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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

I get my best ideas when I’m not trying—when I’m zoning out in the shower or taking my dog for a walk. Suddenly, something I’ve been racking my brain to figure out seems to just come to me. It may seem like magic, but it’s actually just my unconscious mind coming through for the win.

What Is Conscious Thought?

Let’s start by explaining what the unconscious mind is not. I want you to think about what your dream house would look like if money were no object. Then, think about where you were the first time you can remember feeling joy.

That voice in your head that was talking you through those two tasks is your conscious mind. Simply put, any thought process that you are aware of (conscious of) is part of your conscious mind. I’m using my conscious mind as I sit here and write this article.

One of the major brain centers for conscious thought is in your prefrontal cortex. This is on the outside of your brain behind your forehead. Some of the downsides of conscious thought are that it’s energetically taxing and finite. What I mean is, your conscious mind can only think one thing at a time, and it burns through a lot of glucose to do so.

Try to figure out the square root of 2400 while creating a grocery list. You can skip back and forth between those two tasks, but your conscious mind can’t wrestle with both simultaneously.

Also, think of a time when you were utilizing your conscious mind for an extended period. Maybe you were in classes all day or busy with a tough work task late into the night. You were probably exhausted after such intensive and extended conscious thought.

What Is the Unconscious Mind?

That’s why the unconscious mind is such a valuable resource. It isn’t energy taxing, and it is virtually limitless. Your unconscious mind could be trying to figure out thousands of problems right now.

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The downside is that you aren’t conscious of any of it until you are—until your unconscious thoughts make it into your consciousness.

That’s why it behooves us to figure out how to create the right environment for our unconscious minds to flourish.

System 1 and System 2 Thinking

Daniel Kahneman’s seminal book Thinking, Fast and Slow gives us another way to think about the difference between the unconscious and conscious minds. Kahneman describes two different modes of thought called System 1 and System 2.

System 1 is quick, emotional, and intuitive, while System 2 is slow, methodical, and logical. System 1 works in tandem with System 2.

For example, if you see someone looking at you, your System 1 might assume they are upset with you. Then, your System 2 takes over to process information and discern what might actually be going on at that moment.

Kahneman warns us that System 1 and System 2 are metaphors for how the mind works.[1] It would be an oversimplification to try to explain specific regions where System 1 and System 2 thinking takes place. However, System 1 and 2 is a powerful way of thinking about different modes of thinking. Kahneman calls System 1 automatic thinking and System 2 effortful.

The idea of focus is key here. In a famous experiment, participants were told to watch a video and count how many times people in the video passed a ball to each other. This required their System 2 thinking. However, the intense focus required for this experiment caused most people to miss the fact that while the people in the video were passing the ball, a person in a gorilla suit slowly made his way through the shot.

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How to Make Your Unconscious Mind Work For You

Focusing too intensely can cause us to miss details and solutions better suited to our unconscious mind. That’s why we sometimes have to stop and chill out, instead of forcing solutions.

Here are five ways to make your unconscious mind work for you.

1. Manage Stress

Your unconscious mind is not a big fan of you being stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Managing stress is important if you want to be able to come up with those effortless “aha!” ideas.

Imagine that you’re under a strict work deadline. Your anxiety is compounded by the fact that you’re worried about losing your job and that your entire family relies on your income. This is an incredible amount of pressure that makes it tough for your unconscious mind to break through with that effortless creativity.

Think back to the video where the person in the gorilla suit sneaks through all the people passing the ball around. Most people are so focused on the task at hand that they don’t see the most interesting part of the video. Stress and pressure can lead to a kind of tunnel vision that works the same way. Our attention becomes so narrowly focused that we aren’t able to zoom out and connect the dots between broader patterns and ideas.

That’s why it’s crucial to find ways to manage stress. I recently spoke with humor engineer Drew Tarvin who explained the 4 R’s of managing stress.[2]

First, try to reduce stress by eliminating stressors from your life. This might mean finding a less stressful job or leaving earlier for work.

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Next, reframe the stresses that you can’t eliminate. Reframing isn’t pretending that your stress doesn’t exist; it’s trying to think differently and change your perspective about stressors that do exist. This might mean looking at the bright side or trying to see the bigger picture. If I don’t want to quit my stressful job, I can try to reframe by thinking more about the money I make or the times I feel fulfilled at work.

The third step is to relieve stress. This means finding ways to relax throughout the day. You might try meditating or watching funny cat videos on YouTube to clear your head and relieve your stress.

Finally, refresh. Find ways to take more extensive breaks where you completely de-stress. Pre-COVID, this might have meant taking a vacation to a beach somewhere. But now, you’ll have to get more creative as you find ways to put your phone down, forget about work, and come back completely refreshed.

2. Take Breaks

Part of stress management is taking breaks. But taking breaks is also an important part of tapping into your unconscious mind.

When I’m trying to figure out how to structure an article or put together ideas for a larger project, I schedule in time to completely put the project down. This allows my unconscious mind the freedom to come up with some truly novel solutions, and unlike conscious thought, it feels effortless.

This is that experience of the light bulb suddenly going on while you’re showering or driving to work. When you aren’t focused on anything in particular, your unconscious mind has the quiet it needs to bubble up to become conscious thought.

So, take breaks. One strategy is what’s called the Pomodoro Technique, which is when you stop to take a five-minute break after every 25 minutes of work. This allows you to recharge. Plus, by systematically easing your intense focus, you are giving your unconscious mind opportunities to come up with some truly novel ideas.

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3. Get Creative

The unconscious mind is great at effortlessly seeing patterns and finding interesting solutions, but for this to happen, it needs some inspiration. That means creating and consuming as much creativity as you can.

Pick up an artistic or creative hobby. Paint, write, build, or dance. It’s also helpful to consume creativity. Go to museums, read poetry, and walk in nature. Taking in creativity with your conscious mind will give your unconscious mind all the inspiration it needs to be able to do its thing.

4. Don’t Force It

The most crucial takeaway about the unconscious mind is that you can’t force it. You can struggle and strain all you want when you’re using your conscious mind, but the unconscious mind can only bubble to the surface when you aren’t trying so hard.

Think back to that phenomenon of having an aha moment while you’re showering or walking your dog. The unconscious mind is better able to break through when you aren’t focused so intensely on whatever it is you’re trying to solve.

So, relax and give yourself some time and space. That’s when your unconscious mind is most likely to breakthrough.

5. Play

Finally, don’t forget about the power of play. Play is inherently fun, and a playful mode of thinking allows your unconscious mind more of a chance to innovate. If you turn your task into a game, you’ll be more relaxed, have more fun, and collaborate better with your colleagues. That means you’ll be more likely to riff and get to a more creative “unconscious mind” solution.

You can also add play throughout your day to tap into this freer, less constrained kind of thinking. Turn your commute into a game, play hide and seek with your children, or join a local bowling league. This will help you get reacquainted with your childlike sense of joy, wonder, and curiosity—all key ingredients to nurturing and fostering your unconscious mind.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with and utilizing your unconscious mind is very different from doing so with your conscious mind. Tapping your unconscious mind is a technique that, when done right, can help you get what you want by untapping your potential.

Featured photo credit: Katerina Jerabkova via unsplash.com

Reference

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Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People

How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People

People like to joke that the only thing you really “learn” in school is how to memorize. As it turns out, that’s not even the case for most of us. If you go around the room and ask a handful of people how to memorize things quickly and how to remember things, most of them will probably tell you that the key is repetition.

However, if you were to talk to memory athletes, you would learn that that advice is not pointing you in the right direction. If you want to memorize something quickly and thoroughly, repetition won’t cut it; however, recalling something will. The problem is that recalling something requires paying attention and learning, and we all learn in different ways.

So, how can you memorize something fast?

In this article, you will learn memory techniques to master the art of recalling so that you can start memorizing a ton of data in a short amount of time.

Before You Start, Know Your Learning Style

Before you get started, you need to establish something: are you an auditory, visual, or experiential learner?

If you’re an auditory learner, then the most effective way for you to grasp information is by hearing it. As you can imagine, visual learners favor seeing something in order to learn it. Experiential learning types are more likely to learn from events and experiences (or, doing something with the material).

Find out your learning style here: There Are 7 Types of Learners: Which One Are You?

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Most of us are a combination of at least two of these categories, but I will denote which step is most favorable to your most agreeable learning style so that you can start to memorize things quickly and efficiently.

Follow the steps below to start your memory training and store all of those useful pieces of information in your long term memory.

1. Prepare

To optimize your memorization session and learn how to memorize something fast, pay close attention to which environment you choose. For most people, this means choosing an area with few distractions, though some people do thrive off of learning in public areas. Figure out what is most conducive to your learning so that you can get started.

Next, start drinking some tea. I could link you to mounds of scientific studies that confirm green tea as a natural catalyst for improving memory. Mechanically speaking, our ability to recall information comes down to the strength between neurons in our mind, which are connected by synapses. The more you exercise the synapse (repetition), the stronger it is, resulting in the ability to memorize.

As we get older, toxic chemicals will damage our neurons and synapses, leading to memory loss and even Alzheimer’s. Green tea contains compounds that block this toxicity and keep your brain cells working properly a lot longer.

2. Record What You’re Memorizing

This is especially useful if you’re trying to memorize information from a lecture. Use a tape recorder to track all of the acquired facts being spoken and listen to it. If you’re doing something more complicated, like learning a foreign language, it may be useful to make notecards of the new words you’re trying to memorize.

If you’re trying to memorize a speech, record yourself reading the speech aloud and listen to yourself speaking. Obviously, this is most helpful for auditory learners, but it’s also handy because it ensures that you’re getting more context from a lecture that will help you learn the information faster.

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3. Write Everything Down

Before you start trying to recall everything from memory, write and rewrite the information. This will help you become more familiar with what you’re trying to memorize. Of course, we said above that repetition isn’t always the best way to memorize something, but this can be great for visual learners as you’ll be able to see the information in front of you.

Doing this while listening to the recordings can also help you retain a lot of the data. This is most useful for experiential learners.

4. Section Your Notes

Now that you have everything written down in one set of notes, separate them into sections. This is ideal for visual learners, especially if you use color coding to differentiate between subjects.

This will help you break everything down and start compartmentalizing the information being recorded in your brain.

5. Use the Memory Palace Technique

A great way to “section off” information is through the memory palace technique[1]. This is especially good for visual learners, but it can also work as a sort of “experience” for experiential learners, and if you say the path out loud, it can work for auditory learners as well.

There are several steps to this technique, but it basically involves choosing a place you know well, identifying it’s distinctive features, and using those features to “store” bits of information you want to remember.

For example, if you’re working on learning how to memorize lines, you can find a place in your memory palace for each line of text, and as you’re reciting them when the time comes, you’ll simply have to walk through the room to pick up each line of text in the correct order. When everything has its place, it’ll be waiting for you to retrieve it.

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To learn how to apply the memory palace technique, read this article, which offers details on each step: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything.

6. Apply Repetition to Cumulative Memorization

For each line of text, repeat it a few times and try to recall it without looking. As you memorize each set of text, be cumulative by adding the new information to what you’ve just learned. This will keep everything within your short-term memory from fading.

How does this work? It’s actually related to two distinct modes of brain functioning: System 1 and System 2. You can take a look at how these systems work if you want to improve your memory.

Keep doing this until you have memorized that section and are able to recall the entire thing. Do not move on to another section until you have memorized that one completely.

This is mostly visual learning, but if you are speaking aloud, then you are also applying auditory.

7. Teach It to Someone

Studies have shown that teaching information to someone is a surefire way to remember that information as it requires you to retrieve the information from your own memory[2]. You can do this in a variety of ways. You can lecture the knowledge to someone sitting right in front of you (or the mirror, if you can’t convince anyone to sit through it).

If what you’ve learned needs to be recited verbatim, then do this in front of someone as well in order to get a feel for what it will be like to recite the text to the intended audience.

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My favorite method for this is creating tests for other people. Take the information and predict what questions will come out of them. Use multiple choice, matching, and so on to present the data in test format and see how someone else does.

All of this is experiential learning since you are actually practicing and manipulating the concepts you’ve learned.

8. Listen to the Recordings Continuously

While doing unrelated tasks like laundry or driving, go over the information again by listening to your recordings. This is certainly auditory learning, but it will still supplement everything you’ve shoved into your short-term memory.

9. Take a Break

Finally, let your mind breathe. Go for a short time without thinking about what you just learned and come back to it later on. Better yet, get out and take a walk while you’re on your break in order to absorb the benefits of being in nature.

You’ll find out what you really know once you come back to the information, and this will help you focus on the sections you might be weakest at.

Try these steps now, and you will find remembering things a lot easier, and you’ll memorize more than a lot of other people!

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re learning how to memorize a speech, learn a new language, or cramming for tomorrow’s exam, memory serves us in nearly every area of our lives. Once you learn how to memorize information faster and more efficiently, you’ll put yourself ahead of the pack of those who are still struggling to remember and recall necessary bits of information. Get started today!

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Featured photo credit: Caleb Angel via unsplash.com

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