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Kelly's Quest

Leo Tolstoy opens his famous novel Anna Karenina with these words: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."


"After a period of study, meditation and pondering, two questions came up again and again as central to my career and life pursuit: How could I become a happier, more healthy, more fully developed person, who thought and acted in the world to make a positive difference? How could I help others to do that as well?"


I was “normal” in many ways with many varied interests in sports, science, relationships and a career. I was also unfulfilled and unhappy in my own, unique way. And I wanted to solve that problem . . .


I had graduated from high school the year before. I was sitting in a jet on a flight from Kansas City to visit a friend in California (my dad was an airline pilot for TWA and I had a pass to fly anywhere for free). I began reading a Psychology Today magazine article. It was an excerpt of a book by Dr. Andrew Weil called The Natural Mind. As I began reading it, I was overwhelmed. The ideas in the article struck me like a lighting bolt for some reason. It was one of those moments in my life where I was seized with interest, passion and purpose. I loved the idea that there were differing kinds of thinking, and that I could choose to understand and alter my own thinking.


Launched by the insights of Andrew Weil's book, I plunged initially into a study of humanistic psychology. I found a field of study and practice that intrigued me with a passion and focus I had never known.


I just knew such a field provided a promise of finding the secrets to fulfillment in the inner world as a means of making a difference in the outer world. I began reading, studying, and taking university classes. I couldn't get enough. I bought books by the dozen, and devoured them with eager enthusiasm.


And I knew, because of the intensity of my interest, that I would devote my life to unraveling the mysteries of healthy human development. After a period of study, meditation and pondering, two questions came up again and again as central to my career and life pursuit:


How could I become a happier, more healthy, more fully developed person, who thought and acted in the world to make a positive difference? How could I help others to do that as well?

I continued to bear in mind these questions. And gradually, answers began emerging. One was the pursuit of science. I wanted a real grounding in science.

I studied the biological sciences as attempt to root my own knowledge in the science of the outer world. I finished an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from Johnson County Community College. I pursued a science degree from Arizona State University. After I completed an undergraduate degree in Environmental Resources in Agriculture in 1976, I continued my focus on psychology and related fields. After working and living in an alternative community based on human development for two years, I entered graduate school in counseling in the Chicago-area school called Governor's State University. It was 1978. I focused on both the theory and the methods of psychology towards a Master of Arts degree in Human Relations Services with an emphasis on counseling.

I began that year with a strong interest in Andrew Weil and the psychology of self-actualization of Abraham Maslow. By the time I finished my degree at the end of the year, I had a exposure to and training in a wide range of theories of psychology and practical methods of counseling.

For one class I read all 20 published books by humanistic psychotherapist Erich Fromm as part of a class presentation on his theories. For another class I reviewed Raymond Corsini's classic text called Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. I studied audio and video tapes of counseling sessions conducted by the most well-known therapists such as Fritz Perls, Albert Ellis, Carl Rogers, and others. I studied the methods of family theorists such as Alfred Adler, and those of his student, Rudolf Dreikurs, under my professor Ken Wieg, a student of Dreikurs. I learned a variety of counseling methods and workshop processes from professor Rick Horowitz.

Professor Horowitz introduced me to a then-brand-new approach to applying cognitive and social science. It used linguistics, computer programming, and building usable models of the thinking and communication processes of expert therapists. These experts included family therapy cofounder Virginia Satir, legendary hypnotherapist and psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson, and Gestalt therapy founder Fritz Perls. I had discovered Neuro-linguistic programming or NLP—the work of Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Judith Delozier, Steve and Connirae Andreas, and Robert Dilts.

By the end of 1978, I had my Master's degree in counseling. I had studied with several fine professors. I had talked with and learned from some of the leaders I admired, including Gregory Bateson and Milton Erickson. And with my knowledge of theories of psychology and the latest methods of counseling, I launched myself into a process of learning NLP methods by working closely with its founders.

All along I had two agendas for learning and applying the insights of cognitive and social science, one professional and one personal. The professional agenda was to learn to be an agent of healthy development for others as a counselor, consultant, coach, speaker, educator and writer. My personal agenda was to apply all that I learned for helping others, to help myself get healthy. The same questions continued to guide me:

How could I become a happier, more healthy, more fully developed person, who thought and acted in the world to make a positive difference? How could I help others to do that as well?

Back to Kansas City

I moved back to my home town in 1979-the Kansas City area-and opened up my counseling practice. Teaming up with psychologist Ramon Corrales, I began presenting workshops on NLP while I began working with individuals, couples and families. From 1980 onward, I participated in workshops from the leading experts in individual and family therapy including Frank Farrelly, Peggy Papp, Jay Haley, Carl Whitaker, Steven Gilligan, Steven Lankton, and many other fantastic therapists-always learning whatever I could from the methods these teachers advocated and demonstrated. I shared an office with William L. Mundy, a psychiatrist who trained with Milton H. Erickson and integrated many methods into his own practice, including spiritual, shamanistic practices. I kept learning from these superb practitioners.

I also began exploring what I could learn from the advances in the field of cognitive science.

I taught Theories of Psychology and Theories of Personality at Ottawa University. I kept reading.

I continued to learn NLP. I became an NLP trainer with John Grinder and Judith Delozier's NLP organization. I also worked as an NLP trainer with Steve and Connirae Andreas and their NLP organization, NLP Comprehensive.

I found that the NLP methods for influencing thinking and behavior were impressive and practical. They provide a thorough, detailed collection of options for understanding and guiding the intricacies of language, non-verbal communication and imagery for the purpose of solving problems and achieving goals.

Contributions to NLP

My own contribution to the field of NLP involved training thousands of professionals in the verbal patterns of hypnotherapy developed by Milton Erickson, and those reframing patterns of family therapy developed by Virginia Satir.

I also worked very closely with Virginia Satir during the 1980s to apply her work in family therapy to conflict more generally. She coached me directly in some family therapy sessions. This work culminated in my doctoral dissertation titled Universals of Negotiation. I completed it in 1988. Virginia Satir, John Grinder and family therapists Ramon Corrales and Larry Ro-Trock served on my dissertation committee. The 567-page document synthesized many models of conflict resolution into a new model for resolving conflicts.

Four years later, in the early 1990s, I coauthored a book and tape-set with other NLP trainers from NLP Comprehensive called NLP: The New Technology of Achievement. The book was translated into many languages and the tape-set sold more than 100,000 copies, becoming one of the top-selling NLP publications. You can get the book at this website:

and the tape set at this website:

There is a copy of it also with the Johnson County Library, in the Kansas City area.

I applied what I learned about conflict resolution with individuals, couples, families and, on occasion, with organizations. Working with people became a joy with knowledge of how to help them develop in healthy ways. Many solved tough problems and achieved far-reaching goals. It was extraordinarily fulfilling and interesting work. I continued to be guided by the same two questions:

How could I become a happier, more healthy, more fully developed person, who thought and acted in the world to make a positive difference? How could I help others to do that as well?

But What about the Workplace?

But there was a psychological rock in my shoe as I traveled in my life journey. Many of my individual clients complained about unfulfilling, demeaning and demoralizing work lives. By early in the 1990s, I realized that what helped bring about healthy development for individuals and families had not been applied with much success in business, governmental and non-profit organizations—the workplace. I wanted to break new ground. I wanted to apply the methods of healthy development I had applied with individuals and families to various types of organizations where people spent so much time working.

I developed and taught a course called Human Relations for Managers in the Graduate Business School at Rockhurst University. At the invitation of the president of Rockhurst University, Thom Savage, I began conducting retreats with corporate executives, first with consultant Charlie Sheppard, facilitator Arthur Hull, cognitive linguist and philosophy professor Mark Johnson, and cultural historian Morris Berman—and later, on my own. By the late 1990s this work grew into a set of methods for organizations called Values Based Leadership.

To create Values Based Leadership, I examined a number of fields involved in healthy human development: the best patterns of NLP, counseling, and conflict resolution; the best ideas from leadership theory; the best processes from different cultures and spiritual traditions. I then blended them into a set of methods whereby leaders could identify their own healthy values and pursue a process in the real world of work for fulfilling them on a daily basis. I wanted relatively jargon-free and use able terminology for offered for making a values based, positive difference. To look this at set of ideas, look at the summary article by David Smith, my colleague from New Zealand. It is at this link

To see another published article (by Leigh Spencer) about my motives for creating Values Based Leadership at:

I began applying Values Based Leadership with my client organizations large and small. To this day, I continue to work with organizations to apply its framework of inner and outer skills to help my organizational clients identify and fulfill their values. For a good summary of the work in the case of a fire department see the 2006 article, Search for Values, from Fire Chief magazine that I coauthored with fire chief Richard Carrizzo. You can access it here:

NLP came about as a result of a synthesis of some of the best discoveries that emerged in the 1970s: combining effective therapists with Noam Chomsky's linguistics, software programming principles and advances in neuro science.

"I began a review, starting in the year 2000, of the latest advances in the various branches of this growing field of cognitive science and a few related fields. What I thought would take a year or two, took over eight years, my work in this area is still ongoing."

The Quest for a New Synthesis

I learned what I could and applied my skills as well as I could. And I was happy with the results of my synthesis of human development ideas for working with organizations—Values Based Leadership. But I realized—and this was a few years ago—that I had not reviewed the latest accomplishments in the fields that comprise healthy human development. What discoveries and ideas were not being applied for helping people in counseling, coaching and consulting? What new patterns could be combined to make a new synthesis for bringing forth healthy human development for people, starting with individuals, couples and families, and also to organizations?

I wanted to expand and revise my palette of patterns to draw from so I could create a unique blend of methods for each unique person with whom I worked.

I began a review, starting in the year 2000, of the latest advances in the various branches of this growing field of cognitive science and a few related fields. What I thought would take a year or two, took over eight years, my work in this area is still ongoing.

I won't go into all the details here, but I'll offer a summary of my explorations.

In cognitive sciences I found great help from the work of Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist Gerald Edelman. His book called A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Consciousness provides a breathtaking view of the human mind, especially the neuro-anatomy of the brain related to emotions. With the work of Antonio Damasio, I found wonderful insights from case of brain-damaged persons into the nature of values, consciousness and our decision-making. The key books of his that I studied are Decarte's Error and The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. I also studied the latest versions of the linguistics of Noam Chomsky; and I explored a new advance in linguistics by William O'Grady—work that includes the dimension of time as a non-grammatical way of understanding language.

Through the work of cognitive linguists Mark Johnson, George Lakoff and Mark Turner I found about the stucture of images and stories and the processes by which we can change them. Mark Turner's key book in (with Gilles Fauconnier) in this area is titled The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities. These ideas describe the way we use metaphors to form concepts and the way we blend concepts to form new concepts.

I reviewed the processes of depth psychology, especially Heinz Kohut's work on the development of the self; and German psychiatrist Alice Miller's work on healing the unhealed abuses in childhood; and Erik Erikson's work about the Golden Rule, Gandhi's ethics, empathy and human development.

I studied spiritual practices for healing from some of the great religious traditions. I re-read a book I had read years before by Aldous Huxley titled The Perennial Philosophy. I looked at the history of the great religions. Karen Armstrong's book The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions is a great summary of the philosophies and methods that offer many spiritual methods for our own moral guidance today. And I studied many other spiritual works.

I explored the amazing research on the evolution of the human mind. A book by William Calvin summarizes this work. It is called A Brief History of the Mind. Calvin and several other writers are finally telling the story of how the human mind came to arise about 500 centuries ago in East Africa, and the relevance of this amazing, improbable story to us today. My explorations in this area included the work of Steven Mithin; Peter Carruthers & Andrew Chamberlain; Tecumseh Fitch, Marc Hauser & Noam Chomsky; Robin Dunbar; and Richard Klein.

I explored the recent, significant advances made by two of my colleagues in NLP theory and practice Steve and Connirae Andreas. In the case of Connirae, her book Core Transformation (with her sister Tamara Andreas) reveals a method for both harnessing and constructing important states of being, by starting with a problem and leading to a state of connection, peace and oneness. In the case of Steve, his last three books constitute an amazing breakthrough by showing how self-concept, categorization, scope and logical levels interact to generate much that constitutes how personal change occurs. The books Steve wrote are Transforming your Self and Six Blind Elephants Part I and II. They are all available through Real People Press

I also examined the key literary aspects of fictional stories. Fiction is not just about fiction. It is also about how we tell stories to ourselves and about our self. Books on plot and character helped me understand the possible structures of the stories we tell our selves, consciously and unconsciously, about who we are and how we compose our lives as an ongoing, changing narrative.

With all these strands of thoughts and ideas in my notes and in my mind, I then I set out to find out how I could synthesize these separate strands of thoughts and ideas into an interwoven whole. I wanted to combine such new ideas with what I already knew from my studies of psychology, NLP, hypnotherapy, values and leadership. I wanted this combination to form a useable, coherent approach to help the individuals, couples, families and organizations with whom I worked.

After much study, as I write this in 2009, I'm happy with the results this journey is providing for me and for those for whom I work. My quest is still based on the same two questions:

How could I become a happier, more healthy, more fully developed person, who thought and acted in the world to make a positive difference? How could I help others to do that as well?

With my latest synthesis of methods for healthy human development, I believe I have a wider range of methods than I have ever had-for me and for you. Like an artist with a palette of many colors with which to paint, I now have a new, expanded, growing palette of patterns for enhancing the healthy development of my clients. And for me as well.

To learn more about the particular ways my own explorations of change skills can help you, browse my website.

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