Lemons and NLP | Neuro-Linguistic Programming

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5 Ways To Stop Sucking Lemons…

Lemons and NLP

5 Ways To Stop Sucking Lemons…


What can NLP teach us about how our thoughts can shape our reality?

First, an exercise to start – read & follow the instruction of the following paragraph.

Imagine, for a moment, holding a juicy lemon in your hand and looking at its yellow skin. Can you imagine how it might feel in your hand, the weight, the waxy texture of the skin and the size? If you can imagine this then perhaps you could imagine cutting the lemon in half, the resistance and pressure of the knife as it runs through the centre of the lemon and in doing so releasing the unmistakeable smell which connects with nose. Finally imagine taking one half of the lemon and biting into it, the immediate bitterness explodes your taste buds and induces a screw faced grimace.

Could you imagine any of this? Perhaps you imagined it so well you could even smell and taste the lemon.



Life can be a bit like lemons sometimes, as I’m sure you’re more than likely aware. One of my favourite coaching quips is ‘where your focus goes energy flows’. I absolutely and completely have conviction in this concept that where you place the attention of your thoughts and your mind will in some capacity create and shape your reality. If you think back to the lemon, you didn’t need the lemon in your hand to feel the weight, texture, smell and taste of it. You were able to create the internal reality without the external reality, a visceral experience from a virtual event.

So… what does this mean?

Well, it means that reality is a loosely termed experience, like an objective term for a subjective perspective. Some people would not have been able to picture the lemon but might have felt the weight, others neither, but very much the taste and/or smell. The truth is that many of our fears are, as Karl Smith eloquently says, “they’re big, fat, juicy lemons”. Our minds can, and often do, create the visceral virtual experience prior to the actual event. The combined powers of active imagination with future abstraction creates a very real experience for the avatar. What if we were now to take these thoughts and turn them sad and dark, sometimes referred to as rumination. These ruminative thoughts are transformed into feelings, effectively neurotransmitters and hormones, which in turn influence and shape our behaviour. Our thoughts influence our feelings and our feelings influence our behaviour. The thought of tasting the lemon can create the visible behaviour of a person tasting the bitterness of a lemon, or catastrophic thinking about yet to unfold events can dramatically influence someone’s feelings about the event and their accompanying behaviour.  

So what can we do about this unhelpful thinking?

  1. Exercise – solutions are often simple, but information is rarely the issue, its application that prevents us. When we complete exercise of any description, we release endorphins and dopamine which influence our mood. Behaviour influencing feelings.

  2. Practice gratitude – noticing things we are grateful for shapes the perceptive part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System RAS. Practising gratitude shapes the ‘lens’ through which we experience and interpret our internal reality that in turn shapes our beliefs and behaviour. Thoughts influencing feelings.

  3. Sleep – Without doubt sleep is natures superpower. Quality restorative sleep, without alcohol or sleeping tablets, hugely influences our thoughts & feelings. The less sleep usually equates an increase in catastrophic or negative thinking. Practice good sleep hygiene with the following tips; behaviour influencing thoughts & feelings.

a. Avoid alcohol or sleeping tablets if possible, they prevent the correct type of restorative sleep.
b. Aim for the room you sleep in to be quite cold.
c. Go to bed and rise at the same time every day, including weekends – nature doesn’t recognise Sundays.
d. Avoid any technology before bed, read a book (or blog)!!

  1. Mindfulness or meditation – Just taking 5 minutes to quiet your thinking and become present is hugely powerful for welfare, the disconnection of our hyper-stimulated outer world for a momentary exploration of our peaceful inner world. Behaviour and thoughts influencing feelings.

  2. Food – Eat shit, feel shit: simple. Like Hippocrates said, “let food be your medicine” – after all he is the father of medicine.

Implementing and understanding some simple strategies can help dramatically improve your general mood and wellbeing. As with many things in life consistency is the key to longevity and finding activities that provide you with these elements by consequence of participation. As an example, I enjoy practising breathwork and cold-water swimming, this provides me with my meditation (breathwork) and exercise (cold swimming) elements.

Understanding and learning about your mind is about realising that if you don’t like the taste of a lemon don’t think about eating it.

Alternatively, you could slice the lemon and use in a Gin & Tonic, but that’s a reframe for another blog.



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PQ Performance was founded by Phil Quirk in 2019 after over 10 years of experience as a Human Performance Specialist working with Olympic & World Champion athletes, Polar Exploration Teams, RAF Fast Jet Pilots, UK & US Special Forces as well leaders of business from around the world.

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