The power of the human experience is truly limitless – and I believe the key to that power rests in the ability to unlock and leverage the energies and capabilities of the subconscious mind. In Part I of this three part series, I endeavored to explain what the subconscious mind does and how it interacts with our conscious thoughts. And in this part, Part II, I intend to further expand on the ability of the subconscious mind by discussing how it can be distracted and let you down during times that you need it most, how you can leverage the power of your existing file structures and finally how you can start to change your patterns of thinking and begin to take control of your subconscious mind.
First, let's talk about the why and how the subconscious mind can be distracted and let you down in times that you often need it the most. As I discussed in first part of this series, the subconscious mind is constantly absorbing information from all around you – through your senses that you are both focusing attention on and the ones that you aren't. It is recording all the information in your memory – including that which you aren't even consciously aware of. It does this constantly. But that's not all it is doing.
Another major task that your subconscious mind is constantly working on is to find solutions to the problems that you have in your life. It is constantly going through its existing file structure (using the computer analogy) again, looking for the answers to questions that you have posed to it. Some of these questions have simple answers, but some are much more complex.
How many times has a name, date, or other significant thought suddenly popped into your head minutes or even hours after you tried remembering the fact – even when you weren't consciously thinking of the question? Believe it or not, this is your subconscious mind diligently going through all of the files in your brain looking for the answer. The more recently the file had been accessed, the easier it is to find.
These efforts to find solutions to your problems would seem to be a very good thing (and it is very useful), but it can be costly as well.
You see, even though, your subconscious mind is very powerful, capable of handling, storing and retrieving, millions of bits of data, it does have it's limitations. The more you burden your subconscious mind with difficult problems to solve, the less processor time it has to spend on some of its normal, every day work – absorbing and analyzing incoming data from the senses, and feeding insight and recommendations to the conscious mind given its comparison of current situations to past circumstances of your life. Literally, the processor is overloaded and like your computer it will slow down and even lock-up.
How does this affect you? Believe it or not, the impact could be dramatic. As an example, during the car accident rates for normally safe driving adults spike during time periods around a divorce (plus or minus 6 months). And the reason is simple.
During a divorce, we are experiencing more complex and unique problems than we have ever faced before. This causes the subconscious mind to work overtime to try to solve these very complex problems (day and night). As it is spending so much “processor time” trying to solve your marital problems as well as find ways of binning all the new information that is coming in, it is not supporting your daily life activities by monitoring your surroundings through the senses that you aren't paying attention to. So when your conscious mind is distracted by a ringing telephone, a song that comes on the radio, or the driver that just cut you off, the normal support you get from your subconscious mind isn't there, and your likelihood of an accident goes up dramatically.
Now, before you panic about the “low level stress” (as I like to call it) that distracts your subconscious mind from supporting you in your daily activities, please note there is something you can do about it. First, be aware of the “stress” in your life. The fights that you are having with love ones, the bills that aren't getting paid, a love one that is terribly ill or has recently passed away and anything else that would normally keep you up at night are all things that will distract your subconscious mind. And when you see them beginning to develop, stop. Assess your life and simply be aware. Take your time with your daily activities – noting that your best will be slightly compromised on these days. And the more these things are bothering you, the more pronounced your decreased performance will be.
Some have a skill called “compartmentalizing”. This is where you can separate circumstances from one part of your life from affecting another – so as to not allow them to interfere with each other. An example is a fight at home that you manage to leave at home to as to not allow it to interfere with your job performance. This is a very powerful skill, but it primarily focuses around conscious thought – and has only limited control over the subconscious mind. The key is noting that when these things occur, you may not be at your best, unless you take some actions to do something about it. We will talk about this more in tomorrow's Part III of the blog.
Now that I've discussed one of the dangers of the depending on the subconscious mind, let's talk about how to leverage the power of the existing file structures that lie within your subconscious mind.
Just about everything in your life has been recorded in the annals of your mind – including many things that you weren't even aware of at the time. These things can be leveraged to help you perform at peaks levels in every aspect of your life.
You see, as I stated yesterday, your subconscious mind is believed to work 1000-3000 times faster than your conscious mind. It is analyzing your existing conditions and comparing them to past situations (your old files) to find the best response to every situation you find yourself in.
So, the question is, how can you leverage your subconscious mind to become the best you can be?
Well, it is believed the best way to do this is to actually “cue” up the files you want your subconscious mind to access, before you need them and make sure that it is pulling from experiences and ideas that will benefit you when you need them rather than those that will harm you.
But how do you do that? Even though it sounds quite complex, it's actually quite simple. You access the files right before you need them, so that they are “top of mind” when a situation that is going to require them comes up. This is the essence of “visualization”.
Frankly, as good as the subconscious mind is at accepting inputs from the five senses, it has no way of telling the difference between reality and fantasy. Whether you are watching a movie, dreaming, or living your life, it tends to take in those events and bin them the same. As your subconscious mind experiences each of these situations, it stores the memories in the files that they relate to, based on your existing file structure – which is why every one experiences things and remembers them just a little bit differently – they are stored in ways that match the individuals personal experience.
Now in a stressful event, or just going through every day life for that matter, your subconscious mind will usually look first in the file folders that have been most recently accessed to compare your current situation to and to find solutions to problems that arise. This occurs, even when there may be a better file to assist you in the situation. So, although you can't directly control what files your subconscious pulls from, you can increase the likelihood that it will pull from the files that will increase your success.
You can actually see a great example of this in Football (and in all sports for that matter). By watching hours and hours of tapes on their opponents, players and coaches can actually begin to program their subconscious mind to see how their opposition will most likely respond given certain situations. And if done properly, the players can actually increase the likelihood that their subconscious mind will notice a given formation and play before the conscious mind will even see it. This gives the player the feeling that they are inside the mind of their opponent – literally seeing their moves before they make them – at an unconscious level. And I know you've heard the term, “He's unconscious.” when referring to a player that is playing at a level far and above normal skill level.
So the key hear is making sure the information you want to access is “top of mind” for the subconscious mind to draw from before the event occurs. There are many ways to accomplish this goal, but the most common being visualization techniques, briefing, and even “warming up” before the event.
They all work, but what is most important is that you find one that works for you – and that you use it.
Finally, in Part II of this blog, I want to discuss, at least at a cursory level how to begin to take control of your subconscious mind and shape it to assist you even more to achieve your desired goals.
You've heard people say that if you want to change a habit, it takes 21 days of consistent practice. The time frame is arguable, but the concept is absolutely true – if you want to change the way your subconscious mind supports and controls your life, you have to create new file folders from which it will draw information and feed it to your mind.
As I said before, our subconscious mind loves repetition. In fact, it tries to bin everything that comes in to your mind into pre-existing file folders. Partly, because it's the easiest thing to do, and partly because it knows that you conscious mind is quite random – always chasing new ideas and new fads.
Over time it has seen thousands of new ideas come in. And nearly everyone of those ideas has died on the vine – eventually forgotten before it really gained any ground. Your subconscious knows that if it kept a file folder for everyone of those ideas, it would make it VERY hard to find the files that it really needed in a timely fashion – just as you have trouble finding files on your computer if you don't manage your file folders in an organized fashion.
This means that if you want to create a new way of thinking, and generate support from your subconscious mind to help you perpetuate that thought process, you have to be both focused and diligent. You have to do everything you can, every day, to make sure that you are emphasizing this new way of thinking and drive these thoughts repeatedly into your subconscious.
For example, if you have new goals that you want to create – read them out loud, so that you are using your sight, your speech, and your listening all at the same time – and do this at least once a day. For the first couple of days, they feel powerful to your conscious mind, but not so much to the subconscious. Mostly because the subconscious doesn't know what to make of them – they don't really fit into your existing model of thinking. But over time, you start to make a dent into the way the subconscious views these goals – it starts to look that them as real problems that need to be solved. And instead of trying to bin them in already existing file folders, it tries to figure out a “new way” to resolve the situation.
It is at this moment, that you have your first level of break though into making these goals a reality. Precisely when your subconscious recognizes that there are no old paradigms or methods of solving / binning these goals, it begins to look at the problems differently – it begins to seek new solutions. And it creates new file folders that it can access regularly to solve this and other problems like it.
And finally, as this occurs, you are unleashing the most powerful tool in our personal arsenal – your subconscious mind.
Tomorrow, in the final part of this blog series, I will give you some powerful tools that you can apply to your life as well as some powerful examples of people that have leveraged the power of their subconscious mind. I hope you are enjoying this series and I am looking for any and all feedback and comments you might have on it.