[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.  


Words and Non-Conscious Behaviour

A Radical Psychologist understands that words are more than mere symbols to communicate concepts. That is the old view of reality. The 2D view of a world inhabited by rational-linear beings computing and outputting on simple A-B scale.

A 3D, view of the world sees words as behaviours. Stimuli that act on the world and alter the environment of those around the speaker and beyond. A word can arouse passion, anger, love, understanding. Words can also change our behaviours in a very real way.

We are not linear A-B beings. We think in three dimensions and our thoughts are driven by more than the words we ascribe to them. A Radical Psychologist understands and uses this knowledge to affect change on the world around them.

Consider; I tell you that I am extremely busy, that I am snowed under, that not the hounds of Hades himself could drag me from my work, but for you I will do as you ask and do you a favour.

How does this make you feel? What if I am sat watching tv, munching on chocolate, exuding boredom and inactivity, when you ask me to help I sigh, “I suppose”, I mumble, “I have nothing better to do”.

How does this make you feel? The outcome – the manifestation of my response – that I ultimately help you is the same. Yet the first example makes you feel in my debt, as though I am doing you a great favour and it is exacting a huge price on me, the second that I am merely doing it for he same of having something to do.

Here is a truth; both examples lead to the same outcome. I help you. To the 2D thinker they are the same thing merely different on a purely aesthetic spectrum. To the Radical Psychologist – the 3D thinker – there is all the difference in the world.

Consider another example; lets go back thirty years. We work together in a busy office environment that only has one photocopier. As per usual there is a queue for the photocopier. Harried officer-workers line up to get their photocopies done but your boss has just demanded some photocopies for an important meeting – and he wants them now.

You rush to the photocopier, blindly you push to the front of the queue muttering apologies, people moan and grumble, you get evil looks from others. You slink away, your social position damaged, you feel guilty, but hey ho. At least you got the photocopies. You sit back next to me and shrug, “he wanted them now” you offer, by way of explanation.

“Let me show you something” I say, smiling. I get up, grab something to photocopy. I stand at the back of the queue and say, quietly, “Excuse me, I really need the photocopier now because I need to make some photocopies”. You laugh at the insanity of it but the laugh dies on your tongue because like magic people let me pass, I get the copies and people smile, glad to have helped me out. I return to my desk grinning. You just stare, flabbergasted.

At least, you would do if you were a 2D thinker.

A Radical Psychologist however would not be surprised. This study demonstrates exactly what I described above.

We think our actions are conscious and wilful. Actually we behave largely non-consciously. Simply responding to stimuli that present themselves to us. Robert Cialdini, in his book “Influence” (which every Radical Psychologist needs to read), calls this the click, whirr response.

Remember it. Use it. Radical Psychologists harness this automaticity to great affect.

Confirmation Bias and Word Thinking

My last post on word thinking got a lot of hits. Many people were positive but some people pointed out that this concept – word thinking – is just confirmation bias.

Word thinking is NOT confirmation bias.

Allow me to explain.

Confirmation bias is the process by which an individual seeks to confirm their own beliefs by paying attention to only those facts which confirm the a priori belief and ignoring, or giving significantly less focus to, the facts that challenge a belief.

Word thinking, in contrast, is the process by which an individual ascribes a label, definition, or word to a person, group, object etc… and substitute individual analysis for the pre-defined category being used as a label.

My example was a little confusing, and I think it’s fair to say that what I was talking about was more confirmation bias than word thinking but I think the example still works from a different perspective.

Radical Psychologists know that people are word thinkers. We substitute real thinking for easy go-to categories that LOOK like thinking. To use the example in my last post if we believe a person is “creepy” or a “stalker” we can then comfortable put them in the “bad” category and be done with them, no further analysis is needed on our part and it LOOKS like we have made a rational decision.

Hopefully this clears things up for the Radical Psychologists out there.

Share this post on Twitter, comment whether you liked it or not, and share it with your friends!

On Word Thinking and Imaginary Rationality

Scott Adams, Dilbert creator and apparent political prophet is also a Radical Psychologist (though he probably doesn’t know it…).

Adams has taken an average-popularity blog tacked onto his comic site and turned it into a veritable gold mine of psychological tricks and knowledge. Adams has shown, repeatedly, that he understands human behaviour better than 99% of people you’ll ever meet (including me).

You see Adams introduced me, and countless others, to the concept of Word-Thinking.

Word thinking, according to Adams, is all about how we

Use labels, word definitions, and analogies to create the illusion of rational thinking. This group is 99% of the world.

Now its important to understand as Radical Psychologists that the idea of a rational person is largely mythological. That there exists people(s) who go about their day being 100% rational is, quite simply, nonsense.

Let me reiterate so we are under no illusions here; there is no such thing as a rational person. 

A caveat; we can use rationality in discrete bursts, what I am referring to is the idea that we can live rationally all or even most of the time. 

Now. Back to the Word-Thinkers.

Radical Psychologists know that human beings are pattern-recognisers. We don’t think in linear terms, but rather in a diffuse, inter-connected way. We use emotions, patterns, and imagined connections to navigate a confusing, incomprehensible universe without tipping off into the void of insanity.


Word thinking is the manifestation of this way of thinking. We assign abstract qualities to people and things because actually figuring the truth out would be too much work.

An example; lets say I have a friend, we’ll call her Jane. You have never met Jane but at a party I introduce you and she, Jane, excuses herself to get a drink, I lean in to you and tell you, quietly, “Shes a lovely woman but unfortunately three of her exes have restraining orders against her, she likes to stalk them”. You immediately put poor Jane into the category “Stalker” and with it make a whole host of judgement based on this knowledge.

Jane returns to the conversation and we carry on as normal, a few minutes later I excuse myself to go greet another guest and you are left alone with our mystery stalker. You chat amiably, wary of her now, when she asks this seemingly-innocent question “Do you live around here?”. You answer “no”, she says “Oh i’m just asking because I knew a guy who lived around here once, he had a lovely home, I use to go there often”. You laugh this off, wondering… She looks at you again, and says “I’ll be honest I only ever come to these parties to try and meet a nice guy, I’ve had such trouble with boyfriends in the past”.

So. Creepy or what, right? She’s obviously sizing you up to be her next stalking victim. Undoubtedly you’d run in the other direction as fast as you can.

Lets look at this like a Radical Psychologist.

You are thinking this way because I told you she was a Stalker. You interpreted her action in the context of that judgement. Asked about this encounter afterwards you would undoubtedly tell me how strange she is, how intense, how she was trying to pry your address out of you, you could even see the glint of madness in here eyes!

But it was imaginary. You took a pre-existing category, ascribed qualities to her based on this category, and then judged every action she took in the context of those qualities.

But here’s the thing. I was lying to you. Jane isn’t a stalker. She has no restraining orders against her. Her exes don’t think she is a psychopath.

Go back and re-read her questions. Does she seem crazy now? or is she just a single woman looking to meet a nice guy?

This is the power (and danger) of word thinking. We are all susceptible to this type of thinking and it’s important, as Radical Psychologists, to be able to detect it.

Look around your life. How many people do you judge based on an assumptive category? You can easily stop this by recognising the error and looking for actual evidence.

The Power Of Attitude

We will be talking a lot about a radical psychologists approach to attitude but it’s a huge topic and we can’t cover it all in one go.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Attitude is mindset is philosophy is sense of life.

There are different words for this.

Carol Dweck talks about Mindset, Mike Cernovich talks about MAGA Mindset and Gorilla Mindset, Tony Robbins talks about Awakening the Giant Within, Scott Adams’ talks about Systems Vs. Goals.

This is the new science of human behaviour.

Forget the crap about about being “sceptical”, forget the nonsense about “rationality” or “education”.

It’s crap. All crap. Crap promoted by academics who never leave their enclaves and think in terms of equations and theories and published articles and impact factors.


Radical Psychology is about saying “no” to that tame nonsense and realising human potential.

Look at your life. Look at it. Really look and see how crap it is. See the stuff you hate. See the overhanging stomach (I share your pain!). See the expensive house that seems empty. The fancy car that you fear being scratched. The expensive clothes that don’t fit right. The gluten free vegan diet that makes you dread your dinner.

You’ve bought into a lie. You’ve bought into a system designed to feed you through a consumer-led nightmare keeping you forever searching happiness in other things. It keeps you dependent on other people and other things to make you happy. You’re supposed to hate your life so you are always wanting more and more and more.


To start on attitude do this; Look at your life. Really look.

Then start to turn away. Turn away from it. Question it. All of it.

Realise your life is your own to live and you can make your happiness without relying on all these fake-systems to please you.

That’s the beginning. That’s the radical psychology of attitude.

An holistic view of Human Behaviour

Radical Psychologists don’t view people as statistical artefacts. We see them as unique and individual. 

Standard – read: non-radical – psychology stakes it’s theoretical claims on something called statistical significance. Non-radical psychologists test large groups of people comparing one group against another and then see how many people in that group changed in some way by computing complicated statistical models to “prove” statistical differences between the groups at a .05 probability level.
Sounds like fun, right?

If you’re like me you look at mathematical models of human behaviour and just despair. Sure they have their place (pharmacology trials come to mind, and sociological and anthropological studies) but when you’re making a statement about an individual you cannot use statistical averages to prove a point.

A p = 0.05 value is often reported in psychology journals as a sort of gold-standard confirmation. In actuality it’s a rejection of a null hypothesis (I know…right? but bare with me…) stating that you on average the result you see is NOT a random event. In simpler terms it means if you repeated an event 100 times it an outcome would occur 95 times or more.

The key word here is average. Radical psychologists don’t see people as statistical averages distributed on a bell curve. We see people as holistic individuals unique to the world.

This does not mean you can’t derive generalised principles about human behaviour, or make predictions about what people will do, but it does mean we can’t conjure an imaginary “average” person out of statistical thin air to prove a point.

A radical psychologist sees each person as a unique object, unique to their learning history, their genetics, and their environment. Rather than trying to work out what mysterious unknowable forces may or may not be going on inside the person we instead look to the world around them, to the places they shop, the beds they sleep in, the friends they keep, the people they love, the food they eat, the games they place etc…

By looking at these things we can tell more about a person than any group experiment could ever do.

That is the Radical Psychologists view of a person.

The Beautiful Nuance of Human Behaviour

Human behaviour is a beautifully nuanced thing.

This blog and website will be all about that beauty. We are prone to thinking of our behaviour as a logical A —> B system, a nice, neat process whereby we view the world, judge it, come to certain conclusions, and then act on it.

This is all rubbish.

We are irrational creatures. Prone to emotions and bad thinking. We feel, then act, then rationalise it all later to make ourselves feel smart.

The beauty of this is just how clever we are at hiding it from ourselves. We’ve all been brainwashed into thinking we are logical. It’s a wonderful, self-perpetuating system.

I’ll be going over these systems more and more in the future. The beauty of human behaviour lies in these systems. When you understand the intricacies of how we move through the world you’ll be able to sharpen your own skills, understand how and why other people do what they do, and be able to affect the sort of changes in your own life that you want to see.