Engineering Motivation and Excellence in Students


The adaptability or neuroplasticity of the human brain is particularly great in the first few years of life. Normal human development starts at birth and during the first few years the infant explores his sensory world and develops neural connections while still preverbal. Children by the time they reach age five have developed many of the skills and habit patterns that will determine whether they are successful later in life. These same skills and patterns can also be learned and applied thru persistence and passion. Using NLP and hypnotherapy a client can choose to create healthy goals for himself which include being motivated and having self discipline and determination.

There was a famous study done in the 1960’s with children that has been the discussion of many educators and the starting point to help individuals engineer excellence.

This famous experiment was the Marshmallow or Oreo Cookie Experiment performed by Walter Mischel who was a psychology professor at Stanford University. He created an experiment where a four year old child was told that they could have one or two marshmallows depending on their choice. The child had a marshmallow in front of them and was told that the researcher was leaving the room. They could eat the marshmallow ( in later years it became an Oreo cookie.). but if they would wait until the researcher would return to the room they could then have two. Further, if they did wish to have the marshmallow they should ring the bell and the experimenter would come back into the room and they can have the one marshmallow. Approximately two thirds of the children could not resist eating the marshmallow

Probably the most interesting and most exciting aspect of this experiment was that by telling the child to use his imagination and draw a picture frame around the marshmallow that the children were able to see the marshmallow as more imaginary and they were able withstand the temptation offered by the marshmallow. This was a key that Mischel used in later life, and coincidentally this is a key strategic technique in NLP -Neuro Linguistic Programming. By changing the way one perceives an object or by changing the perceptual frame one was able to lessen the pull of the original object so that the subject the child was more easily able to delay gratification . In later life having this will power or self control is viewed as one of the character strengths in executive function.


What was interesting was the follow up studies in adolescence that showed that kids that were able to delay gratification and not eat the marshmallows. had higher test results in SAT scores, and tested higher for different sets of social competence. They even discovered in adults that the young children that were able to resist instant gratification in later life were less likely to be habituated to drugs and were less likely to be obese.


So, Lessons Learned by researcher Walter Mischel and other psychologists such as Carol Dweck of Stanford , the author of the best seller “Mindset” suggest that a major contributing factor to success, academic or otherwise is the ability to persevere, to have a growth mindset to cultivate characteristics of Grit and Determination and the ability to delay gratification. All of these characteristics dovetail well with the ability to be a more motivated student and to create successful self directed outcomes.

When I work with a student to help the student get better grades, one of the skills or choices that the student implements is usually a better work ethic. However, this has to be self directed and the student has to be excited about it or it doesn’t happen.

Sadly today kids don’t know how to organize themselves to study. A little planning with parental support can go a long way toward assisting a student so that he/she has the basic tools to Excel.

Learning can be equated to a game. To excel in a game requires practice . To be a good student requires practice and we call that practice studying.


In NLP one of the practices we use is to model excellence and to assume it. When working with students I encourage them to be aware of the habit patterns of good students and emulate them . I also encourage the student to set goals for themselves and help them strengthen their internal desires to reach those goals.

A good student is a motivated student and my work is designed to help the student to create empowering choices that are congruent with his/her own eternal ecology. Empowering choices would include envisioning success, motivating themselves to study in an organized way and believing that they have the tools, skills and abilities to reach their goals.

What is beautiful about the way this works is that as the student becomes more confident in his ability to navigate his studies he also attains self confidence that can spill over into other aspects of life.

In working with students I find that teaching the student to relax and improving their visualization skills helps the student with memory recall, creativity in writing and in art, and a belief that they have the ability to manifest in their own lives.