nlp meta model universal quantifiersMy friend, Steven, was trying to sleep the other night. In his head, he kept hearing the words: Everything sucks right now!

A list of things scrolled through his mind:

• The world is a mess!
• Natural disasters everywhere.
• We’re on the brink of nuclear war.
• My teenagers have attitudes.
• Is my business slowing down?
Everything sucks!

After a few minutes of self-torture, he realized he could ask himself an NLP meta-model question.


Such a simple question. The meta-model in Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a set of questions to create specificity. We tend to be vague when we make global claims.

Everything sucks.
• I always get upset when everything sucks.
• I’ll never get to sleep!

Always, never, everything, no one, everyone. These universal words are rarely true. They’re vague because they hide specific references. The way to specify them, according to the meta-model, is to challenge the universal claim.

• Everything?
• Never?
• No one?

This opens to door to discover counter-examples. And that’s what Steven did. When he realized it, he followed with the question, “Everything? Everything sucks?”

This created a small opening in his mind.

He replied, “Not everything. A lot of things suck right now. Hmm…what doesn’t suck right now?” At that point, he thought of what he appreciated.

• I’m alive.
• I love my wife.
• I have some great friends.
• I live in a safe neighborhood.
• My pillow is so comfortable!

He shifted his mood and fell asleep.

The problems in the world didn’t change when Steven focused on a comfortable pillow. To believe so would be naive in the extreme. He merely changed the focus to what he appreciated. That doesn’t suggest Steven should deny the problems. Still, tossing and turning all night wouldn’t change those problems.

What if we all focused on what we appreciate while taking the actions we can to make a difference in the world?

Is that pollyanna-ish?