess situations and individuals in a new way. I can now recognise that I will be able to perceive the true individuality of each person and am better placed to understand how I can incorporate the presuppositions into my personal ethos and professional life to help myself and to help others. In this way the presuppositions have actually already proven to be incredibly liberating and powerful creed for me on a personal level. I have learnt that if I had known the presuppositions at an earlier point in my life I would have avoided many difficulties; I have learnt that I cannot command or control things, but that I can gain greater command and control of my own self… I can develop and master myself. I can find and accept my own truth. Being able to recognise the fact that others have their own map of the world has actually been a major realisation for me; I have spent much of my life fearful of having my own perceptions disrespected by others; for some reason I have given too much credence to the opinions of others with regard to things that have been important to me. This has impacted upon my own ability to meet my full potential – particularly in my formative years. Even now, I was extremely reticent of revealing my interest in NLP though fear, but now I undertsand that there is no need! I now know that I have allowed the opinions and judgements of others to inhibit me and cause me to doubt my perceptions and subjective realities. The realisation that my model of the world is right for me, regardless of the opinions or beliefs of others has given me strength and resilience. I do not need to be concerned by the judgements made by others, I can have total confidence in my useful personal beliefs, values and behaviours….and have the flexability to let go of un-useful ones.

After all it was Albert Einstein himself who quantifeid that “The true measure of intelligence is the ability to change!”.

With regard to others I recognise that so many people are in need, and are looking for their own personal truths and acceptance. I have learnt that I can accept and respect the personal truths of others regardless of their imperfections or limitations. In this way they are disempowered and in need of assistance but ultimately that is the subjective choice of an individual. It seems to me that many other people are inflexible and have accepted their own choice restricting beliefs; bizarrely many also seem to aspire to impose their limited models of the world upon others! Perhaps to self affirm their own limited world view?

I can apply these beliefs in all areas of my life to improve my results. This will be particularly useful within my personal relations with close family members and friends, in my professional life within the learning environment and in casual day to day interactions with people that I encounter. I am now better able to understand and respect the subjective realities of others – I know that their truth is ultimately that – their truth. Taking this realisation forward I can now better undertstand others and accept their personal realities; I know why this occurs and I accept that as long as this model of the world does not inhibit those individuals then they are useful to them. When I notice that their models of the world are in fact inhibitative, or counter productive with regard to the well being of that person then I will be able to help that person to change if they so desire – I can accept the person, but assist them to change their inhibitive beliefs or behaviours!

Others can only ever be helped if they are willing participants; open to assistance. I am of the opinion that I will be able to help by applying these beliefs in unquantifiable ways. I can help others by accepting their model of the world and assisting them if their map is faulty and subsequently leading them astray. Where others choices appear restricted and limiting I can help by offering a new perspective – by outlining that the person with the wider range of choices has the greater chance of success. People will always make what they believe to be the best choice that they have; however in hindsight if they were offered a better choice it would be self defeating to dismiss the new perspective. I can help by knowing that people are never faulty or broken, that their behaviours always have a positive intention – however they can be assisted towards better behavioural and cognitive processes. I can help others by working with their unconscious; it contains all of the resources that an individual will ever need – innate potential of staggering potential. I will improve my communication skills to enable others to improve theirs…ensuring that more often than not the meaning of their communications gets the response that they desire. I know that the mind and the body are part of a cybernetic system; they are both parts of a whole and one affects the other. I feel that this has been lost on many; people seem to be misaligned, seeking painkillers or anti-depressants from doctors instead of finding the internal root cause often deeply embedded within their mind. Mind affects body, body affects mind -quid pro quo. I will help others by modelling those that have been exceptionable at helping others, Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir etc. I can help others by teaching them that by copying excellence they can achieve excellent results. Learn by doing.



First of all, I must say I really love the Presuppositions of NLP. They are great guidelines and good values for anyone to follow. If everybody followed these presuppositions, the world would be a much better place to live.

When I started to work on the exercise, I found several points that match the way I want to think and behave, but more important I found several that really made me think about making serious changes in the way I think.

As an example, number 5: To admit that every behavior has a positive intention, and that people do the best that they can with the recourses they have available, was difficult to grasp. The reason is that I have several times during my life experienced people trying to frame me, backstab me and swindle or steal from me. Did they do that with a positive intention? Let’s look at a concrete example:

10 years ago, I owned and managed a mobile phone store in a local shopping center.  One of my employees, actually my most trusted employee and right hand man was caught stealing new mobile phones and selling them to friends and keeping the money. He even stole cash from the till. Always 50 to 100 pounds short every weekend. To me this was all a big tragedy. He was my most trusted man, and he stole huge amounts right out of my pockets.  I could not forgive him for that.

Now, back to the presupposition, “Every behavior has a positive intention”. It made me think about my former employee and his theft in my store. I tried to put myself in his situation and think, why would I find it necessary to steal from my employer. Then I remembered that he had two children he had to pay child support for, and he had a drinking problem. Instantly my anger towards him turned in to pity. And I actually felt bad because I just let him go, and made no effort to try to help him to solve his problems.

I guess my initial response to the theft was disappointment, because I expected him to do everything in my best intention, but he will of course do what he feels is the right thing for him in the situation he was in at the time.

So, could I have handled this differently? Yes, I could have offered to help him to sort out his problems. Maybe pay him a little more, so that he didn’t have to steal to make ends meet. Give him some time off to go to therapy for his addiction…

Would that give me a positive result in the end? Maybe… The result could be that my sympathy and care would make him the world’s most loyal employee, because he knows that I always would back him up and help him if he got in trouble. I doubt he would steal again…

What did the studies of the presuppositions of NLP teach me about myself? Well, I think I can be a little too quick to judge others. Sometimes I need to give people a chance to show me who they really are, without being judged by my first impression.

I especially loved number 12, “There is no failure, only feedback”. I think that is a great way of saying that it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them.

What did I learn about others? I guess I learned that other people are quite similar to me. And, that we all need to improve our communication, our understanding of each other and sometimes have the patience necessary to understand what other people’s real intentions are, and why they behave the way they do. It’s actually all about common sense and courtesy, isn’t it?

Can I put this knowledge into good use? Yes, I can and I have. I will add these presuppositions to my own set of values, and hopefully by living these values people around me will see the positive effect. In work I will incorporate them into my philosophy and teaching.


Having gone through all the presuppositions mentioned in the section it was easy to see how I could make improvements on myself. E,g. respecting peoples model of the world. It’s really easy to turm around and tell someone to stop been silly and that they should pull themselves together, however, it taught me that people do really say how it is for them at that moment in time. I think I can improve by “listening“ a little bit more and by trying to see things from another point of view and not just mine. I am able to do this in some areas of my life but I see some situations where I could improve upon.

There used to be a time when i would get annoyed about what people are doing and they never used to change anything, and I can actually help them by changing my own behaviour, just like the expample you mentioned with regards to the neighbour parking his car close to entrance. To be honest, I probably would still get annoyed but having listened to the info, it’s actually easy to change it.

Living in Spain and speaking another language is not really the easiest of things especially when it comes to the meaning of words and trying to express oneself.. As you said, many words mean many things to different people. If it´s like that in my own language, you can imagine the challenges I face talking to people in Spanish. There is room for some improvement for a better form of understanding.

I’ve have always supported people who have said that they have failed because I see failure as a very valuable learning curve .- no matter what. It’s an essential part of our personal development. Learning from our mistakes and making a better plan for the next try is a sure way to keep learning and for us to reach our goals.

Although the Presuppositions seem quite sensible and even self-evident on paper, they are more complex when applied to real situations.

I learnt that I have a lot more choice in situations where I have felt I had no control, eg the process of being made redundant. I have heard ‘there is no failure, only feedback’ before, but had not taken this through to the application stage; in other words, the feedback is an opportunity to do something differently, adapt my behaviour, take a different approach, rather than feel a lack of validation.

I also realised that I have many more role models in my life (by which I mean actual people I know!) who I can model and learn from. Modelling people’s behaviour is relatively straightforward, as its observable, however modelling their processes and thought patterns will be harder. I will work with one friend / ex-colleague who is highly self-aware to see how I can model these (and then learn and adopt for myself).

One Presupposition I want to apply behaviourally is that ‘everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available’. This is something I understand intellectually, and often say to my brother about our parents when considering our childhood. However, I don’t think I really believed it.  As our parents get older, their world is constantly shrinking, and some of their behaviours (including comments to us) are challenging. I want to change my belief, to enable me to be more forgiving (and less likely to pick an argument!).


I can appreciate that we all have a different perception of the word but that this is not a blue-print, it can change and adapt for a chosen purpose. It also highlights the important role of communication, the person across want to express something that is personal to him and might sometime need decoding to understand the true meaning, understanding his/her way of thinking.

One can struggle in front of a person reacting a way we do not accept but respecting it is accepting that we never know the whole story.

The change is not just about the individual, myself or another person but also its impact on people around.

It is also really empowering to know that we have all it takes to change for the best

Flexibility is a key element, the willingness to look at thing differently to challenge our ways. Personally I am aware of most of these Presuppositions but I feel the key is in the practice. As a mum of two young children I feel it gives me plenty of opportunity to challenge myself, my internal interpretations, my behaviour and the fact that there are many other ways I could react. But also I can  teach them some of the principles. I aim to find out about their internal interpretations, to help them with their emotions (anger…) as some of the behaviour I feel like condemning is the best they can do in these specific situation, showing them/getting them to think of other ways other ways they could adopt. I model the fact that our possibilities are infinite, showing them you can adapt and aim high but also that we have all it takes to achieve happiness and success, there is no failure just learning experience.

It is an on-going development, really rewarding and it feels that each time you have challenged a belief or dealt well, positively respecting the presuppositions with a situation, with a person you are a bit closer to achieving your full potential.

You can genuinely help another person by applying these beliefs as you look for the best in that person regardless to  his behaviour, attitude and empower him/her to make the changes to reach goals/outcome he/she is aiming for.  You help him/her making the connection between the mind and the body so they can feel more in tune, aware of their feeling and emotion. You adapt your communication to his internal interpretation and understanding. The focus is all about the person in front of you his body language, his communication, his thinking process…you encourage him/her through positive feedback, helping him/her to think about all the options, be flexible to get where they want to.