Although the exact percentage of your mind that is attributable to the unconscious is open to dispute, researchers agree that the unconscious mind has a far greater capacity than the conscious mind. It is also understood that your unconscious mind is also responsible for many of your beliefs, thoughts, behaviours, patterns and actions.
Your unconscious performs two very important tasks for you being the processes of:
1. Filtering information; and
2. Running strategies.
It can perform these tasks in a way that empowers you (and assists you to drive in the direction you seek) or disempowers you (and hinders you driving in the direction you seek). This article focuses on the unconscious strategies you run, how they impact your life and what you can do to change them.
A strategy is a process you consistently run to produce a particular result in your life. You have done it so often that your unconscious has hardwired the behaviour. You have strategies for every action or behaviour including being disciplined – being late – being punctual – eating – falling in love – feeling confident – feeling depressed – getting sick – getting up in the morning – laughing – learning – making a decision – parenting – playing sports – speaking in public – staying healthy – thinking about money and many more.
Each strategy usually has its own trigger or thing that tells the unconscious mind it is time for it to take over and run the strategy. For example, Joseph’s strategy for getting out of bed each morning goes like this:
- Joseph hears the alarm go off at 6am. This is the trigger for the strategy he has for getting out of bed each morning.
- He thinks to himself, “It is too early to get up, I am going to sleep in for another 10 minutes”.
- He pushes the snooze button on his alarm clock.
- 10 minutes later he hears the alarm go off.
- He rolls over, turns the alarm off and gets out of bed.
Joseph consistently and unconsciously runs this strategy every morning to get himself up.
Just like Joseph, you have a process you go through when you awake that gets you out the door at approximately the same time each morning. Some people have a series of habitual behaviours that almost always ‘make’ them late in the morning, i.e. they have a strategy for being late that they consistently follow. Other people have a series of habitual behaviours that almost always ‘make’ them on time or early each morning.
You even have strategies that you run through for internal emotional states such as depression, confidence, anger, motivation and creativity. You will consistently go through the same predictable steps to arrive at any one of these emotional states. If, for example, you can identify the trigger that starts your unconscious strategy to enter into a state of depression, you can start taking steps to change the strategy and avoid the spiral of thoughts and feelings that usually lead you to feeling depressed.
When researchers looked at strategies, they found that they consist of a trigger followed by a sequence of things you see, hear, think, feel, smell or taste either externally or internally (within your mind).
For example, Jillane has a strategy she uses to decide whether to date a man. Her strategy is as follows:
- Do his looks appeal to me? i.e. medium height, brown hair, nicely dressed? (External sight)
- Does he speak to me nicely? (External sound)
- Do I feel good while I am talking to him? (Internal feeling)
If all three of the criteria are satisfied, then Jillane accepts the invitation. She runs this strategy in a matter of seconds and is not even consciously aware that she does so.
Some Of Our Strategies Work Well For Us And Some Do Not
Some of our strategies are empowering and some are not. As an example, Hannah could not understand why she’d never had a long term romantic relationship. After looking at her strategy for choosing a partner the reasons became clear. If Hannah went out and saw a man who fitted her criteria (outspoken, happy, dark hair) she would immediately start scanning the crowd until she found someone who was sitting alone. Rather than risk rejection by approaching the man she was attracted to, she would walk over and make conversation with the man sitting by himself. This led her to enter into a string of ‘pity’ relationships. Hannah changed the strategy she ran for seeking a partner and now has a loving relationship with a wonderful man.
What To Do When Strategies Are Not Working For You
When you find you aren’t getting results that you want in an area of life, you can do the same thing Hannah did and look at the strategy you run in that area and see where it is letting you down. Even though most strategies are unconscious, they can be changed. The first step is to become consciously aware of how a strategy runs. You do this by sitting quietly and going through in your mind the series of steps both external and internal that you go through when you run the strategy. Pay particular attention to the trigger that starts the strategy running unconsciously. Changing the strategy is then as simple as identifying a new strategy and putting it into place next time the trigger for the old strategy occurs.
While you are unaware of the strategies you run, they will continue to have an impact and influence upon your life. If you find an area of your life that isn’t working and you examine the strategy you run then you will already have an awareness of what steps you can take to change your life. It is as simple as “Different Strategies = Different Outcomes”.
(Based on an article I had published in ezine articles)