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By its very nature, a dream is neither something you have now nor something that you have experienced before. That's usually why you're moving towards it – to make sure you are experiencing what you think you want to do in your life. Something that expresses your worth as an individual and gives you a sense of pride and achievement.
The reason this can so often cause fear, overwhelm, and the subsequent stagnation of our progress is because it means too much change. The most frustrating part of it for so many is that we are not even aware of why this is or where it is coming from.
We can approach a new goal with enthusiasm and full of ideas, but in a relatively short period of time we will be established. There may be circumstances that appear out of nowhere and invade us, but are they really?
I have known so many people for whom this is true, and most of the time completely unknown. They will publicly denounce or postpone their work, even though they know they could if they really wanted to make a difference!
So what's up?
It is your subconscious that is fighting for your safety (as it sees it). Like a kind of stowaway in your head, it pulls leavers behind the scenes – and distracts you from what it perceives as a threat to the status quo.
Related: Why Goal Setting Systems Must Be Simple
Why does it do this
All your subconscious needs to know is that the status quo has resulted in your continued survival to this day. It doesn't matter what that happens, which is why you often see repetitive destructive behavior in those who know what it's doing to them (like drugs, alcohol, and abusive relationships).
Your subconscious is part of your ancient brain. Before developing what we could call a conscious or calculating mind, we had to rely on instinct. Your awareness is a wonderful thing, but if you had to wake up and weigh the options for everything in your life, you probably wouldn't survive your first winter.
What enables your subconscious to function so quickly is emotional energy. Both in terms of input and output. The emotional reward of an experience, good or bad, is logged by the subconscious as something to move toward or away from. This is how we must do it when trying to reprogram new behaviors and remove barriers to our progress.
The emotional language of the subconscious is the reason why psychologists often try to discover childhood trauma in their patients. This is because many behaviors, including destructive behaviors, arise from a deeply ingrained aversion to something that happened to us in our childhood. We cannot intellectualize these behaviors and connect them to our trauma because:
We may not remember the event, even if we did not process it emotionally. We are still acting emotionally like a toddler as we try to contextualize everything with an adult consciousness. In other words, the trauma that is trapped in it belonged to our child selves. We moved on, but it didn't work.
What does this mean for our dreams and aspirations for the future? The subconscious doesn't like change because it represents the unknown and the unknown carries risks. Everything you've done so far has worked. You're still alive so don't change anything!
If we are not aware of it and learn to deal with it, we will likely never achieve our dreams. In fact, their very presence in our minds will prevent us from doing it.
Related: Strategies not to think too much and to start goal setting
In many ways, our dreams represent the battlefield between our conscious and subconscious.
Then what can we do to reprogram our subconscious so that it stops working against us and actually working for us?
You need to feed your subconscious with positive emotional responses similar to the ones you would feel if your dream became a reality for you.
Here is a checklist to follow as a guide:
Identify your dream. Get very specific and understand exactly what it means to you when you achieve it. Set a conscious intention towards your dream, but it falls into the "minimum performance" category. Example: You might want to buy your own house, so put $ 10 (or an amount you think is small enough not to miss) in a savings account. When you have reached your minimum goal, emotionally celebrate it as if you have just achieved your dream goal! This can mean closing your eyes and introducing yourself in your dream home (as in the example above). However you evoke the emotional state in you, really sit with it and feel it. Pay close attention to these feelings. Include them. Observe what is happening to you physically, whether it is butterflies in your stomach or an increase in your heart rate. Focus on it and just sit down with the sensation. Once you get this under control, you should be able to remember it at will. It may take a while, but stick with it. Then when you are taking steps towards your goal or just thinking about your new life; these emotions and physical responses should occur naturally.
Once you have these down, you should be able to access them at will. It may take a while, but stick with it. Then as you take steps towards your goal or just think about your new life, these emotions and physical responses should come naturally.
What we are doing here is essentially telling your subconscious that everything is fine in your new life. We present it with evidence in the form of incremental changes and strengthen its security with emotional gratification.
I call this process "micro-shift", but you can call it what you want. When you do this, not only will your subconscious mind stop getting in your way with sabotaging behavior, but it will also produce the combined effect of you beginning to actively help you. You will begin to notice opportunities and connections that create real progress.
Related: The 5 Golden Rules of Goal Setting