How to Engage Your Subconscious Mind to Solve Your Toughest Problems

August Birch
Sep 7, 2018 · 6 min read

An old strategy used by the some of the smartest, creative people in history

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Engage Your Subconscious Mind to Solve Tough Problems

Your brain operates on two different levels — your conscious and subconscious. Now, these aren’t two separate brains, or hidden doors somewhere in our heads. The two minds are the way we process information. They both have critical jobs and we can’t function without either working in concert with the other.

The conscious mind works on the simple, day-to-day tasks, while the subconscious does the heavy-lifting and deep-work.

Your conscious mind runs your direct life before you. This part of your brain can only focus on one task at a time. The conscious mind uses a small percentage of our brain power, around 10%, with the other 90% of the processing power dedicated to our subconscious.

Your conscious brain controls:

  • Willpower

Your subconscious (or unconscious) brain controls:

  • Beliefs

Your subconscious is tricky

You can’t access your subconscious as if you’re calling a friend or Googling how to bake cookies. This is the place of daydreams and aha moments. This is the work of jumping out of danger before your conscious mind recognized the bus coming.

Think of your subconscious as the back-office of your brain, dealing with all the deep tasks, while your conscious mind cooks dinner, navigates through traffic, chooses which Netflix show to watch, and holds a conversation. Ever notice all the green cars after you buy a green car, or you take out the trash and a great idea pops in your head from nowhere? This is your subconscious hard at work in the background.

We can’t do without conscious thought. That 10% of your thought power is a very important 10%. But if we’re looking for heavy solutions to creative problems, those issues are assigned to the back-office. Unlike your conscious mind, your subconscious handles many activities/thoughts/processes simultaneously. Your subconscious can process 500,000 times more information that your conscious mind!

So, why don’t we call-up our subconscious when we need it?

It’s not that easy — Mother Nature’s little trick. You can’t just set your subconscious to work on a problem. It’s real meta, I know, but by that very act of making a conscious decision to use your subconscious mind, you’re only using the conscious part of your brain — but you CAN help the process along and point your brain in the right direction.

As creatives, we need this subconscious powerhouse to help us thrive in our chosen vocations. Conscious solutions aren’t enough. We need these deep ideas to take us to the next level. If Einstein required this (he’s famous for his though experiments and hours of pondering), we do too.


How to prime your subconscious mind

You can’t force your subconscious to work on a project, but you can point it towards the solution. This is called priming. Priming happens when you focus your conscious brain on research and list-making dedicated to the big problem you want to solve.

  • Hand-write charts, notes, lists, and diagrams dedicated to all the issues associated with the problem you want to solve.

Activate as many of your five senses as possible. This is a trick we do as writers. The more of your senses we activate, the easier it is to remember a situation, and the bigger the emotional response. With our subconscious mind, we want to generate the biggest emotional response we can — another signal to our brains this is an important project and requires serious brain attention.

The more conscious information you stuff into the back-office of your subconscious forces your brain acknowledge the problem as a priority and adds that issue to to your subconscious queue.

There isn’t really a conveyor belt of ideas inside your mind, but this a simplified way of describing it. Think of your subconscious as juggling a bunch of balls simultaneously while your conscious holds just one ball until the next ball comes. When you subconscious delivers an idea, it plucks the ball from the juggled pile and delivers it to the conscious mind for immediate action.


How to access these gifts from your subconscious

  • Plan for time to do nothing — Your subconscious will hoard its ideas while your conscious mind is busy working-away. If you fill all your time with busy-work, you won’t give your mind the needed rest required for the ideas to surface. Block-off thinking time in your calendar. If you’re a creative this is a MUST. You can’t grow if you don’t allow time for fresh ideas.

Whether you drop your keys on the floor, or take a hot shower, your subconscious is there waiting for you. Instead of packing your mind with worry or trivial problems, you now have the tools to aim your subconscious in the right direction.

The things we think about become our reality.

If you spend all your time worrying about your to-do list, whether the lawn needs watering, or if your customer will appreciate your hard work, you won’t give your subconscious the tools in needs to solve your best problems. Put that brain to work on the important issues and leave the little worries for someone else. You’ve got big goals ahead of you. It’s time to put that subconscious mind in action.

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