Future Pacing in Coaching and NLP

Future Pacing

Future Pacing is a technique where the client is asked to imagine  him or herself in the future in a given desired situation. The given situation being the topic, problem, challenge, or limititation that you worked with your client on.

Example: Your client previously felt extreme anxiety when speaking in public. You have been working with your client to feel relaxed and confident the next time he or she goes on stage to give a speech to a large audience. You ask your client to imagine him or herself on stage.

Why future pace?

1. Testing your work. Does the client look calm and relaxed imagining being on stage? Have you completed your change work successfully?  In order to properly test your work, you have to watch verbal, and non-verbal cues such as body language, speed of breathing, lower lip size, skin color changes, tonality of voice etc. You have to be in tune as to how your client looks unresourceful in the old situation of being on stage, versus how the client looks calm and relaxed in the new situation. This means you need to calibrate. A way to do this is asking your client at the beginning of the coaching session to imagine what it currently feels like to be on stage. And then ask your client to think of a situation where he or she felt calm and relaxed. You have then calibrated how your client looks, when having certain emotions. At the end of the coaching session, your client will display what he or she looks like calm and relaxed. If you have done your job well.

2. Embed the change in a future situation. Making sure that your change work not only applies to past and present, it also applies to the future.

3. Mental rehearsal. Future pacing is also a mental rehearsal for the client, to now feel resourceful in the contexts he or she previously felt unresourceful. Practice makes perfect.

Another effective way to use future pace for mental rehearsal is have your client imagine the situation in the future, and mentally practice road blocks that may come up. For instance in the above example, how to answer certain difficult questions, how to respond to applause, how to handle a mistake in the speech etc.

4. Future pacing is a way to give the brain positive images/sounds/feelings, which makes success much more likely (or at the least make the client feel good.)

In addition, emotions are addictive. If you could pick to be addicted to anxious and depressed emotions? Or happy and confident emotion, what would you choose?

5. Future pacing may also bring required elements of preparation to light, additional steps to reach a goal, contingency planning, or other areas that need to be covered.

6A. Future pacing makes it real to the client as to what it feels, sounds, and looks like to reach a certain goal, or feel resourceful in a certain given situation. It is a way to motivate your client. When the client can associate to what it feels like to have something, how can they not want to put in the work required to reach it!

6B. Know when the goal is reached.

7.  Prepare for situations that are hard to prepare for. As it is the clients imagination, you could future pace someone in situations he or she never experienced, yet is for instance expected to perform in the future.  An athlete is to perform in the Olympics in front of millions of viewers world wide, yet has never done so before. Using the above example, you can have the client imagine to speak in front of an audience of 200. This type of mental rehearsal for an event is hard to recreate in real life.

8. Future pacing also works well in sales. If the client can imagine what it feels like to own something, imagine himself sitting in that sports car, the comfort of owning that house….how can he or she not what that?

9. An excellent ecology check. A well trained NLP coach or life coach always checks for ecology before applying change, during and after.

This may seem redundant, however there are many coaches still not monitoring ecology. Future pacing a client in to having unresourceful feelings is something you only do by mistake. Meaning this only happens when you thought you successfully coached someone and did successful change work, yet you didn”t.

There are a meriad of coaching and change work tools available to effectively coach someone in to feeling resourcesful in situations where they previously felt unresourceful.

Future pacing is taught in the better coaching certification programs, and also in the better NLP training. If you are currently researching training programs, this would be a sure way to find out  if your NLP or (life) coach certification program is really teaching you the skills you need to successfully do change work and coach a client.  It is also taught in many self-help and personal development books. Future pacing is one of those key topics that any coach needs to be able to know how to do.


  1. This is cool. I love future pacing. I like to use it for creating motivation in the future. Some call it an anticipation builder. Merely have the client do a proper future pace and notice how good it feels to have these new resources in this experience. Next, have the client go past the experince and notice how good it feels having completed it and have them go to another experience with the wisdom of the previous experience. This will build up the resources even more. Then have them think about doing it again…while feeling good now. This builds the anticipation. Try it out. Cool stuff.

  2. Very true Martin. I use the same technique with my clients often, it is about making futures real. I find it especially powerful when using timeline based coaching and/or therapy.

  3. A very good article, Nicole. I use this technique quite a lot with my clients. It is amazing to see how much it can help to have different feelings, and how having different feelings changes how they deal with their environment and themselves.