Do you relate?

You prefer to be spontaneous rather than make long-term plans.

You prefer to keep your options open and have difficulty making decisions.

You’re not keen on routine and tend to keep changing the way things are done.

OR, maybe this better describes you.

You like a plan.

You like to complete tasks on time.

You feel overly responsible for other people.

Many years ago, I worked with an incredibly talented person but she used to drive me crazy with her indecision. We were involved in hosting lots of programs and workshops which required a significant amount of planning. We would arrive at a meeting, discuss lots of ideas, possibilities and options, but when it came to making a decision she resisted every single time. This friend was running a Meta Program.



Options Meta Program


The best results happen when we are open to exploring various options, but if a person gets fixated on either one of the preferences outlined above, we can say they are running a Meta Program. In the above case, it’s called an Options Meta Program.



What is a Meta Program?


Meta Programs are habitual thinking patterns that cause us to behave in a particular way. Over 60 Meta Programs have been identified. 

Meta-programs are like software programs for the brain that run in the background, controlling numerous responses including our thoughts, beliefs, values, memories, and behaviour. They run out of our awareness until we become aware of their existence.

These powerful mental processes help people manage, guide and direct their experiences. They help us decide what to pay attention to and what to delete, distort, discount or generalise.


Meta Programs are, therefore, mental programs that run our lives at an unconscious level of awareness. 


Every person runs Meta Programs. They are neither good nor bad. If we get fixated, however, on a particular Meta Program, it can cause us to struggle.

In my work as a coach for creatives, I have noticed that Meta Programs often gather in clusters and some Meta Programs appear to be more prevalent in the lives of creatives than the general population.

I’ve listed a few below with a brief description. Maybe you can identify where your preference lies.



Examples of Meta Programs




Screening or Non-Screening

This Meta Program refers to how much of the environment (noises, lights, distractions, voices) people characteristically screen out.

Some people screen none, while others screen out a great deal. People react differently to how long it takes before they experience stimulus overload and, therefore, neuro-semantic “stress”.



Screeners can select what they notice and screen everything else out. Screeners do not find the environment a controlling factor in their state of mind. When taken to the extreme, screeners can come across as zoned out or uncaring.



Non-screeners do little screening. They see, hear, feel and smell a great deal of the environment around them. They fail to shut out unimportant or irrelevant stimuli. They will talk more about wanting quiet, peace, comfort and no distractions.

I’m a screener. My fur baby Ivy can be barking her head off and I will not notice that she’s going nuts at a dog that is passing by the front of our place.

My friend Trish is a non-screener. If we are in a busy coffee shop, for example, she takes in all the noises and the activity. Often we have to relocate to a quieter place so she can focus. 




Closure or Non-Closure

This Meta Program relates to how people handle closure or the lack of closure.


Closure Preference

These people are energised by the need to close things. Uncertainty and ambiguity do not settle well with them. They want to compartmentalise things.


Non-Closure Preference

These people do not need closure. They enjoy and perform better at the beginning and middle of a task, project or relationship.




Introvert or Extrovert

This Meta Program refers to how people process things and deal with their emotions when they are down, tired, exhausted, stressed or need to renew their batteries.

Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone and spending time by themselves. Extroverts recharge their batteries by being with other people, talking and going out.



Introverts recharge by being alone. They enjoy the peace of their inner world and have a great depth of concentration and introspection. Taken to the extreme, this leads to living like a hermit. When stressed, they turn inwards. They will have fewer friends but deeper relationships.



Introverts prefer the company of others and love crowds, parties and events. They are sociable, action-oriented, impulsive, and they find solitude distressful. Extroverts need others to recharge them. Being alone feels empty and depletes them. They have many friends but not many deep relationships. In the extreme, they may fear being alone.




Low Self-Confidence or High Self-Confidence

Self-confidence relates to a person’s sense of competence regarding their feelings of capacity, ability, experience and pride that they can do certain things with skill and ability.

Self-confidence is conditional. It relates to human ‘doing’ behaviour, not ‘being’ behaviour (self-esteem). Some people have high self-confidence, while others have low self-confidence.


Low Self-confidence

People with low self-confidence discount skills, talents and aptitudes. They may focus on the things that she/he/they cannot do well and may feel low confidence in just about everything. Some may seek to be “perfect” in all skills and create an overall sense of low self-confidence. They will use language such as unsure, indecisive, confused, doubts, questions and not knowing.


High Self-confidence

People with high self-confidence count the things they are good at, even if it is just making the bed, and they can feel good about what they are good at. They can acknowledge being good at something in the presence of others. They will dress, walk, talk and hold themselves with confidence. They may present themselves as “a know it all” if overdone.


Meta Programs, so What?


When I first studied Meta Programs as part of my Meta-Coach qualification, I was stunned with the accuracy and how these play out in my life and the life of others.

I’m a huge fan of Meta Programs. I appreciate that once we become aware of Meta Programs that don’t serve us, we can work to gain flexibility.

There are times when certain Meta Programs will serve us well, but at other times they are not helpful. This is particularly evident with the Closure Meta Program.  If you run the Closure Meta Program for example, and you are a Non-closer (and it’s out of your awareness), you will struggle to make decisions about your art, your career, relationships or even what you want to eat for dinner.





If you would like to learn more about Meta-Programs, make sure you join our Creativity Unleashed! Facebook Group because in the coming months I’ll be exploring a number of Meta Programs  via “Let’s talk about…” Facebook Live sessions. It will be loads of fun and hopefully very insightful. 


Monica O’Brien is a professionally trained and accredited Coach and founder of Creative Edge Coaching She blogs on issues about creativity and small business development for conscious artists and business entrepreneurs. 

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