Have you ever begun to make progress on accomplishing an important goal, only to have your drive taper off into nothingness after a short while? This happens to many of us. Science is only beginning to understand the how and why this happens, and consequently, we are only beginning to find ways to overcome this obstacle.
Most of us begin our year with goals in mind, tackling a variety of different areas. Some of them seem to come easier than others. Science is beginning to uncover some things about our subconscious mind that seriously affect the outcomes of our goal planning sessions. It’s time for you to take a close look at whatever forms of self-sabotage you engage in.
Before age seven, our brains do not possess the ability to filter the truthfulness of incoming messages. There is no protection from the things we hear. We have no way to discard the information that doesn’t serve us. Everything is processed at equal value and becomes part of our conscious or subconscious mind. Scientists estimate that 10% of our brain’s functioning is conscious, leaving 90% of it operating subconsciously.
I have come to think of this as the relationship between myself and a computer. The conscious part of what happens is me, directing the computer to follow my commands. The subconscious part is the computer’s software, of which I have limited or zero knowledge. The computer needs my conscious input in order to produce. However, if I direct it to do something against its programming, it simply won’t work. In addition, it’s likely I won’t understand why since I don’t have conscious knowledge of the software.
If I set a weight loss goal for the new year, I will consciously attend to it for at least the first month, exercising most days and being vigilant about what I eat. Suppose I have subconscious programming that tells me, “Who do you think you are? You are a fat, lazy pig. Exercising sucks. You aren’t sixteen anymore—it’s really impossible for women over forty to lose weight.” All of this could be running on repeat in the background of my mind, interfering with my success with my goal.
Whenever I feel tired, stressed, anxious, angry, bored, or depressed, I may stop exercising and start eating unhealthy foods. My behavior will begin to line up with the subconscious programming, proving it to be correct.
The first step to successful goal attainment is to get control of your subconscious programming. What you feed your mind will ultimately determine what you do. If you think negatively about yourself and your resolve, your potential, your skills, or your intelligence, then your behaviors will line up to match your beliefs.
Instead, feed yourself only positive thoughts. Whenever you become aware of a negative thought, belief, or attitude that doesn’t serve you, recognize it for what it is and negate it with the opposite positive thought. I’m not talking about becoming an optimistic Pollyanna—you must be at least optimistically realistic. If you tell yourself things that are too fantastical, then your mind will have even more trouble believing what you say.
Write positive affirmations, develop a visualization of your life after accomplishing your goals, create a vision board to look at, and regularly meditate to center yourself and get yourself in touch with your Higher Power or your best Self.
Once you have your mind on your side, don’t stop there. It is the first step, but it isn’t the be all and end all. You must be willing to put in the required work to make your goals a reality. Wishful thinking won’t make things happen. You must get your mind right by sending it the messages that will serve you and your future, and then you must take the requisite actions.