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Last Updated on February 9, 2021

Conscious Mind vs Subconscious Mind: How to Improve Them?

Conscious Mind vs Subconscious Mind: How to Improve Them?

The mind is one of the most fascinating and powerful aspects of ourselves. It is stronger than any supercomputer that we have ever created and can store practically an infinite amount of information.

How we get access to all of that information stems from the levels of the mind. There are three in total, but here the focus will be on the relationship between our conscious mind vs subconscious mind. By uncovering what is going on in our heads, we can best achieve our goals by tapping into the various minds.

Conscious Mind vs Subconscious Mind

To best uncover the differences, it first helps to understand the various levels of the mind. For that, we’ll be turning to Sigmund Freud, the man who founded the concept.

In his theory, he used the analogy of the iceberg and that the idea that the mind could form three parts of this iceberg.

The conscious mind is the ice above the water. This forms only a small part of the iceberg as most of the ice is underwater.

Everything underwater is broken into two more parts. The preconscious is anything below the waterline while the subconscious is far below.

This analogy may not make a lot of sense on the surface, but when you look at Freud’s deductions of what each mind does, some truth can be found.

  • The conscious mind is where all of our thoughts, feelings, hopes and memories are stored. This is the part we use to think and talk. Going back to the iceberg analogy, you can say that these are all of the things that require little effort to see.
  • The preconscious mind is anything that isn’t in the forefront of our minds but that we can bring it to the surface with a little effort.
  • Last is the subconscious mind, which stores feelings, urges, and memories that are beyond our conscious mind. These are usually things we suppress like pain, anxieties, or conflicts. These events are what steer our overall behaviour, motives, and decisions.

Differences in Opinion

As you can tell, the conscious mind and subconscious mind are on different levels and store different pieces of information. However, there are other differences. The biggest one is the differences in opinions.

This refers to the fact that both the conscious mind and subconscious mind have different beliefs.[1]

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As with animals, many of our decision-making drivers are below the surface. An animal doesn’t “decide” to fly or hunt or sleep or fight in the way that we go about making many of our own choices of what to do — it simply follows the instructions that come from the subconscious parts of its brain.

These same sorts of instructions come to us from the same parts of our brains, sometimes for good evolutionary reasons and sometimes to our detriment. Our subconscious fears and desires drive our motivations and actions through emotions such as love, fear, and inspiration. It’s physiological. Love, for example, is a cocktail of chemicals (such as oxytocin) secreted by the pituitary gland.

While some subconscious parts of our brains are dangerously animalistic, others are smarter and quicker than our conscious minds. Our greatest moments of inspiration often “pop” up from our subconscious. We experience these creative breakthroughs when we are relaxed and not trying to access the part of the brain in which they reside, which is generally the neocortex. When you say, “I just thought of something,” you noticed your subconscious mind telling your conscious mind something. With training, it’s possible to open this stream of communication.

So while our minds have different perspectives, there is potential for them to work together.

This is along the same lines as procrastinating on a task only for you to get a “lightbulb” idea. That idea didn’t come from anywhere specific, but rather from your subconscious mind.

Another example to consider is scenarios where events conflict with established beliefs.

For example, say you have a belief that you can’t make genuine, long-lasting relationships with other people. Any event that could suggest otherwise will more or less send your mind into a spiral.

Imagine attending a meet-and-greet for work. People with that belief would purposely avoid talking to people, or they’ll keep it to small talk, not really looking to bond with people.

This behavior is warranted because, in their head, they will do anything to discourage themselves or to sabotage themselves from making a friend.

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This all happens because they had bad experiences or thoughts that link to their social skills.

Active vs Passive

The last difference is how involved each part of our mind is, and the best way to explain it is through an example we can all relate to.

Do you sometimes feel you can’t fall asleep because your mind is wandering?

Part of the reason for this is due to the subconscious mind. When you’re falling asleep, your conscious mind is resting; however, your subconscious isn’t.

In fact, your subconscious mind never falls asleep. It works all day, every day controlling your body, breathing, and maintaining organ function and cell growth.

Our subconscious mind is the reason why we dream and why we can only remember vivid details of said dream.

In this way, the subconscious is passive. It continues to work, but often without us knowing. However, we can, of course, deepen that connection.

How to Improve the Conscious and Subconscious Mind

Now that you have a better grasp on what each mind does, the next step is for us to improve the connection between our minds. There are a number of ways for you to improve this connection, and most of them stem from habits your conscious mind can create to strengthen your subconscious over time.

1. Consider the Environment

While we should be looking after our own global environment, our internal environment is important as well. Chances are most people haven’t considered the environment of their subconscious mind.

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This is important because, again, our subconscious mind is always active and absorbing everything

Beliefs don’t come out of nowhere. Our beliefs are grown based on the information we see, the conclusions we draw, and the way we compare it to the rest of our reality. We do this constantly.

The catch to this is that our daily environment has a flurry of emotions. The most prominent is negativity and strife.

It’s depressing when we consume it, but it impacts our behavior over time. For this reason, it is important to be mindful of what it is you are consuming information-wise.

Avoid listening to the news unless you need to. Don’t spend time with those who drag you down or are toxic. Focus more on positive information through various mediums.

2. Visualize More

Remember that our subconscious mind is the mind behind us dreaming. If it can do that, then it makes sense that the subconscious mind loves pictures.

The best way to send pictures from our conscious to the subconscious mind is through visualization.

The idea is to spend a small amount of time — about 15 minutes a day — picturing positive scenes of you and your life experiences.

You can visualize anything you like, such as vacations, fulfilling relationships, working out, and more.

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The idea is to do these consistently, and over time, these images will begin to replace any negative thoughts you have about those aspects. Any fears, doubts, or worries will slowly wash away.

For greater effect, also visualize strong positive emotions. For example, if you’re worried about working out at a gym, visualize your exercising. Visualize how you’ll feel by the end of it or how you’ll feel when you hit your health goal.

3. Affirmations

The last method I want to talk about is affirmations. This technique is similar to visualization, but here you’re focusing on words and thoughts. As I mentioned above, all information and thoughts get absorbed into our subconscious mind.

If we instill positive words on a regular basis, our tune will change over time.

With affirmations, there are some rules to go over for these to work effectively:

Use the Present Tense

Looking to be more confident? Tell yourself, “I am confident.” Even if you are not confident, you can trick your subconscious mind because it can’t predict the future. It only knows this very moment. Also, stick to positive statements only.

Associate Your Words With Feelings

Even though the statement made may be false right now, one big motivator is reminding ourselves how we’ll feel with this new reality. If you want better health, start to bring in emotions that make you feel healthy.

Repeat the Process

Not only should you be doing this daily, but it also helps to repeat them over the course of the day.

Final Thoughts

The connection between the two minds is powerful, and making small lifestyle changes can impact your attitude and life over time. That much is clear when you look at how our conscious mind vs subconscious mind function.

Remember that our conscious mind is the active one and will get things done. It is our front-line. All the while, our subconscious is constantly looking around, absorbing everything it can, and formulating our reality. Nurture these two well, and you can change your life.

More Tips on the Levels of Mind

Featured photo credit: Laurenz Kleinheider via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on April 14, 2021

8 Surefire Problem-Solving Strategies That Always Work

8 Surefire Problem-Solving Strategies That Always Work

Whether you’re dealing with a creative block on a personal project or you’re facing challenges in the workplace, finding sustainable solutions to problems is an integral part of personal and professional growth. As the British-Australian philosopher Karl Popper once said, “all life is problem-solving.”

As important as problem-solving is to success, not all approaches are created equal. The best problem-solving strategies ensure both efficiency (finding a solution as quickly as possible, with the minimum number of barriers) and effectiveness (finding a solution that actually solves the problem long-term).

To accomplish both, you may need to try out some new ways of seeing and handling challenges. Here are 8 surefire problem-solving strategies that work, no matter what you’re struggling with.

1. Break It Down Into Smaller Pieces

Staring down a big problem can feel overwhelming, especially when the stakes are high. That sense of overwhelm doesn’t just cause you to feel on edge, but it also compromises your ability to work effectively. Studies show when the stress response is active, the part of the brain required for problem-solving tasks essentially shuts down.[1]

To ease that stress and enlist the much-needed logical part of your brain, try breaking the problem down into smaller, individual issues you feel more confident tackling. For example, if you’ve missed your revenue goal two quarters in a row, try to resist framing the problem as “we’re losing money.”

Instead, identify the individual problems contributing to the larger one—for example, marketing, supply chain, or communication issues that may be at play. Then, work—slowly but surely—to overcome barriers in each area, ideally, in order of importance. Not only will you feel less stressed in the process (which leads to smarter decision-making), but you’ll also feel more motivated to press on as you gain a sense of accomplishment, one step at a time.[2]

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2. Ask Someone Else for Input

I remember it clearly: I was sitting in my office, staring at the computer screen, trying to figure out where I went wrong in a line of code. Two hours in, and I wasn’t any closer to figuring out where I’d messed up (and, more importantly, how to fix it). Then, a colleague I’d planned to have lunch with came in. Almost instantaneously, she looked over my shoulder and saw the issue. I had to laugh—she hadn’t even been working on this project with me, but her fresh set of eyes solved my problem.

One of the most effective ways to reach a solution, faster? Don’t rely only on your own mind for an “aha” moment. Involving people who see the world differently than you—ideally, someone with a different skillset or from a different department—to chime in will help you more easily and quickly find the right approach.

3. Understand the Root Cause

Albert Einstein famously said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”

It sounds like common sense, but it bears repeating—you can’t solve a problem unless you know what the issue actually is. Before you start mapping out potential solutions, ask yourself, “why did this problem occur in the first place?”

For example, imagine one department in your business is consistently not meeting its goals. That’s certainly a problem, but it may not be the problem. When you dig a little deeper, you might find a need for better communication or more training.

Ensuring you have a deep and accurate understanding of what’s causing the problem will save you time working toward a solution and prevent you from having to backtrack to find a better one.[3]

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4. Define Success

One of the most important things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur: start with a clear vision of success. Before I launched my business, I envisioned what people’s lives would be like if my product succeeded. I try to follow the same approach when I’m tackling challenges.

Begin the problem-solving process with a clear understanding of what “success” would look like when the problem is solved. How will your company and team function if this problem isn’t an issue anymore?

Once you see how you want things to be, you can work backward to find practical ways to achieve that vision. For example, if you’re consistently frustrated by low morale among your employees, imagine what a motivated, positive team would look like in everyday operations. What do you want to achieve, and how would it change the course of your business?

By picturing your ideal situation, you can more easily pinpoint the steps you need to take to make it happen—in this case, perhaps implementing team-building events, more paid vacation, and incentives for reaching goals.

5. Try Silent Brainstorming

Enlisting other people’s perspectives can be a good way to find the answer you’re looking for. But if you’re attempting to tackle a problem with others, keep in mind the dynamic of the group.

Think back to your last Zoom or in-person meeting. Whose ideas do you end up hearing or applying most often? If I kept a running tab, I’d guess my most outgoing, assertive team members “win” these brainstorming sessions most often—simply because they’re not afraid to speak up.

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If you’re hitting a wall in problem-solving, you’ll need to find a way to hear everyone’s voice. One way to do that is a silent brainstorming session. Invite team members to spend a designated amount of time coming up with solutions for the same problem. Then, have them share their approaches and ideas in front of the group, or individually with you.

When everybody has a chance to contribute equally—without the distraction of a lively discussion—you’ll be more likely to develop an effective problem-solving strategy and find the answer you’ve been looking for.

6. Imagine Someone Else’s Perspective

Can’t get a group together but feeling like you need someone else’s brain to solve the problem you’re struggling with? One of my favorite problem-solving strategies is to use someone else’s perspective to see all sides of a problem and potential solutions.

As you brainstorm, imagine you’re sitting at a table with different personality types and thinkers—for example, a critic, an optimist, an artist, and a data analyst. You can think of real people you know and imagine how they’d respond to the problem, or you can simply imagine people who think differently than you.

The idea is that by using your own creativity to adopt different perspectives on the same issue, you can more quickly reach an effective solution.

7. Decide What Won’t Work

Process of elimination can be a helpful tool when you’re trying to figure out how to overcome a challenge—mostly so you don’t waste time “reinventing the wheel.”

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Next time you come up against a problem at work, ask yourself (or someone else) if you or anyone else in the organization have encountered similar issues in the past. If so, what are the solutions people tried, and more importantly, did they work? If not, cross it off the list and keep brainstorming.

If the past solutions proved to be effective, then ask yourself one more question: “Do I have the resources to apply this solution in my current situation?” If the answer is “yes,” then you have a resource at hand—and you just saved yourself some time.[4]

8. Take Breaks

It might sound counterproductive to step away from a problem you’re trying to solve, but doing so can actually save you time and help you develop an even better solution.

Sometimes called the “wanderer technique,” taking breaks has long been shown in research to boost creativity and attention span.

When you’re focused on (and stressed about) a problem, your brain can grow fatigued, which prevents you from finding innovative ways to deal with the issue. On the other hand, when you step away and think about or do something else, your brain can wander. Given some stress-free time with your unconscious mind, you can make connections you wouldn’t have if you were staring at a screen or notebook.[5]

Final Thoughts

As common as it is to encounter challenges at work and in life, it can be frustrating to spend time finding solutions, especially if you’re not sure if the solutions will be effective. By approaching your problem-solving with a bit of strategy and intention, you can both save time and find better solutions. It’s a win-win!

Just follow these 8 surefire problem-solving strategies and you’ll have higher chances of overcoming obstacles in your journey to success.

More Problem-Solving Strategies for Overcoming Challenges

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

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