There’s a great quote from Charles Darwin that forms the basis of Wendy Jago’s new book: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

This is the thesis of Wired for Success: Using NLP to Activate Your Brain for Maximum Achievement.

NLP — neurolinguistic programming — is a therapeutic technique used to recognize, understand and reprogram unconscious thought and behavior patterns in order to make your subconscious processes work for your benefit instead of against you.

Jago is a trained psychotherapist who uses NLP at the core of her practice. She is a master practitioner and NLP coach. Jago has already written many books on the subject.

For anyone interested in NLP, Wired for Success is a solid starting point. Jago does a good job of explaining the technique in straightforward language, while not oversimplifying to the point of losing substance. The book is divided into three sections: the first sets the stage, explaining what NLP is, teaching the reader how the mind shapes different experiences, and providing exercises throughout each of its 13 chapters. The second section expands on the first’s teachings, showing paths to help the reader approach real-life situations in newly programmed ways. The final section provides a brief conclusion.

The underlying idea behind NLP is that we can quite literally change our brains. In order to do so, however, we must first understand what is going on within them. To this, Jago writes: “We all have the same essential mental filtering mechanisms for doing this, although we use them differently. NLP calls these meta-programs, and this book shows you how to use them with more awareness and more flexibility.”

These “meta-programs” are at the heart of understanding NLP, and Jago articulates well how our brains “map the world” through them. They act as “mental structures that operate at a high level of generality to organize a mass of more specific information,” in effect becoming templates or filters “that let through certain kinds of information while blocking others.”

This sounds vague, but throughout the book, greater comprehension and a fuller understanding are gained as Jago introduces different examples and exercises. Once we understand how they work and what they’re doing, we can begin to alter them and “use that perspective to have internal conversations that create fuller possibilities for action.”

There doesn’t need to be a specific behavior to be targeted for improvement to use NLP. It certainly can be used to recognize and correct negative thought patterns and behaviors. However, it can also be used to simply improve patterns and skills. Jago cites prioritizing, negotiating, de-stressing, making decisions and finding opportunities as some areas where NLP can create positive results.

Although the two methods are strikingly different, the net effects of NLP and mindfulness meditation are very similar. Both involve observing thoughts. However, they each attack the problem from different angles. Even so, NLP has the capacity to provide quick results, just as meditation can. Jago writes: “The strategies start helping you as soon as you begin to view yourself from outside and to ask yourself questions. Once you do, you become your own investigator, explorer, tutor and supporter. You will be working in one of the most enabling partnerships possible: the partnership you can have with yourself.”

This desire to better understand oneself is part of a wave of more psychologically-tinged self-help books in recent years. Forgoing positive thinking and spirituality, more and more works in this area aim to tap into the psychological roots of behavior rather than abstract or divine elements. If this is the kind of approach interests you, Wired for Success is a good primer. Jago throws a lot of information at the reader, but it’s all useful and very well-organized.

Jago writes very objectively and very clearly. She provides plenty of information, but she doesn’t overwhelm. Jago strikes a perfect balance between readability and education by providing practicable tools “that can benefit everyone, even children.” Embracing NLP as a useful mode of personal development can open doors and alter perceptions: “Using your filters differently will produce different results; using them with understanding and flair can produce results that can be richly and productively different for you and for those around you.”

book review by Dan Berkowitz