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Do You Pay Attention to This Kind of Alarm?

February '19

Years ago I participated in an NLP Practitioner training program in Colorado that provided unique insights and practical approaches for understanding human behavior. Some were so unusual and powerful, they remain with me to this day.

At the time, one of the giants of the field was Tom Hoobyar. While he is no longer with us, his unconventional techniques endure. One of my favorites involves dealing with a quiet alarm that should warrant your attention.

As an example, he describes a scene early one morning when he is working in the kitchen, feeding the cat, and hurriedly getting ready for a charity board meeting. In his haste, he drops the cat food on the floor. While watching his baby crawl toward the slimy food, the phone rings with an unknown caller. He answers the phone in a rush, slamming it down, yelling, “I don’t have time for a phone call now.”

With this scenario, he explains to his reader that he agreed to serve on this charity board, because it would serve the community and might be good for his business, but adds, “Not a smart choice for a guy with a new baby AND a new business. And part of me KNEW I shouldn’t have taken it on!”

As Hoobyar puts it, “Have you ever noticed that when you do something that part of you does not want to do, things don’t work out so smoothly?”

Have you ever encountered such a situation? I know I have. Hoobyar calls this a ‘speed bump’ moment, where the part of you that does not want to do something is calling for attention. His metaphor suggests that moving forward at full speed will not yield the results you desire.

Hoobyar outlines a simple method for slowing down and considering the two options in front of you.

1. Recognition. Become aware of any situation where you appear to have two seemingly opposite (either/or) choices. (In his case whether or not he should serve on the charity board.) Then simply slow down, and take a breath.

2. Dialogue. Don’t focus on deciding which choice to make. Instead, ask each side what positive outcome you would achieve with that particular choice. Hoobyar presents a surprising method for such a dialogue. He suggests you imagine each side sitting in the palm of each hand and then give each one a symbol. Whatever symbols come into your head at the time will be fine.

After you’ve asked one part (while you focus on its symbol) about the greatest benefit you would receive from this choice, then turn to the other part (while you focus on that symbol) and ask it the same question. Be sure these are real benefits each side could acknowledge.

3. Integration. Address both parts (symbols) separately asking, “Can you each appreciate what the other part was trying to do for us?” Then slowly bring your palms together and allow the symbols to merge. Hoobyar reveals that by merging the symbols you are inviting your unconscious mind to come up with a way to receive the benefits of both sides. He also notes this is the preferred language for unconscious communication. Finally, open your hands and see if a new symbol has emerged. Or sleep on it for a night and see if a new alternative suggests itself in the morning.

Why not try Hoobyar’s approach for yourself? Remember a time when you had two seemingly opposing choices, or perhaps you face such a dilemma right now. Go through the three steps using this ‘symbol-in-hands’ method. You may find a new symbol and way to receive the benefits of both choices.

If you give this method a try, I’d love to hear about what happens for you. It’s fun to see how this theory works in practice. I actually tried it, myself, and will share the results with you, if you like, after I hear from you..

Meanwhile, Happy Soon-to-be Spring!


  1. Carolyn Matsumoto said on February 28, 2019:

    Hello Bonnie,
    I cannot see the rest of your entry.
    Please help.
    When I tapped on “Read More” below the first part of your text that is sent to my e-mail inbox, I was sent back to this screen to leave feedback or read older posts. I may check out the previous posts, but now I would like very much to see the rest of your most recent article.
    By the way, over winter break, I read your recently published Midlife Magic book, and it has been helping to move me in new directions. I am so happy I had enough money to purchase a copy that I can keep going back to for inspiration and support. Thank you for putting into words for others your relevant life experiences and reflections. You have made a really positive impact in my life at the most appropriate time.

  2. Mike Schmitt ( Ruth, Mike & Olivia) said on March 1, 2019:

    Dear Bonnie,

    Thank you for the technique! I’ll give it a try with my decisions regarding a desire for entrepreneurship vs. current work situation.

    Hope you are well!


  3. Bonnie said on October 16, 2019:

    Hi Mike!
    Hope this technique proved to be of help! Love to know if it did! (Sorry for my late response to your thoughtful comment; it got buried in my email pile.)

  4. Bonnie said on October 16, 2019:

    Hi Carolyn!
    Thank you for your very kind words about my book. That it is helping you move in new directions made my heart sing, because this is exactly what motivated me to write “Midlife Magic.”

    Thank you too for letting me know about the glitch in reading the newsletter. Hopefully, that was corrected, but for some reason two email comments about this issue of the newsletter got lost, so I am absurdly late in responding. Please don’t let my delay undermine my appreciation for both of your thoughtful thoughts here.

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