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Published on January 27, 2020

How To Leverage The Subconscious Mind

How To Leverage The Subconscious Mind

Do you remember the first time you tried to do anything? Walking, playing a musical instrument, singing, writing. Anything at all?

Despite all of those skills being so different, each one goes through a similar cycle. When we first attempt it, we’re terrible at it. We might even feel shameful or embarrassed about it later on.

But after a while, things start to click.

The movements feel natural. We require less mental awareness and energy. We do it without hesitation like a habit that we’ve long held.

This is the power of the subconscious mind at work. Every automatic movement is guided by this force and it drives human behaviour. More importantly, it can be leveraged when we know how to.

What Is the Subconscious Mind?

To properly leverage the subconscious mind, we need to know what it is. Already, some of you may be saying you already know what it is.

Indeed, I described what it was above.

But it’s so often that we overlook that aspect. We’re not always aware that our subconscious is at work. Because of this, it’s difficult for us to leverage it based on what most know.

Going into more detail, the subconscious mind is, in reality, the second stage of a three-stage mind model.[1] This model was developed by the famous Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud. He described the 3 levels like this:[2]

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  • Conscious – The first level. It defines all of our thoughts and actions within our awareness. Examples are our sense of smell, touch, and hearing.
  • Subconscious – The second level. These define are our reactions and automatic actions. We are still aware of them when we think about them. Examples are driving a car. There comes a point where you don’t need to pause and figure out how to turn it on or drive it.
  • Unconscious – The third level. This defines all of the past events and memories we have. These are inaccessible to us regardless of how many times we recall them. An example is remembering anything when we were a baby or recalling the first word we ever said.

All of these minds are connected. As to how it affects our behaviour in specific cases, it’s hard to say. It’s one of the challenges psychologists and neurologists are addressing today.[3]

How Does the Subconscious Mind Work in Everyday Life?

Your subconscious mind is always in the background doing most of the heavy lifting of course. But how much is it doing?

Here is a general overview of what our subconscious mind really does at the core:

It’s a Memory Bank

The capacity for information in your subconscious mind is unlimited. It permanently stores every detail and everything that has happened to you.

Whenever we are recalling something, there is good odds that we are using our subconscious mind.

It Is Also Subjective

Your subconscious can’t think or reason alone. It obeys everything your conscious mind wants. That’s at least one connection we know that works.

It Provides Balance

Everything from your body temperature to your breathing and heart beating. Your subconscious mind is what controls that. On top of that, it keeps a balance of all the chemicals that are your cells.

Not to mention it has good control over your mental level too. Mental in that you will think and act in a manner that aligns with what you said and done in the past.

Our Subconscious Mind Is Our Comfort Zone

It’s your subconscious mind that works on keeping you within the confines of that comfort zone. This is one of the reasons for us being so hesitant towards change despite our initial desires to stretch ourselves further and grow.

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Our Subconscious Shapes Our Reality

As mentioned, our mind stores past events, though it uses those events to shape reality. Everything we’ve experienced – from beliefs, and good memories, to fears, and bad memories – forms our reality. Through this map, our subconscious mind can move us in various directions in life.

How to Leverage Your Subconscious Mind

Now that you have a grasp as to what your subconscious mind is and does, we can begin to leverage it.

We know we can because we are aware that while our subconscious mind can do amazing things, it is hesitant when we try to do something different.

Going back to those activities I mentioned, I’m willing to bet that some of you did those things but stopped. Whatever reasons you have are your own, but there are good odds that those thoughts sprang from your subconscious mind.

So, in order for us to grow, we have to overcome this hurdle. How we do that is through four steps:

  1. Asking
  2. Believing
  3. Taking action
  4. Receiving

Here is how each one is broken down.

1. Asking

Remember that our conscious and subconscious is connected. Think of our conscious mind as the seeds and our subconscious like a garden. Whenever we have a thought or a desire, we plant a seed and our subconscious mind will begin growing it.

This subservient tendency can be in our favour as we can fill our minds with desires and begin to ask ourselves questions.

What do you want in life? What goals do you want to be achieving?

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It also pays to be aware of what’s happening around you and how you act.

Are you someone who is optimistic? Or are you always complaining about things?

All of our thoughts shape our view of reality and can dictate our actions. With this in mind, work on being intentional with your life. Don’t be afraid to ask but also offer positive vibes through excitement, joy, and peaceful thoughts.

2. Believing

What it means in this specific scenario is that you are maintaining a positive expectancy from day to day. That’s not to deny there won’t be failures or setbacks. But rather despite the harsh road, you know you can get to your end goal.

This step demands you to stick to your plan and have faith that it’ll pull you through.

3. Taking Action

This goes hand in hand with belief. After all, asking and believing isn’t what will move you forward. Like with anything in life, you have to create momentum.

But the thing with taking action is that it feeds on your request and your belief. Asking is more or less a plan and believing is a motivator of sorts.

4. Receiving

The last step is receiving. What I mean by this is being open to receiving whatever is coming your way. The actions, thoughts, and beliefs that you have are what will move your subconscious mind to push you to do what you want to do.

So with that said, you want to make sure that you are prepared for what will arrive in your life.

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It’s not so much as knowing what responsibilities or perks come with a new change in life. Rather it being able to maintain this change in your life no matter what.

Anyone in the world can become a healthy person. But some can only keep it up for so long.

Anyone can have a great circle of friends and people they can count on. But they can easily break ties after a while.

Remember that our subconscious mind will do anything to push us back into what is comfortable. Receiving is a way of telling yourself that this is your new comfort level. Even if you had to go through a life change to obtain it.

Final Thoughts

Our subconscious mind has the ability to tap into any possibility that we desire. So long as we have the technique, we will be able to leverage it in all aspects of life.

That doesn’t mean that we won’t run into failure. Like with everything we started off with in life, it took time to learn and become skilled. The key here is to not give up and continue to push.

Soon enough our subconscious will catch on and we can work hand in hand to achieve anything.

More to Boost Your Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on May 26, 2020

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

Problems are, by their very nature, problematic. There are life problems, work problems, creative problems, and relationship problems. When we’re lucky, intuition takes over, and we solve a problem right away. When we’re not so lucky, we get stuck.

We might spend weeks or even months obsessing over how to write that term paper, get out of debt, or win back the love of our life. But instead of obsessing, let’s look at some effective problem solving techniques that people in the know rely on.

Ideation Vs Evaluation

It’s important to first understand and separate two stages of creativity before we look at effective problem solving techniques. Ideation is like brainstorming. It’s the stage of creativity where we’re looking for as many possible solutions as we can think of. There’s no judgment or evaluation of ideas at this stage. More is more.

After we’ve come up with as many solutions as possible, only then can we move onto the evaluation stage. This is when we analyze each possible solution and think about what works and what doesn’t. Here’s when all those good ideas from ideation rise to the top and the outlandish and impractical ones are abandoned.

7 Problem Solving Techniques That Work

Everyone has different ways of solving problems. Some are more creative, some are more organized. Some prefer to work on problems alone, others with a group. Check out the problem solving techniques below and find one that works for you.

1. Lean on Your Squad

The first of our seven problem solving techniques is to surround yourself with people you trust. Sometimes problems can be solved alone, but other times, you need some help.

There’s a concept called emergence that begins to explain why groups may be better for certain kinds of problem solving. Steven Johnson describes emergence as bottom up system organization.[1] My favorite example is an ant colony. Ants don’t have a president or boss telling them what to do. Instead, the complicated organization of the ant colony comes out of each individual ant just fulfilling their biological destiny.

Group creativity can also take on an emergent quality. When individuals really listen to, support, and add onto each other’s ideas, the sum of that group creativity can be much more than what any individual could have created on their own.

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Therefore, if you are struggling to solve a problem, you may want to find a group of people with whom you can collaborate, so you can start riffing with them about possible solutions.

2. Regulate Your Emotions

The next of the problem solving techniques is to be honest about how you’re feeling. We can’t solve problems as efficiently when we’re stressed out or upset, so starting with some emotional self-awareness goes a long way in helping us problem solve.

Dr. Daniel Siegel famously tells us to “Name it to tame it.” [2] He’s talking about naming our feelings, which offers us a better chance of regulating ourselves. I have to know that I’m stressed or upset if I want to calm down quickly in order to get back to a more optimal problem-solving state.

After you know how you’re feeling, you can take steps to regulate that feeling. If you’re feeling stressed out or upset, you can take a walk or try breathing exercises. Mindfulness exercises can also help you regain your sense of presence.

3. Listen

One thing that good problem solvers do is listen. They collect all the information they can and process it carefully before even attempting to solve the problem.

It’s tempting to jump right in and start problem solving before the scope of the problem is clear. But that’s a mistake.

Smart problem solvers listen carefully in order to get as many points of view and perspectives as possible. This allows them to gain a better understanding of the problem, which gives them a huge advantage in solving that problem.

4. Don’t Label Ideas as Bad…Yet

The fourth of the seven problem solving techniques is to gather as many possible solutions as you can. There are no bad ideas…yet.

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Think back to the two stages of creativity. When we are in the ideation stage, we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas, input, and possible solutions.

When we evaluate, judge, and criticize during the ideation stage, we inadvertently hamper creativity. One possible outcome of evaluating during ideation is creative suppression.[3]

When someone responds to someone else’s creative input with judgment or criticism, creative suppression can occur if the person who had the idea shuts down because of that judgment or criticism.

Imagine you’re at a meeting brainstorming ways to boost your sales numbers. You suggest hiring a new team member, but your colleague rolls their eyes and says that can’t happen since the numbers are already down.

Now, your colleague may be 100% correct. However, their comment might make you shut down for the rest of the meeting, which means your team won’t be getting any more possible solutions from you.

If your colleague had waited to evaluate the merits of your idea until after the brainstorming session, your team could have come up with more possible solutions to their current problem.

During the ideation stage, more is more. We want as many ideas as possible, so reserve the evaluation until there’s no more ideating left to do.

Another trick for better ideating is to “Yes And” each other’s ideas[4] In improvisation, there’s a principle known as “Yes And.” It means that one improviser should agree with the other’s idea for the scene and then add a new detail onto that reality.

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For example, if someone says, “I can’t hear over your loud music,” the other person needs to go along with that idea and then add onto it. They might say, “Sorry, I’ll turn it down, but I don’t think everyone else here at the club will appreciate it.”

Now the scene is getting interesting. We’re in a club, and the DJ is going to turn the music down. Playing “Yes And” with each other made the scene better by filling in details about who and where the improvisers are.

Yes Anding also works well during ideation sessions. Since we’ve already established that we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas yet, Yes Anding gives us something we can do. We can see the merits of each other’s ideas and try to build on them. This will make all of our possible solutions more fully realized than a simple laundry list.

5. Approach Problems With Playfulness

Approaching problem solving too seriously can exacerbate the problem. Sometimes we get too fixated on finding solutions and lose a sense of playfulness and fun.

It makes sense. When there are deadlines and people counting on us, we can try to force solutions, but stepping back and approaching problems from a more playful perspective can lead to more innovative solutions.

Think about how children approach problem solving. They don’t have the wealth of wisdom that decades on this planet give. Instead, they play around and try out imaginative and sometimes unpractical approaches.

That’s great for problem solving. Instead of limiting ourselves to how things have always been done, a sense of play and playfulness can lead us to truly innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.

6. Let the Unconscious Mind Roam

This may seem counterintuitive, but another technique to try when you become too fixated on a problem is to take a break to let the unconscious mind take over for a bit.

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Our conscious brain can only handle a limited amount of information at a time. Plus, it’s energetically exhausting to use our conscious brain for problem solving. Think about a time when you were studying for a test. It’s draining.[5]

But we’re in luck. There’s another part of our brain that isn’t draining and can integrate tons more information at a time—our unconscious.

This is why you come up with your best ideas in the shower or on your way to work or while you’re jogging. When you give your conscious brain a break, your unconscious has a chance to sift through mounds of information to arrive at solutions.

It’s how I write my articles. With my conscious brain, I think about which article I’m going to write. My problem is how to write it, so once I think carefully about the topic, I take a break. Then, the structure, sources, content, and sometimes phrasing happens in fits and starts while I’m not thinking about the article at all. It happens when I’m lying in bed, showering, and walking in the woods.

The key is to get in the habit of practicing this alternation between conscious and unconscious problem solving and to absolutely not force solutions. Sometimes, you just need to take a little break.

7. Be Candid

The last of the problem solving techniques happens during the evaluation stage. If we’re going to land on the best possible solution to our problems, we have to be able to openly and honestly evaluate ideas.

During the evaluating stage, criticism and feedback need to be delivered honestly and respectfully. If an idea doesn’t work, that needs to be made clear. The goal is that everyone should care about and challenge each other. This creates an environment where people take risks and collaborate because they trust that everyone has their best interest in mind and isn’t going to pull any punches.

Final Thoughts

In order to come up with the best solutions for problems, ideation and evaluation have to be two distinct steps in the creative process. Then, you should tap into some of the above techniques to get your ideas organized and your problems solved.

Hopefully, these seven problem solving techniques will help your problems be less…problematic.

More Tips for Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Steven Johnson: Emergence
[2] Dr. Dan Siegel: The whole-brain child
[3] American Psychological Association: Creative mortification
[4] Play Your Way Sane: And What?: Yes And
[5] Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow

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