[Republished] GROW and brain hacking

Editors note: Please note this article was published last week but due to a formatting error I have republished it here today. Thanks. 

The GROW Model is a powerful tool that Radical Psychologists can use to help people change their behaviour in a constructive way – you can literally hack your brain and change your life.

Developed by Sir John Whitmore this model is used extensively in the Leadership field to help businesses improve staff outcomes.

But let’s break it down.

The GROW model allows you to help others set realistic goals based on their current situation and develop aspirations and goals for the future. This type of coaching will also give individuals the confidence and drive to improve their competence and success both in their professional and personal lives. Finally GROW gives people the will power to see their goals to fruition under the measured guidance of their colleagues.

GROW encourages you – the coach –  to stay flexible and respond actively to the coachee, rather than following a strict delineated system. You are also encouraged to listen, actively, to what is being said and not said. Finally GROW encourages you to explore, in a place of safety, a person’s goals, dreams, wishes and desires and to elicit from them a true representation of what they want, not just what they think they should say or want.

Ultimately GROW is about connecting with an individual on a deep level, and helping them achieve the things they want.

Let’s look at the constituent parts.

Radical Psychologists know that people behave irrationally. We act on a world going on inside our head, not on a world that exists out there. More often than not we are held back not by the objective circumstances of our life, but by the narrative we tell ourselves.


The first component of GROW – Goals – is all about helping people restructure that internal narrative from the ground up. We start by asking people to write down their goals. More often than not people don’t know what they want. They go through life thinking they know what they want when, actually, they can barely articulate why they do what they do. This is perfectly normal and makes sense in an evolutionary framework since constantly remaining conscious of our reasons for acting would require huge amounts of energy better spent on survival and resource gathering.

By clarifying the reasons why we act we can become aware, and take control, of the things that drive us forward. So the first aspect of GROW is all about helping people clear up this area.

For example we can get people to get a piece of paper and start asking them what they want to be doing in 5 years, in 10 years, in 30 years. We can ask what they want to be doing in 6 months, next week, or tomorrow.

This can be a difficult emotional struggle for some people who might need to reconcile their ultimate goals with their current behaviours. This is cognitive dissonance and is incredibly important. Cognitive dissonance occurs when what we believe and what we do is not in sync. The way we reconcile this is more often than not to change our thinking not our behaviour, since thinking is almost always easier to change than real world behaviour (since it might involve changing jobs, leaving a spouse etc…). What this aspect of GROW encourages people to do is to stop taking the easy way out, to confront that central raison d’etre and clarify it. Bring it into the light. Analyse it. Deconstruct it.

It’s hard. It’s embarrassing. It’s painful. Yet once clarity is achieved the next steps can be taken up.


Reality is a shifty thing. It’s important to remember here that objective reality is quite probably real, yet it has no bearing on our behaviour in any meaningful way (beyond basic observance of the laws of physics). What we are encouraging here is a close look at our subjective reality. What skills do we have. What do we do now. Where are we in the world. In our business. In our lives.

Again this is a painful, gut-wrenching process that can be highly unsettling to some people. We have to look at where we are now. Radical Psychologists know that our judgements are often clouded by emotions. We often don’t pay close attention to our real reality since we are so obsessed with our make believe reality (again a highly adaptable evolutionary trait).

So how do we clarify our reality? We start by writing it down. Make lists. Analyse. Dissect. You might be sensing a pattern here. We are not equipped, biologically and psychologically, to internally analyse these things actively. We have to externalise them (by writing them down) and then we look at it in the cold light of day.

Once we’ve clarified the reality of our situation we can compare it to our ultimate goals. We can see that we need to upskill in X area. Or take up a class in X discipline. By orienting ourselves in this way Radical Psychologists can put themselves above and beyond the average person by achieving a level of clarity most never achieve.

But that’s only half the job.


We have our goals. We have a good, hard delineation of our reality. As hard as it might be to achieve this it is so very important to our improvement.

We now move on to options. This is where we look outward to the world and say “what could we do?”, can we take a class? Develop a new skill? Move to a new town? Country? Can we find a business mentor? Read a book? Talk to a person about an issue?

These are the questions we need to ask. In a sense this is the easiest and most important aspect of this process. We need to identify what we need to move forward. This task is only possible if we have clearly and properly identified our goals and our reality.

Once we know what we want, where we are, and how we are going to achieve it, we then need to sort out what we will do.


The will section of this model is perhaps the most nuanced.

We need to understand that Will is as much about what we are going to do as why we are going to do it.

So let’s start with the what. This is about planning. Write a step-by-step guide to moving forward. This can include a timeline, for example, “Next week I will apply for this degree”, or “Tomorrow I will phone X and discuss this with them”. Let the timeline stretch into the future as far as you want but make sure you are taking a molecular approach, focus on the specifics.

Once you’ve done that we focus on the most ephemeral but also important aspect of Will. Motivation. Drive. Willpower.

Motivation is inherently difficult to increase and we will discuss this later in more detail in the blog. It is, however, so incredibly important to this process. It’s no good if you know what you want and how to achieve it if you aren’t interested in pursuing it.


This is a long blog post but I hope its given you some clarity on this powerful model. If people are interested in hearing more feel free to tell me so in the comments but remember a Radical Psychologist is a person who understands their true nature and works to utilise it. The GROW model serves as an incredibly powerful tool that can help you rise above other people by giving you clarity, purpose, and drive to achieve the things you want to achieve whilst working in the confines of human psychology.


Good luck.  


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