Napoleon Hill calls it ‘Infinite Intelligence’. Julia Cameron calls it ‘God’ and ‘The Creator’. Daniel Kahneman calls it ‘System 1’. John Kehoe calls it ‘The Universe’. Whatever you call it, you are talking about the mysterious and powerful key to unlocking opportunity in your life.
I want you to do an exercise, borrowed from Travis L. Thomas’s book 3 Words For Getting Unstuck: Live Yes And, that will help you experience the work of your subconscious. Please do this step before carrying on to get the most out of this article.
I call this the “Attention Spotlight” exercise and here’s how it works:
Set a timer, say 30 seconds, and during that time, look around the room and count the amount of black things that you see.
Do it now. I’ll wait.
How many black objects did you find? A lot, right? How many red objects are in the room? But you weren’t looking for red. You can’t say a number like you can for the black objects, but now the red ones are jumping out at you too.
They were there all along but you hadn’t programmed your mind to look for them.
Ignore the red objects for a moment if you can and let’s zoom out on what’s happening here…
Your subconscious takes in everything; millions of bits of information per second. Of these millions of bits of information, it chooses to feed 5-9 bits of information into your conscious mind per second. These are the thoughts you can ‘hear’. That’s about as much as a phone number out of millions or possible thoughts.
The brain is primarily a tuning out device. If we received 100% input, we wouldn’t be able to process it all. We’d go mad trying to organise and store all of that information while constantly receiving more and more and more.
Instead, we absorb data and curate it into what we perceive to be the most important information.
How do we determine the information that makes it through to our conscious thoughts?
We tell our mind what we would like to be made aware of.
When I drew your attention to black objects, your mind focussed on that directive to the exclusion of others. When I said red instead, your focus shifted too.
While some of our direction is instinctual (we’d like to be made aware of imminent danger, food, water and other things that will keep us alive) often, it is our internal self-talk and our deeply held beliefs that drive the information we ‘experience’.
What if I substituted ‘black objects’ for the phrase “I am not creative”?
If I tell myself that I’m not creative, what am I going to see and experience? I might notice criticism and attach a lot of emotion to this to validate my belief. I might compare myself to others and use this as evidence that I’m not as creative as them. I might judge my early attempts if I try at all, creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by cutting the idea off at the roots.
What happens if I change the inner script? What if I told myself, “I can develop creative-thinking skills?”
Like the red objects, proof would start to be curated into my awareness. I might hear the criticism as an opportunity to learn and develop and welcome the outside perspective. I might look at others as inspiration of what’s possible, maybe they might even share some tips or encouragement if I asked? Then, I might try that Divergent Thinking exercise, make a complete hash of it but remind myself that I’ll do better next time.
Learning a new skill takes time and practice.
The opportunities were always there, but I had interpreted them in a way that reinforced my limiting belief. This can mean ignoring them, taking them the wrong way, making assumptions and judgements.
What does your self-talk ask your subconscious to look for? How can you elevate this?
Be brave and curious,