Future pacing is a hypnotic process in which a person is walked through an experience of already having the future they want. This is achieved by meeting them where they are now, then having them imagine that future. Future pacing works by helping the subject to remember to do new things when they experience specific events in the future.
Why to Use Future Pacing
A common problem faced whenever people want to make any kind of change in their lives is being able to do what’s required on a long-term basis.
We start out with every intention of making the changes we want, and then find that the smallest thing can sidetrack us.
Maybe we want to lose weight, but somehow we manage to always find other things to do besides exercise.
Or perhaps we need to study for an exam, and end up binge-watching the latest series of our favorite show instead.
The change can even be something like overcoming fears and phobias, and virtually all changes carried out by hypnotherapists and NLP practitioners.
This scenario of being distracted from what we should be doing plays out in different forms repeatedly throughout most people’s lives.
And with good reason.
Once we’ve found something that keeps us alive, continuing to do the same thing confers a survival advantage.
This means that after millions of years of human development, our brains are usually hard-wired to resist change.
What’s needed is a way for us to keep ourselves motivated and on track. And to remember to do what we know we need to do.
This is where future pacing comes in.
With future pacing, we exploit the associative properties of our brain to link things we know will happen in the future to things we’d like to do.
When we do this correctly, something magical happens: As we go about our lives, we find ourselves being constantly diverted back to working towards our goals.
When Should Future Pacing Be Used?
Future pacing should be used whenever there is a change that we’d like to have happen automatically throughout some portion of the future.
As previously mentioned, this change can be anything at all.
How to Future Pace
To future pace any kind of change, first mine your subject for events that are guaranteed to happen in their future. Then have them imagine doing that thing, and then immediately experiencing their change. Repeat at least 3 times to ensure that it sticks.
Future pacing is a form of hypnotic anchoring. Essentially, we turn things that are going to happen in their future into hypnotic triggers for whatever they’d like to have happen.
1. Mine someone for future events
In order to future pace anything, we need to know some events that will definitely happen in our subject’s future.
These can be any kind of events at all, with the caveat that our brains can latch on to concrete things much more easily than abstract.
When choosing events, make them as specific and concrete as possible.
You can find these events either by asking your subject, or by choosing events that almost everyone experiences on a daily basis.
As an example, if you were helping someone to quit smoking, you might spend some time exploring exactly where and when they smoke and then use those places and times as events. In this case, we want to remap their actions for those events to something other than smoking.
Similarly, if you wanted to help someone work towards some long-term future goal, you might have them automatically think of the next step every time they sit down at their computer.
The key to making this work lies in choosing one or more events that your subject can clearly imagine.
If possible, make the events emotionally null to minimize interference. By emotionally null, I mean events that they don’t care about at all: touching a doorknob, sitting down at their desk, sipping some water… I’m sure you get the idea.
2. Visualize the anchor
Next, build a clear representation of each event inside your subject’s mind.
This is done by asking them to think of the event in question.
If the event is touching a doorknob, have them imagine a specific doorknob that they use every day in vivid detail.
Make the experience as multi-sensory as possible. At the very least, bring in what they see, hear, and feel. If there are tastes and smells associated with the event, these can also form powerful anchors.
By the way, sometimes subjects will worry at this point that they can’t see clear images in their mind. And the truth is that it doesn’t matter very much how they go about imagining.
Whatever way they normally imagine things is probably what will work best for them.
Some people see full 3D realities that look as real as real life. Others hear sounds, or perceive sensations.
The key is to use whatever works for the person in front of you.
You can do this by saying something like: Imagine in whatever way you normally imagine things.
3. Visualize the change
Once your subject can clearly see the event, it’s time to link it to whatever change they’d like it to drive.
Describe the change in vivid detail, and have them imagine it as clearly as they can. Ask them to imagine the feelings they will experience when they’ve got that change.
The more real you can make that change feel to them, the more easily they will manifest it.
4. Link the anchor to the change
Now that we’ve got the anchor and the change, it’s time to link them together.
Link the anchor event to the thing your subject would like to have happen in the future by having them imagine the triggering event, and then immediately afterwards, imagine achieving their goal.
Optionally, you can create a little dissociation by attaching separate anchors to the event and to the change in steps 2 and 3, and then collapsing them together in this step. Since the event is probably their interaction with an inert object they have no emotional attachment to, this kind of dissociation is rarely necessary.
If your subject is in a deep hypnotic trance, you can make things easy for yourself by using simple hypnotic constructs like: Every time from now on that you sit down at your desk, you will find that your thoughts naturally drift towards how far you’ve already progressed towards that goal, and you will feel excited to start work on the next step.
5. Repeat at least 3 times for each event
There are two keys to making things stick with hypnosis.
First, if we can make something important to the person, it will tend to stick better. The easiest way to do this is usually by evoking strong emotions around whatever it is.
And second, the more we can repeat something, the more likely it is to go in.
Aim to repeat steps 2 to 4 at least 3 times for every event you are using as a future pacing trigger.
6. Test the change
It is of vital importance to test any changes we make. Prod your subject quite a lot and try to have them do something different when they experience their chosen events.
If all is well, they will constantly divert back to whatever you’ve future paced.
And if you do manage to break the future pacing, simply go back and rebuild it, this time with more repetitions.
The truth is that there is no way to know beforehand exactly how much will need to be done with each individual, and the only way to find out is by testing.
One thing is certain: If the future pacing is going to fail, you want that to happen while you are still there so you can fix it.
Use Future Pacing On Yourself
To use future pacing on yourself, choose a trigger event, then hypnotize yourself, visualize the triggering event, and link it to the change you’d like to have happen by clearly seeing yourself with that change inside your mind’s eye.
Pretty much all you have to do to use future pacing on yourself is hypnotize yourself first, then run through the process.
Future pacing is one of the more effective tools for change, so it is well worth taking the time to learn how to do this.
And the best part is that the the skills you learn to hypnotize yourself instantly use exactly the same hypnotic anchoring techniques as those in future pacing.
So you get to gain two powerful skills for the price of one!