It’s Your Subconscious and What to Do About It

Al Pittampalli over at the SAMBA blog wrote It’s the subconscious, stupid, but left out an important point, got another wrong, and didn’t give us a solution.

We don’t talk a lot about the subconscious mind, but we should…because when it comes to personal achievement it can explain things like lack of motivation, procrastination, or self sabotage. And business wise, it can explain why your prospect hasn’t bought from you yet… whenever we’re deciding to do something, we think we’re evaluating the immediate task at hand. But subconsciously you may be thinking 6 moves ahead, and evaluating the decision based on the final move (all without even realizing it).

A great explanation of the subconscious and one that I use all the time with clients.

For example, let’s say you can’t get yourself to go to the gym in the morning. Consciously this may show up as laziness. You may just not feel like it. You may be thinking about how far away the gym is, or the fact that you can’t find your sneakers (how convenient). Or rationalize to yourself how an extra hour of sleep will do more for your health than the hour at the gym (yeah right). These immediate impediments might end up winning, and prevent you from making it to the gym.

An extremely common problem. Many of us face situations like this.

But is that rational? Going to the gym and losing weight is a major life goal of yours, one in which you have no shortage of motivation. How is it that general laziness won in the face of the long list of major benefits that going to the gym would result in?

Nope, it’s not rational. The subconscious isn’t rational. It makes connections and thinks very, very fast. As for how laziness wins? Let’s find out. Doing really well so far Al, I’m proud of you.

Well, consider that what really drove your decision actually lies 6 moves ahead…let’s lay out the gym scenario like it were a game of Chess…

Move #1: Go to the gym this morning
Move #2: Stick to my exercise routine this entire month
Move #3: Lose 10 lbs!
Move #4: Gain it all back (I always do)
Move #5: My friends will look at me like a failure
Move #6: I’ll become depressed, gain 10 more lbs, and I’ll be heavier than when I first started!

When you see these future moves, isn’t it clear why you wouldn’t want to go to the gym? As irrational as it seems, this is how we think, and this is what often determines our behavior.

Did you catch it? Normally it’s not this easy. I’ve taken hours just to get this list out of people. Here’s a pro tip: look for what I call the “unconscious moment” and/or the logical leap that gets made in this thought process. It’s Move #4. Gain it all back (I always do). Ouch. How did your mind reach that conclusion? It may not make sense to you rationally, but to your subconscious, it’s perfectly rational. That’s where things go wrong. They continue to go wrong in #5 and #6 as well, but #4 is what starts things rolling.

The subconscious mind is powerful and real. And when you can recognize that it often can lead to irrational conclusions, you can fight it, and help your soon to be customers too.

This is where Al goes a little off track. You don’t fight your subconscious. You train it. “But how?” you ask? That’s left as an exercise for the reader. I’ll help you because this is so important to so many things in your life. If you can solve little problems like this, it actually makes a huge difference.

4 Steps to Solving Any Problem by Training Your Subconscious

1. Get a Ballpark. Get the general description of the problem. “I can’t get myself to go to the gym in the morning” is perfectly acceptable.

2. Get Specific. Ask the person to get very specific about the problem. You want something like “Last Wednesday, at 7:04am, as I was sitting in bed, I thought about getting up to go to the gym, but I just couldn’t and went back to sleep.” If you hear words like “every time” or “sometimes” or even “a few times” that’s not specific enough.

3. Storyboard. Use that specific story now to create a storyboard. It helps to write this down. Imagine it like a movie and you need to look at every single part of the scene. Write down the thought process of the person from beginning to end in steps just like Al did with his example above. Leave room in between each step. This is where you’ll find those logical leaps. If you see the person go “um, then this happened” and you can’t tell how they got to that, start over from the beginning, then focus there.

4. Repeat and Defeat.You’ll be repeating this storyboard back to the person a lot. It may seem annoying. It probably is, but only to you. The other person will be into it. You’ll be helping them relive the experience and give you more details. Write them down. Now, once you’ve uncovered those unconscious moments, it’s time to break those down and change how that person thinks. Think you’ll gain 10 pounds back? Why? Help the person realize the error their subconscious made (not their fault) and then make a new connection and you’ll watch as the ballpark problem disappears.

There are plenty more advanced techniques you can use with this method, but this works for many of life’s problems including helping your customers buy from you. Just work the system and see how many results you can get out of it.

One Reply to “It’s Your Subconscious and What to Do About It”

  1. Great analysis and proposed solution. I intentionally leave out solutions often because sometimes people tend to focus on the answers too obsessively, before the difficult work of acknowledging and identifying the problem (which needs to happen first).

    But I promise you, Joe…I’ve written about specific solutions to this in the past, and I will again…soon.

    But thanks for keeping me in check.

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