Disclaimer: Make sure to actually perform the exercises in this article. You will be wasting your time if you do not.
There is a lot of literature out in the world about the subconscious mind. And while it is a powerful subject, it is my belief that most people don’t really understand it, and if they do, they don’t do a very good job of explaining it. The subconscious mind, or unconscious mind, is one of the most powerful forces in your life, and if you can learn to ride alongside it and harness its power, you can use your awareness and insight to boost your enjoyment and performance in almost any area of your life. This article is an explanation of my understanding of what the subconscious mind is, how it works, and how you can use it to improve your own life.
Your Subconscious Mind Is Always Working
For the purposes of this article, think of the Conscious Mind as the surface of your being, the part you control, and the Subconscious Mind as the deep, dark, mysterious depths, where all of your power lies. In these depths, in the places we don’t fully understand, is what controls the majority of our lives. Here are a few of the responsibilities that are carried out daily by the subconscious mind:
- healing wounds
- hair and nail growth
These are just a few, and I only list them to give you an idea of all your subconscious is doing for you on autopilot. Imagine if you had to consciously beat your heart, breathe, blink, salivate when you eat food, chew it, digest it, heal your own wounds, and grow your own hair and nails. You would go insane. Your conscious mind has the ability to focus on one thing at a time, and doing all of these things consciously is simply beyond our control.
Align Conscious and Subconscious
The biggest part of aligning your Conscious and Subconscious mind is trusting yourself. Think about something you do on automatic pilot, where you barely have to think about it.
A few for me are:
- shaking hands
- brushing my teeth
You probably have a proficiency in these areas as well, and if you examine how you go about carrying out these actions, you probably notice that you do them without much thought at all.
At one point, yes, we had to think about talking. We had to think about walking. We had to think about chewing. We had to think about tying our shoes. But we’ve completed and repeated and continue to use these behaviors so often in our daily lives that we don’t think about it anymore. This is your subconscious mind taking over for you. Because you trust it to do these things for you.
When you reach a certain level of proficiency in a skill, you’ve done it so many times that you trust yourself to achieve a minimum standard of performance. It is this trust that allows your subconscious mind to operate at a certain level, chugging along while you free up your conscious mind to start work on a new skill.
Here’s an example of the progression of a skill from conscious to subconscious(or unconscious):
- You are learning to tie your shoes
- You start by learning the steps (I won’t go through them. If you don’t know how to tie your shoes, look it up on YouTube or something)
- You tie your shoes for the first time
- You continue to practice tying your shoes, with more proficiency now. You still have to concentrate though. Imagine a friend talking to you while you are trying to tie your shoes and you say “Shut up dude, can’t you see I’m trying to tie my shoes?”
- You are a master and tying your shoes now. You can be talking to a friend while watching tv and you can still tie your shoes without much attention or hassle.
This is an extremely simple example, but it correctly illustrates the progression of learning for just about any skill, whether it be dribbling a basketball, learning to juggle, or learning a new language.
You start out consciously thinking through every little detail of the process, but before long, you have gone through enough repetitions in a variety of different environments and situations that you can be multitasking fairly easily because this behavior has been sufficiently ingrained into your subconscious mind.
Over the course of your life, you can use this understanding of how your subconscious mind works to accomplish some incredible feats. All you need to do is realize that if you put in the time to familiarize yourself with a behavior or technique, your subconscious mind will eventually take over. This essentially gives you a new “platform” to stand on, that your subconscious maintains, while your conscious mind concentrates on a new behavior or technique that either strengthens already learned patterns or creates a new association.
Applying Your Subconscious to Achieving Goals
Now that we know the basic idea behind how the subconscious works and how you can train it, let’s take this to the next level where we can use our subconscious to do some really cool stuff. (For best results, make sure you read my article on Reinforcement, and use behavioral shaping concepts to supplement this training)
Since we know that repeated and consistent behaviors that occur in our lives are integrated with our subconscious, why don’t we train our subconscious mind to automatically seek out and achieve the goals we focus on.
Start by picking something you want to achieve. Make sure it is small. Extremely small. Something like writing your name, getting up and changing your shirt, or pouring yourself a glass of water. Yes, the idea is to start very small, but also to do these tasks consciously. We are operating with the intention of training our subconscious to take action, make progress, and ultimately achieve our goals.
So start by picking a goal, for our purposes we will choose writing our name. Once you have your goal, walk over to your pad of paper, and write down your name. Pause for a moment and feel what it is like to achieve this goal. That is what you have just done. Achieved a goal. You created a goal and turned it into reality.
Now do the same thing again, but make it a little more difficult. Don’t go crazy. This time go outside and clap your hands together 10 times. Enjoy the feeling of achieving this goal.
Now go complete the following goals, and after each one, pause and enjoy the feeling of having achieved that goal:
- 10 pushups
- Write a paragraph describing your life 10 years in the future
- drink a glass of water
- send a text message to someone
- find a coin and flip it in the air until it lands heads up twice in a row
This may seem stupid and overly simple. But what you are doing by completing these mini goals is you are consciously exerting effort in the process of achieving goals by:
- setting a goal
- taking action
- persisting until you achieve
- enjoying the feeling of completing a goal
Make a few “blocks” of 3-4 goals each, and make them as simple as possible. Get yourself used to achieving and enjoying the process. Eventually, with enough repetition your subconscious mind will start to do this automatically. You will set goals, you will take action, you will persist until you complete your goal, and then you will bask in the afterglow of a job well done. Always make sure to reward yourself after achieving a goal.
Continue doing this, but increase the difficulty and change the purpose of what you are trying to achieve. Start to incorporate your own style. Instead of tying your shoes or getting a glass of water, take a simple action or “micro-goal” that will take you just one step in the direction of a larger goal. If you want a job, send out a resume, or simply create one if you don’t have one yet. If you want to get in better shape, go get a gym membership. A long journey begins with a single step.
The main idea is to condition your subconscious to follow through on the goals you set for yourself. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Have fun, relax, and start by achieving some goals that are almost too easy, like we discussed above. Even doing mundane tasks will condition your subconscious to take action, make progress and achieve your goals. Eventually, as you increase difficulty and complexity of your goals, you can chunk them together in blocks that will take larger steps towards a long term goal. At a certain point, your subconscious will take over and the process of achievement will become automatic, freeing you up to focus your newfound powers on new and exciting adventures.
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