Got A Big Goal? Then Know That Your Unconscious Mind May Be Blocking Your Progress – Here’s How To Clear The Way

If you’ve got a dream that you want to realise, then you’ll already know that setting a concrete goal is essential, but you may not be aware that anxieties lurk in the deepest parts of your mind, which can scupper your chances before you’ve even got going – RSNG expert and performance coach David Brown reveals how you can remove the mental blocks to success...

Realise That There Are Two Levels Of Mind In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Karman says that the brain has System 1 and System 2. System 1 is your unconscious mind, which is most of it, and System 2 is your conscious mind. ‘Your unconscious mind is on the go all the time, assessing, telling you things, and back referencing to things in the past,’ says David Brown. In other words, you’re unaware of what your brain is actually doing most of the time and this affects your everyday decisions.

‘Your conscious mind doesn’t really filter this stuff. It’s only when you take a step back, stop and ask: “Why do I think that? What has brought be to a place where I believe this?” So, by creating a breathing space you can become more aware of unconscious blocks to your progress.

You need to map out how you expect to feel at certain points in your goals

Include Emotions In Your Goal-Setting When first setting out on a journey to success, we often plot out the long-term, medium and short-term goals to get there, which is absolutely correct. But as Brown points out we’re not programmable machines – we have feelings too. ‘You need to map out how you expect to feel at certain points in your goals. Then when you get there you need to ask: “How am I feeling? Is this how I expected to feel?”’

Brown says this becomes a useful review point, especially if things are not going well. ‘If you are embarking on a challenge of some kind it’s easier if you just accept that you’re unhappy. You stop and say: I’m finding it really hard to get on my bike, or write the next chapter of my book today, why is that? Maybe I have fundamentally realised that I don’t want to do this now? Or it might be a case of asking: “Do I still want to do this? Yes I do, right what do I need to change?” Something as simple as changing where you’re writing your book, for instance, could be the answer.’

Beware The Day-To-Day Block Do anything for long enough, even if it is your passion, and your brain can get worn down by the repetition. It’s at this point that self-motivating to work towards a long-term goal can get really tough. ‘You’ve got the long-term goal – the short-term goal might be to go out and run for an hour today, so find the thing that’s going to get through the block that’s stopping you from achieving the short-term goal.’

‘Set yourself this one goal: ‘to get your kit on’. Even if you then sit on the sofa, you would have been doing that anyway. What invariably happens is you think: “Well I’ve got my kit on, so I might as well go out for five minutes,” then you end up going out for two hours.’

Don’t Be A One-Man Army We all like to be self-reliant, especially when it comes to achieving long-term life goals. But striving to achieve this can just send you down a time-consuming cul-de-sac where progress is blocked, but you’re so determined to make your own way that you end up driving even further into a psychological dead end.

‘Find someone who has done what you want to do,’ advises Brown. ‘Join a club because it serves a human purpose of being part of something bigger. I’d rather go and ask someone about something than read a book about the subject.’

If I give myself more time I can get all the things done that I need to get done

Convince Yourself You Can Do It You might have looked at the steps to a goal and think it looks doable on paper. But until you really believe you can do it, your unconscious brain is going to hold you back. Fortunately, there’s a hack you can use to achieve this. Brown recommends saying the words “I can do X” in your head (where X is your ultimate goal). Then stand in front of a mirror and say it to your reflection. Then say it louder and with more conviction, until you can hear no hesitation or doubt in your voice.

Look To Your Past If the pep-talk above doesn’t work and you still catching yourself doubting your ability then a traumatic or negative experience from your past may be blocking your progress. ‘They don’t have to be a particularly traumatic experiences,’ says Brown. But they have remained unresolved, which is the problem. ‘It’s about breaking these things down and working out what the drivers are.’ Once you’ve located a troubling memory you can reduce its impact by changing your internal experience of it, says Brown. ‘If you have a traumatic experience then shortly afterwards you may remember it as if you are in the experience still, through your own eyes. So you take the person and have them take a step back and see themselves in the experience.’

You can also play with the picture, so if you have a memory like a colour movie running then you can turn it into a black and white picture, then move it further way, to make it smaller. ‘The feelings of anxiety subside as you do that, even though we are not trying to pretend the thing didn’t happen, because we’re just changing how we relate to it,’ adds Brown. If you identify an issue you can’t tackle alone then you should seek professional advice (you can contact Brown below.)

The Faster You Rush The More You Block Brown tells a story of a golf pro he worked with who was constantly rushing to catch up and turned up late to sessions. He went onto the course with him and the pro shot nine holes while Brown asked him each time how it felt, and what happened with the shot. ‘We got to the end and he had this moment where he said: “I know what it is now, if I give myself more time I can get all the things done that I need to get done.” He was giving himself too much to do in his life, setting too high expectations, but that was also coming into play in his golf swing – the internal experience of rushing something doesn’t allow you to be in your optimum state, and flow.’

WHAT NEXT? Watch Amisha Jha’s Ted Talk revealing how to stop your mind wandering and focus on that big goal…

Find out more about David Brown’s performance coaching work at @davidbrowncoach on Facebook and LinkedIn

Follow the writer @the_adventure_fella

Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations