If you want to succeed in anything in life you need to know how to influence your mind. You need to know how to make your mind do what you want it to do, not what you don’t.
Have you ever noticed how we are surrounded by messages like 'Don't drink and drive' 'Don't forget your passport' 'Don't touch the button! 'Don't eat junk!' And how many times have you have ended up doing the very thing you were told not to? Why is that? The answer lies in understanding how the mind processes information.
For many years I have tried to explain to my clients how to successfully influence their mind but only recently I have come across an explanation that is both simple and accurate. I will borrow and adapt Marisa Peer's framework to make it very clear how to effectively communicate with your own mind.
You care. And yet sometimes it doesn't seem like people know that. You don't want to feel alone and isolated but that's how you end up feeling a little too often. You don't understand how it seems to easy for some to make friends and have great relationships and so hard for you. Do they know something you don't or are they simply born that way?
It may be easier for some to forge new relationships than for others. Perhaps they are less shy and more extroverted. However this does not predict whether those relationships will last long term or whether they would be truly satisfying to those involved. The quality of your relationships in the long run is more important than their quantity. And the quality of a relationship is measured by the quality of the connection you have together.
A true connection with someone is a vital experience that you feel in your whole being. Cultivating connection takes skill, and skills take time effort and commitment to develop. Let's have a look at what gets in the way of true connection and what enhances it.
Perhaps you have a habit of going in one direction only to give up halfway and try something else or maybe you stay put and don't venture into the new because you're not sure if it'd be the right thing for you. You wish you were like those people that knew what they wanted to do in life since childhood. You wonder if perhaps you are just different from everyone else and there is no point in even trying but you don't want to give up just yet.
You are aware that it's important to set goals but the idea of doing that makes you feel anxious or perhaps even angry. How do you set a goal if you haven't got a clue what you want? Goals may seem arbitrary or superficial or you worry you would get it wrong and then find yourself hating the direction you've chosen. Maybe you want to have no doubts before you start so you risk failure less. If only there was something you could do to clear the brain fog and actually be sure of yourself...
You may think you are alone in this but the truth is a lot of people go through this before finding clarity. So how did they find the answer that allowed them to move on? They stopped trying to find their direction in a rational way and instead connected to their heart's desire. Here's how.
Do you set goals but give up as soon as the going gets tough? Do you find it difficult to stay motivated and give up on yourself as soon as you hit an obstacle?
Perhaps you have decided to learn a language or maybe you want to lose weight or you want to save money for a trip. Maybe you want to write a book or kick a bad habit or have a better social life. No matter what your goal is though, as soon as you encounter a difficulty you feel deflated and find it hard to stay the course.
Maybe you are excited about finally writing that book but when you look at the blank page nothing seems to come out and you feel deflated. Or maybe you want to get fit but you haven't been to the gym for so long that the exercises seem way too hard so you never go back. Or maybe you decide to learn to play guitar but after the first few lessons you realise there is so much more to learn than you expected and it feels just too overwhelming to continue.
It doesn't matter what the goal is. Sometimes you take a few steps forward but end up stalling. Other times you don't start at all. You say to yourself: "maybe I just don't have what it takes... I am too lazy, old, unfit, stupid etc. Other people seem to have it so much easier than you and you don't know why. You wish there was an easy way to just skip ahead and get it done but you don't know how.
After a few times of going through this pattern you start to feel nervous about trying something new, worrying that you might fail again. If you soon don't stick to your goals you will never achieve anything of value - you say to yourself. You will never be able to learn French, run that marathon, start your own business, ask a woman out. You are afraid you might never make that dream come true and that just feels depressing.
You know what? You aren't alone. Believe me, I have been there, plenty of times. The good news is there is a way to get past your struggle. Your goal may at times feel like an unattainable dream but they may be closer than you think. Let me show you how to stick to your decisions and overcome challenges even when it feels like an impossible feat.
Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a dark theatre. Then suddenly a spot light appears. The only thing you can see is whatever the spotlight shines its light upon. That is your reality. You may think that is all reality but the truth is it is only a fraction of it. You decide where to point the light and wherever you do that's what you get ! The universe is a mirror of us. Our external reality is a reflection of our internal reality. The world reflects back to you whatever you believe about it and your place in it.
Imagine you are the captain of a ship sailing on the wide open ocean. The crew follows your orders to the letter. You just need to tell it where to go. But instead of telling it where you want to go you keep on telling it where you don't. "I don't want to go to Hell Island! it's full of horrible people there and there is nothing to eat and the weather is terrible all year round! No, I don't want to go to Hell Island! Please don't take me there!"
Guess where you end up going ? The crew doesn't know where else to take you, all they hear is "Hell Island! Hell Island"!
So stop asking for what you don't want and focus on its opposite: What you do want.
Some people use this simple principle to try to attract to themselves what their ego wants in their life. More money, a better job, a mate, you name it. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, if the request comes from your ego you may end up in trouble when you do get what you asked for. This is because the ego tries to get you 'stuff' based on a dream, a fantasy of what getting that stuff will be like. Often we have no idea what that really would entail and it might just be the opposite of what would make us happy !
The other problem is that we often have no idea what we really want, and that's because the ego has no idea what would satisfy our deeper needs. It hears ideas about money or fame or having children or achievement as the ultimate goals that will bring it happiness and believes the story. The problem is that's just a story and what makes somebody else happy might not make you happy. The ego doesn't know what would make you happy. Only your deeper self does. (More on this later, read on)
Many people think that if only they had more money then everything would be ok. There are many problems with this:
What to do instead ? The solution to this conundrum is to surrender to the higher self, the inner teacher, the part of us that is much bigger and wiser than our ego. This inner voice, the inner counsel always knows what is best for us in a way that might even frighten the ego. This is because the ego wants safety at all costs, while our higher self wants our ultimate growth, happiness and freedom to expand out of our comfort zone. You will be most aware of the difference between the ego and the higher self when you have a decision to make.
Your 'head' will always counsel you towards safety. Your 'heart' will always counsel you towards expansion. Your head tries to keep you small. Your heart wants you to grow. But growing can be scary, because you are entering unknown territory, so if you feel a little scared of what one of the inner voices is telling you to do you might just have tapped into the wisdom your heart.
So listening to your 'heart' (or your inner teacher, wise counsel, higher self, sometimes also experienced as God) is the way forward.
But what if you cannot hear the voice of the inner self ? It is hard to listen to the inner voice if you are surrounded by constant distraction and never spend a moment looking inside. Facebook, mobile phones, TVs are pulling our attention away from the inner voice on a regular basis.
Switch everything off, sit down (or lie down) and be still. Take a few deep breaths and relax for a few minutes.
Go to a place of peace or stillness in your mind and allow yourself to feel your feelings. Do not try to feel differently from what you are feeling, just accept whatever it is you are feeling.
If you notice the feeling is negative , while accepting what you are feeling, imagine what you'd like to feel instead, as if your life were already perfect. Connect to this reality and let yourself experience it as if it were already real.
Ask for your Inner Teacher to appear. Maybe it is just a presence, a feeling, or a knowing or maybe you can even see it. When you are connected to the inner wiser self ask: What feels like the right thing to do for me to bring about this change ? What is going to get me closer to what I want ? What feels right ?
Now listen and make space to receive. Open your heart to its wisdom.
If your analytical mind is interfering with the process by distracting you with judgements you need to relax more and pay no heed to its criticisms. It's just the ego getting scared and trying to protect you from the unknown. You can reassure yourself you'll listen to it later. But for now pay attention only to the exercise. Drop your judgements and connect to the deeper truth of the present moment.
Follow these steps and you'll access the most valuable teacher and therapist you'll ever have. The coach that knows you the best. Remember this is a PRACTICE. You don't run a marathon by going to the gym once. You need to keep at it and commit until you get the results you want.
Remember, it is never the experiences we have that keep us stuck but the judgements about them. It is the resistance to feeling our feelings. Move into the feeling and trust it has something invaluable to teach you.
For more articles on related topics see
We all know what we don’t want: we don’t want to get fat, smoke, be unfit, be lonely, ill, stressed poor or unattractive. But when we focus our attention onto what we don’t want we create a mental image of what we are trying to get away from and actually end up attracting exactly that which we are trying to avoid.
This is because our subconscious does not understand “negative” language. The classic example is someone asking you not to think of pink elephants. What are you thinking about? Our society is based on negative language. We tell our kids not to touch this or that, we tell them not to do this or that and what do they do? exactly that very thing. This is because our subconscious is a goal striving mechanism: tell it what to do and it will get you there somehow, so instead of telling it what you don’t want, tell it what you do!
Because we are not used to doing this, you can start with what you don’t want, then ask yourself: what do I want instead of this?
If your parents always wanted you to be a doctor and you are going through with your studies because you want to make them proud or you don’t want to disappoint them you are not going to be truly engaged with your goal and sooner or later you are going to become unmotivated.
In other words: if you are trying to live up to another person’s expectation or the idea of you, you are going to subconsciously resist this in some way and you will eventually sabotage yourself because you don’t really want what you think you want.
It is important therefore that you examine in detail what is truly important to you, quite apart from what others may want for you or think you should be. If you do not do this your goals will be influenced by their opinions, be that your peers’ your family’s your spouse’s the media or such things.
You need to care enough about your goal in order to have enough energy to push through the inevitable challenges along the way. Let’s face it: nothing is easy and every goal requires determination in the face of difficulties. So why waste energy ‘trying to’ be or get something you don’t truly want just when you would have much more energy putting all your efforts towards achieving something that truly gets you excited?
If you want to build a house you first need to imagine what it looks like. Then you need to make a drawing of it and only later will the details come in. If you can’t picture the house you cannot build it. The same is true for other goals.
If you are one of those who believe you have no imagination think again: everyone can daydream; you did it throughout your childhood whenever a boring teacher went on about something you didn’t care about. Talking about what you want with a friend or writing about it will help you ‘see’ it more clearly in your ‘mind’s eye’. When you do this, use the present tense, as if the goal has already been achieved and think of how you will feel when you do as if you already did: this will make you connect to the emotion behind it which will be the motivating motor behind your actions.
Be specific: specify what you will see, hear and feel when your goal is achieved. The more vividly you can do this the more compelling and possible your goal will be. This is because the imagination is the language of the subconscious and images speak louder than a thousand words. When you imagine the desirable things you want as if you already have them this will give you positive feelings about your goal and it will provide you with an emotional pull to achieve it. If you are vague your actions will be vague and you won’t get anywhere.
Don’t say something like “I want to be happy”. That is not a goal, it’s a feeling and you are already in charge of how you feel if you accept responsibility for how you respond to what happens to you. Instead, think about a specific and measurable goal in terms of what will be in place when you achieve it because this will give you an indication of when you have achieved it and it will help you notice any aspects of the goal that needs to be adjusted.
After you have done the above and you are feeling really good about it, step out of it and think about the first step you need to take to begin the process of making your goal come true.
If you don’t put a specific date on your goal you will be more likely to put it off and deal with something “more urgent”. Don’t be vague and say “next year” or you will be telling your subconscious that your goal will always be a year in the future. Instead, use an actual date so that as time goes on you will be able to see yourself getting closer to it and it will motivate you to put in the effort to make it come true.
They say: be careful what you ask for in case you get it! So think about what comes with what you want. If you want to set up your own business are you aware of all the time you will need to put in, in order to make it successful? You need to be aware of all the consequences of achieving your goal such as the effects on your health, your relationships, and the wider community so you can make the changes necessary to avoid unwanted side effects.
Your unconscious is better aware than your conscious mind about possible pitfalls that may stand in your way and since its language is emotion rather than reason ask yourself how you feel when you think about your goal: do you feel energized and excited or discouraged and tired?
If you don’t feel a hundred percent about it there is probably something you have consciously overlooked or ignored so pay close attention and be honest about what you find.
If you feel overwhelmed by how big your goal is you need to ‘break it down’ into achievable chunks otherwise you’ll get discouraged and are more likely to give up. If this has already happened you probably have lost a bit of motivation. If this is the case first shift your attention fro what you need to do to get there to how great it will be when you have achieved it. Then break down the goal into smaller steps. Each step is a mini-goal in itself and you can feel good when you complete it. Celebrate every small victory and give yourself a small reward every time you achieve a mini-goal.
If you are unsure of what the next steps need to first imagine the goal as if you already had achieved it. Then ask yourself: what conditions need to be in place in order for this to be able to happen? Work your way back through time until you get back to the first step you need to take. Put the work in; the more you put in the more you get out of this process. Get started now.
Most people don’t know what they really want and so they avoid setting goals altogether. But think about it: If you don’t put in the time and effort to find out what you really want you will never get anywhere. When you don’t set any goals you’ll just drift reacting to what life throws at you. Or even worse others will set goals for you and you’ll just go along with them. This is a recipe for feeling unfulfilled, vulnerable and lost.
If you don’t know what you want you can try either one of the following approaches:
1) Ask a friend to ask you: what’s important to me in a career? what’s important to me in a relationship? continue for each area of your life. Tell your friend to keep on asking you even when you think you have discovered what you value the most because often the most motivating values you have are the most unconscious or least obvious.
2) Experiment and try out different experiences. Pay attention to what you enjoy and what you don’t. Ask yourself what it is about each experience that you really liked. This will give you an idea of what you really value, what excites and motivates you and who you really are.
Persist and remember: there is no failure until you give up!
You may also be interested in this article on how to be more confident.