Many of us have our feet firmly planted on the path of self improvement and personal development while others may frequently wander on and off that particular, bumpy road. Regardless, I believe we all generally want more for ourselves; better relationships, more money, better bodies, better health, better jobs, simply a better life. Abraham Maslow calls it self-actualization and describes it as “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”
So we strive to better ourselves, to be the change we wish to see in our world, because we’ve all heard it before you cannot be/do/have on the outside, what you are not on the inside. Thus begins the endless reading of self-help books, visualizing what we want, reciting affirmations, attending classes and workshops and countless other techniques. And while these techniques will no doubt yield some improvement, many of us often feel like a rat on a wheel, running, running, running and ultimately getting nowhere. The “yield” is too often temporary in nature (one step forward, two steps back) or simply not enough of what we want. So what’s going on?
In short…Your Subconscious Mind.
Your subconscious mind is like your very own great, powerful Wizard of Oz. And it’s running the show behind that big, thick curtain, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, only you don’t know it. The Wizard [aka, your subconscious] is happy to grant you all your requests, but if you don’t understand the principles by which it operates, you’ve got no chance of getting back to Kansas, like Dorothy or having any other wish of yours fulfilled. So if you want to be the master instead of the slave, read on.
- Your Subconscious Mind operates on only 2 settings: growth (thrive) or decay (survive).
The Subconscious Mind is like a computer, it does not analyze or judge the information coming in, it simply executes it with no regard for whether that information is positive, negative, successes or failures. All of your habits are simply repeated patterns and the subconscious mind will always work to seek out more life, whether that life is positive or negative, growth or decay. Think about a cancerous tumor, replicating itself cell by cell, and taking on additional blood supplies to metastasize to other parts of the body…this is more life for the cancer tumor, only it does not benefit you (decay). So in order to thrive in your life and adjust your setting to growth, you must first consciously choose this because:
- Your Subconscious Mind will always take the path of least resistance.
That’s right, your Subconscious Mind is intellectually lazy. Why would it want to dig out the machete and carve another path through that jungle you call your brain, when you’ve already paved a well-laid path to decay? Think of it this way…every time you create a new habit or pattern (again, be it positive or negative), a new neural pathway is created in the brain. Neurons can much more easily fire and travel along already established pathways…hence the path of least resistance. What does this mean? It means it’s much easier for you to stay in a life of decay than to a create a life of growth. So in order to establish new, life-enhancing habits and patterns and a life of growth you must consciously and consistently choose new actions.
- Your Subconscious Mind accepts everything literally.
That means that everything you tell yourself (that’s right, EVERYTHING) will be accepted by your subconscious mind as 100% true. Here’s one of my favorites, “I always remember faces but can’t remember names!” And guess what? The always serving subconscious mind makes this a reality. Or “Everything I eat goes straight to my thighs” and guess where you gain weight? Or even worse, “I’m stupid,” and your subconscious works diligently to prove that yes, you are in fact stupid. Your subconscious mind, like an obedient genie in a bottle will look for people, places and things to prove all your dominant thoughts and emotions. So you are quite literally, what you think.
The same principle applies when you are looking to create new change in your life. For instance, let’s say you’d like to attract a better quality mate, “I DO NOT want drama queens, energy vampires, men with mommy-issues, etc.,” you say. Well, the subconscious mind will not hear the don’t and will ultimately give you exactly what you do not want, i.e. more of the same. Let’s take a smaller example, you despise being late. Tell your subconscious what you do want, NOT what you don’t: I am on time, each and every day in every way! Ok great, you’ve got the verbiage down now, but you’ve still got little hope of seeing results, because…
- Your Subconscious Mind builds your life according to your beliefs!
You will never outperform who you believe yourself to be. In other words, your belief system (or BS, as I like to call it!) ultimately puts a cap on what you can achieve. You attract what you are, not what you want. So your health, finances, career, relationships will never grow, thrive or become bigger than who you believe yourself personally to be. Your Subconscious Mind has a natural set point, a comfort-zone if you will, where it can do the minimal amount of work (remember, it’s lazy). So if you want bigger and better things, you will need to give yourself new beliefs, thusly changing and expanding the cap on your belief system! In other words, in order to be more, you will need to do more. “Ugh,” you say, “be more, do more…but that’s so hard and so uncomfortable.” Yes, it is. Your Success in life is dependent on how comfortable you are with being uncomfortable. So what makes change so hard, so uncomfortable?
- Your Subconscious Mind operates on two main principles: to seek pleasure and to avoid pain.
Said another way, self-preservation is your Subconscious Mind’s top priority. Therefore, it’s important to note how your ancestral DNA will work against you here. Genetic memory (DNA) is passed on to you from your ancestors. Our ancestors had to worry about things such as where the next meal would come from, finding shelter, and being killed and devoured by predators. In fact, these very real fears were expressed pretty much every moment of every day. Which means they relied on and became incredibly good at scanning their environment for danger in order to either avoid or if necessary, fight (Flight or Fight). In our present reality, we rarely encounter situations or problems which we would consider life threatening. Instead, we worry about car payments, moving to a better home, acquiring more money and more things.
Evolutionarily speaking however, we still have the same primitive brain today as we did back then. So let’s look at how that primitive limbic system effects our ability to change. The amygdala, which is part of the limbic system, urges you to do what is familiar and safe, thereby avoiding change. When the amygdala recognizes danger or perceived danger it sends a signal to the hypthothalamus which then signals the pituitary gland and lastly, the adrenal glands to secrete both adrenaline and cortisol. This means if you experience feelings of fear, anxiety and stress, when you attempt to “do more” and change for the better, then your amygdala (programmed through human genetics) has interpreted the new situation and the accompanying negative emotions as “dangerous.” To eliminate further discomfort, the amygdala stops you from continuing on your present course of action in an effort to keep you safe from perceived danger. Remember danger (pain) is to be avoided at all costs to ensure self-preservation! Unfortunately, our human genetics tell us that change is bad, so by stopping us from changing our Neanderthal brain is simply doing its job and keeping you safe.
So then how can you overcome your genetics and begin to make positive changes in your life? (1). Understand that when you do anything new or unfamiliar, you may experience fear or discomfort. (2) If you do feel fear, anxiety, etc., then acknowledge it and embrace it as part of you. Do not resist the feeling, that will only magnify the discomfort and (3) Continue on with what you were doing; push past the urge to stop and re-train that primitive brain and your subconscious mind to leave you be in non-threatening life situations because…
- Your Subconscious Mind learns in 2 ways: repetition and emotion (the more intense the emotion, the less repetition is needed).
As Earl Nightingale once said, “Whatever we plant in the subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.” It’s easy to understand how repeating positive life-enhancing thoughts and actions can lead to new habits and patterns for yourself. So stay consistent, push past the discomfort, eliminate negative self-limiting beliefs that may be sabotaging you, and if you’re really good you will add emotion to the mix because…
- Your Subconscious Mind does not know the difference between imagination and reality.
Whatever we experience with deep emotion, the loss of a first love, the pain of a traumatic event, the joy of a baby’s birth, these things are forever seared and imprinted into our memory, even if only experienced once because of the intensity of the emotion attached. Therefore, it only makes sense that if we are working to reprogram our minds with new habits, patterns and beliefs, we can do so more quickly, more easily and effortlessly by visualizing what we want with great emotion because the mind will not recognize the difference.
Have you ever wondered why a movie that you know is not real can elicit such strong emotion from you and make you cry? You know rationally, logically that it’s just a movie. But the better the actors and actresses are at portraying their part and the more emotion they can show, the more your mind sees it as believable and will accept it as truth. So imagine what you want vividly, picture what you want yourself to become, with as much emotion as you can and you will be one step closer to your desired reality!
Kelly Locker is a trained, certified Hypnotherapist, who enjoys helping others to create new, healthy, life-enhancing habits and patterns. She has a 90% success rate with Smoking Cessation and in other areas where the negative habit is being completely removed and often after only one hypnosis session.