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Getting Our Own Mind to Work as a Team

Aligning Conscious and Subconscious Desires

It’s enough to make one crazy. We know we should do something—like work out, eat better, give the dog a bath, finish that work project, or call our mom—but we can’t seem to get it done. We’re back on the couch feeling unmotivated and frustrated.

Everybody seems to have a goal. There’s something out there that people want to accomplish. For some, the goal is to be healthier or get that dream job. Others may be hoping to be more organized or save more for retirement. Everybody seems to have something that they are wishing to achieve, but very few seem to be reaching their goal. Just setting a goal and “trying to get there,” falls short for most people. If we want to achieve something, we’ve got to make sure that our entire mind is onboard with the plan.

The human mind has both a conscious and a subconscious element. The conscious mind tends to be that intelligent, goal-setting, analytical part that knows exactly where we want to end up. The subconscious mind is the part that wants to make life easy, help us be comfortable, protect us and keep us safe. To achieve a goal, both parts have to be in agreement that the goal is of the highest benefit. If there’s conflict, the subconscious will most likely win. Our protective, or comfort, instinct will find a way to overcome that hard-thinking, willpower-fueled, gotta-get-there drive that our conscious mind can build.

“You can want something desperately and still be unable to achieve the vision if your protective subconscious doesn’t agree with the perceived suffering you will experience,” explains Beverly Craddock, a master hypnotist at Hawaii Hypnosis Center, in Honolulu. “You can have the top-level gym membership, the trendiest workout clothes and the gym bag next to the door, but if your subconscious mind wants to rest, you’ll too often find yourself on the couch.”

While willpower can overcome some resistance, long-term habit-forming success comes more quickly when we can identify and resolve the subconscious resistance. “You can be consciously motivated to eat better but find yourself still going for the cookies if your subconscious finds comfort in sweets,” Beverly explains. “Even people who really desire a goal can be sidetracked or completely derailed by outdated thoughts or feelings.”

For business professionals that lead teams, the concept of team building, or teamwork, can often be made more complicated by their own subconscious desires and those of team members. The old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” is truly about this challenge. Even when guiding the project, the company or the healthy outcome, we have to convince the horse that it is thirsty and help it understand that water is scarce.

Team environments require an understanding of not only team dynamics but personal dynamics; this requires an understanding of both conscious and subconscious motivation. “Achieving the goal is about helping team members have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation,” Beverly says. “While getting a salary or wanting to look better is a great extrinsic—or external—motivator, people also have to be inwardly motivated by a desire to succeed that overcomes the desire to be comfortable, drink more, study less or watch 18 straight hours of Orange Is the New Black.”

The subconscious mind is designed to guide us toward comfort and safety, so it often doesn’t understand that comfort isn’t always best for us as we try to achieve health. Sure, it’s better in the long run to be healthy, but the subconscious lacks the analytical ability to see beyond what it already knows from experience. The experiences we’ve had often inform us that cookies taste good and broccoli tastes bad, and sleep is awesome and exercise hurts.

So, how can an individual or a team leader overcome being dragged down by an unmotivated subconscious? Beverly says there are two key elements: “First, you’ve got to show the subconscious the benefit by making the end result visible. You have to visualize yourself healthy and you have to show the team members what success looks like. Second, you’ve got to make sure that the subconscious doesn’t become distracted along the way. Success comes from constantly seeing the end result in a believable and achievable series of steps.”

She reminds us that it isn’t just having the steps laid out consciously for the individual or the team but rather being able to visualize those steps being taken and being able to visualize being successful.

Randy Hampton is a writer, social scientist, hypnotist and blogger living in Honolulu

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