Overcoming Obstacles and Creating Motivation Using the NLP VAK Model

In life, we have internal and external obstacles. Overcoming obstacles of each kind is very different. However, we can use our internal obstacles to help with our external obstacles.

So let’s define what an inner obstacle is. Inner obstacles would be experiences going on inside you. Some examples would be disappointment, lack of confidence and low self-worth.

An outer obstacle is something that is getting in your way or keeping you from being able to reach the next step or goal. And example of outer obstacles would be lack or money, another person, or a physical disability of some sort.

We may or may not have the ability to move or overcome either type of obstacle. Or, we may just not have the tools to understand how to overcome them. Overcoming obstacles takes knowing what is really going on in your head before you can attempt or motivate yourself to push past, over or through them.. or maybe realize they aren’t obstacles at all.

Overcoming Obstacles Example

Let’s take a scenario where both internal and external obstacles are related.

Steve needs $5000 to buy a truck to start his window washing business. He is excited about the prospect

overcoming obstacles

of the business but feeling like there is just no way he can save the $5000 he needs to get going.

Outer Obstacle: Coming up with the money

After a couple of months of saving, his excitements turns to discouragement. He begins to tell himself that he is a failure because he can’t save the money quicker. He starts coming up with reasons why the business won’t succeed.

Inner Obstacle: Disappointment

The concept we are going to use to move Steve our from behind his obstacles will integrate an NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) term called VAK. VAK stands for Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic. Simply, VAK is the way we process information or relate to information.

A little more about VAK so you can understand the process better…

Visual describes how we see things. So a person might often use the phrase, “I see what you mean”. They are relating from a “visual” experience. Someone is most likely a visual person if they are affected more by the way things look versus how they sound or feel.

Auditory described how we hear things. So a person might often use the phrase, “I hear what you’re saying”. They are relating, in this case, from an “auditory” experience of things.

Kinesthetic describes how a person feels about things. So a person might often use the phrase, “I feel…” to start out sentences (versus I think). They may be more sensitive to the way things make them feel instead of the way things look.

For the most part, everyone has some of each, but generally one is more dominant. In NLP, we look to integrate V, A, and K to make good decisions and have the ability to relate to others better.

Applying VAK to Overcoming Obstacles

Generally, when we feel stuck behind an obstacle, whether it be internal or external, we are working with only one area of VAK. The goal of this process is that we integrate all areas to discover what we are missing that is causing us difficulty in overcoming obstacles.

Internally, Steve is only focused on what he hears from himself- “I’m a failure”.¬† However, the information he needs is what he is feeling and what is he seeing.

Let’s pretend we asked him:
Steve says he is feeling pain in his stomach area. (K)
Steve says he sees a picture of items behind him like he passed opportunities. (V)

Now we have something to work with for his internal obstacles.

Let’s look at his external obstacles:

Steve needs $5000 to buy a truck. He has only saved $2000 and it’s been a couple months.

We can ask him, “When you think of saving $5000 how do you feel?” He says he feels overwhelmed. (K)

“When you think of saving $5000 what do you hear?” He says he hears construction sounds like he’s working. (A)

“When you think of saving $5000 what do you see?” He says he sees a shiny truck with his name painted on it. (V)

Here we see that if Steve was only focusing on his kinesthetic (what he feels) he would probably never be able to get passed the overwhelm and feeling, internally, like a failure. By applying the A and V as well, he is able to create positive motivation.

How to Integrate Internal and External Obstacles for Increased Motivation

By using VAK, Steve is now excited about working at his new business and driving around in his new work truck. Before he was only feeling overwhelmed. It is very difficult to overcome obstacles that are one-sided (instead of three).

How can this knowledge of his external VAK’s help with his internal obstacle?

Steve has been telling himself he is a failure. Thinking about himself this way has caused him to feel sick to his stomach and all he can do is feel that opportunity is behind him. His internal obstacles caused him to lose sight of his external obstacle  Рsaving the $5000.

Before he had an auditory and visual element for his external obstacle, he was not able to motivate himself successfully because he was stuck in just the kinesthetic (feeling) of saving $5000.

Moving forward, he now has a positive image and positive sound to draw on to stay motivated.


To learn more about how to integrate VAK or other NLP techniques into your life, visit iNLP Center.
VAK is part of their NLP Practitioner Certification Online Course.

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