Definition of ‘meta program’
Meta Programs are thinking patterns. For instance: is someone focussed on the details or the big picture? Or: do they want to achieve things, or do they want to avoid problems? If you would take 100 examples of how someone thinks in a certain situation, you would that same kind of thinking in many of those examples. You can also find them in how somebody says things and in their nonverbal expressions.

Where does that word come from?
Meta means ‘above’ (looking at things from a higher level) and ‘programming’ refers – in this case – to sequences in our thinking, e.i. consecutive inner images, leelings, voices, mememories, et cetera. So meta programs are patterns in that programming.

Meta Programs are an important part of your mindset. Your mindset is made up of your values and how you handle your values. Your values themselves are measured in MindSonar as ‘Graves drives’ and how you handle them, your thinking style, is measured in meta programs.

Synonyms for ‘meta program’

  • Thinking pattern
  • Thinking Style Quality
  • Way of thinking
  • Mindset element
  • Cognitive-perceptual preference

List of Meta Programs measured in MindSonar

Set 1: Proactive versus Reactive
Proactive = a preference for acting quickly and taking the initiative.
Reactive = a preference for waiting, considering, and reflecting.

Set 2: Towards versus Away from
Towards = a focus on achieving goals
Away From = a focus on avoiding problems.

Set 3: Internal Reference versus External Reference
Internal Reference = using one’s own standards in evaluations.
External Reference = using other people’s standards in evaluations.

Set 4: Options versus Procedure
Options = a preference for many different possibilities.
Procedure = a preference for step-by-step planning.

Set 5: General versus Specific
General  = a focus on the broad overview
Specific = a focus on the small details.

Set 6: Matching versus Mismatching
Matching = a focus on what is good and correct.
Mismatching =  a focus on what is bad and incorrect).

Set 7: Internal locus of control versus External locus of control
Internal locus of control = a focus on how someone influences their circumstances)
External locus of control (focus on how someone’s circumstances influence them).

Set 8: Maintenance versus Development versus Change
Maintenance = a preference for things staying the same.
Development = a preference for gradual change.
Change = a preference for fast and radical change.

Set 9: People versus Activity versus Information
People = a focus on people and what moves them
Activities = a focus on activities being done
Information = focus on information; facts and figures.

Set 10: Concept versus Structure versus Use
Concept = a focus on essentials and principles.
Structure = a focus on relationships between elements.
Use = a focus on practical applications.

Set 11: Together versus Proximity versus Solo
Together = a preference for working closely together with shared responsibility.
Proximity = a preference for mutual support with individual responsibility.
Solo = a preference for working alone).

Set 12: Past versus Present versus Future
Past = a focus on past events.
Present = a focus on the “here and now”.
Future = a focus on future events.

Set 13: Visual versus Auditory versus Kinesthetic
Visual = a focus on images and movies.
Auditory = focus on sounds and words.
Kinesthetic = focus on feelings and movement.

If you want to see examples of these patterns in famous quotes, click here.

How thinking style, filters, feelings and actions work together
There is a dynamic relationship between thinking (meta programs and Graves drives), perception, emotion and behaviour.

  • How your mindset strengthens your perception
    Mindset, consisting of thinking style (Meta programs) plus motivational types (Graves drives), determines perceptual filters. What is a perceptual filter? Basically it is what someone does or does not notice. And the other way around: once in place, these filters tend to strengthen the thinking style and the motivational type they are based on. For example: Someone uses the meta program ‘Procedure’ in a given context. They think in terms of sequences that need to be run in a certain order. So when they look at a bookcase they will notice a row of manuals. Manuals are full of the kind of procedural information that they like. If they would have had the meta program ‘Options’ active, instead of ‘Procedure’, they would probably not even have noticed these manuals.

  • How your mindset and perception determine your how you feel
    Mindset plus the resulting perceptual filters affect somebody’s mood and emotions and vice versa. For example: Someone is working with a particular household appliance and they are focused on ‘Procedure’. They encounter a problem. They feel frustrated. Then they notice the appliances manual on the bookshelf. They start to feel better: “Ah, there must be a solution somewhere in there!”

  • How your mindset, perception and mood determine your behavior In the same example: The person sees the manual. Because they are focusing on ‘Procedure’, a manual with step-by-step how-to information makes them feel better. So with a sigh of relief they take it off the shelf and start reading (behaviour). They figure out how to solve the problem. Now they feel satisfied. At the same time this emotion reinforces their meta program (Procedure) and their Graves Drives (Blue for ‘doing things as they ought to be done’  and orange for ‘Being successful and winning’).

Meta programs and NLP
Meta Programs originated from NLP (‘Neuro-Linguistic Programming’), a model for studying and transforming subjective experience. NLP was developed from the late seventies of the last century in the USA, by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They in turn borrowed concepts from:

  • Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy)
  • Milton H. Erickson (Hypnotherapy)
  • Virginia Satir (Family therapy)
  • Alfred H. Korzybski (Linguistic Philosophy)
  • Vaihinger (Philosophy of ‘As-if’)
  • Miller, Galanter and Pibram (Cybernetics)
  • Gregory Bateson (Human evolution)