Metaprograms: Are you an away from or a towards person?

towards/away fromIs your map of the world (see my blog “I finally get getting there”) a generally positive one, or typically erring on the side of negativity?

How we respond to our world, as I’ve said many times before, can totally colour our view of life. Two people viewing the same event can have completely different experiences and interpretations, based on how they filter the information they receive through their senses. There are a range of these filters available to us. For instance we may filter our experience to favour certain senses – focusing on the visual, or on the sounds that are present. We may filter through our values – we may judge easy going people more harshly, for example if one of our highest values is consistency, or achievement.

Another key set of filters is based on our ‘Metaprograms’. I think one way to think of these are as ‘life attitudes’. They are the way you tend to process information and experiences. Metaprograms are often what is being tested in psychometric tests such as the Myers-Briggs test.

I’ll look at just one example of a metaprogram today, but I’ll probably write about others in future blogs.  The subject of todays blog is about whether you are a ‘towards’ or ‘away from’ person.

‘Towards’ people

A person who has a ‘towards’ paradigm, will tend to be focused on goals to be achieved, or positive outcomes to be fulfilled. They may look forward to events in the future, and be looking to make improvements. If you are a towards person, you are looking at what you can gain from a situation, a relationship or a new experience, for example. A ‘toward’ person is great to have around if you want to get things done quickly, or if you have a major goal to complete.  Sometimes a towards person can get into trouble by not thinking things through properly and taking too many risks.

‘Towards’ people can make a project happen. If you want to organise a party, get a towards person to help you. If you run a business, make sure that you have ‘towards’ people working for you, especially on new projects.

‘Away from’ people

An ‘away from’ person, on the other hand, is focused on avoiding pain. If you have an ‘away from’ paradigm you are filtering his experience for problems and ways to avoid them. If something is coming up in the future you may look at what can go wrong and how to prevent it. It is easy to see that an ‘away from’ person could be a worrier and might be afraid to commit to new things. At the same time it may be that an ‘away from’ person is a good person to be around if you are involved in a risky venture, or where safety is a serious concern.

‘Away from’ people can keep you safe.  If you are going on a jungle trek, ask an ‘away from’ person what you need to do to prepare (but don’t let them convince you not to go). If you are running a business you need ‘away from’ people monitoring your data security and you need to have someone ‘away from’ to double check your plans on a new project for any drawbacks.

What does this metaprogram mean for me?

As with so many things, the first thing is awareness. When you become conscious that you have a tendency towards one or other of these meta-programs you can be more selective in your responses.

If you are an ‘away from’ person, you can challenge any negativity you feel towards things like a change of role at work, a move to a new location or a change in things at home. You can recognise that you have this tendency and ask yourself if this is clouding your vision and preventing you from seeing positives.

If you are a towards person and you are excited about a new job offer that has come your way but you are finding that friends, colleagues and relatives are less enthusiastic, it may be worth checking in with yourself to make sure you are not jumping into something too quickly, especially if you have had some experiences of being over-enthusiastic in the past.

Neither being ‘towards’ or ‘away from’ is necessarily wrong, or harmful, but it is true that if you want to make improvements in your life, this may be more difficult to achieve with an ‘away from’ mentality. ‘Away from’ people also necessarily have to look for problems and focus on them in order to choose what to be away from! Focusing on problems excessively can make us less happy, worry more and stay too much in our comfort zone.  So being too strongly ‘away from’ may not work well for you.

Can I change?

There is an NLP process that can enable you to change your metaprogram if you feel it is not serving you.  It can make a big difference to your outlook and to your life experience to switch from one to the other, so before doing so you need to be comfortable that the effects will cause no harm to you, or to others.  It can be good to imagine some scenarios and how you might behave with a changed metaprogram.

If you think this is something you need help with then get in touch through the ‘booking button’ and if you want to keep up with new articles, hints and tips then subscribe to my blog.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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