Little Epistle: Persuading Your Subconscious

As you know our minds consist of two parts, the conscious mind, and the unconscious. The conscious mind is limited. Research by the Bell telephone company years ago indicated that most people’s short term memory can hold about seven pieces of information. That is why phone numbers were limited to seven digits with a space between the first three and last four. The area codes added later botched that up. It’s harder to look at a ten digit number and then dial it from memory.

The conscious mind and memory are also fallible. I think it was Mark Twain who compared our conscious mind to a wooden bowl. It doesn’t hold very much, and after a while it warps.

But our conscious mind has one priceless ability. We can direct it. Dr. Maxwell Maltz in his book Psycho Cybernetics compared the conscious mind to the thermostat on the wall. We can change it at will. But the thermostat really doesn’t warm the house. The furnace does. But you can’t just go whack the side of the furnace to fire it up. You have to coax it with the thermostat. And, as you know the heat in the house doesn’t instantly change it takes some time. Likewise the subconscious, but once you unleash its power, it is far stronger and long lasting than the thoughts and words that flit through our conscious brains.

How do you communicate with and persuade the unconscious mind to do your bidding? With compliments, positive affirmations, even whistling and it also helps to describe the person you aspire to be. Perhaps the most powerful training message you can send is repetitious rehearsal. Psychologist and philosopher William James said this in three magic words, “Act as if.” That doesn’t mean imitate. It means do. If you want to be friendly, do what friendly people do. If you want to be a scholar, do what scholars do. If you want to be rich, don’t spend like a drunken sailor. People who get rich do just the opposite.

Most important, if you want to be a Christian, the path is as simple as two words. Jesus said, “Follow me.”

Little Epistle: Setting Goals and Eating Elephants

More than a few years ago I sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the open Pacific bound for the Tonga Islands.  The beautiful skyline of San Francisco disappeared slowly behind us and the open ocean spread out in every direction.  Night settled on us and blotted out any guidance.  One direction was as good as another to me.  Fortunately the captain and navigator had something more specific in mind.  Otherwise I might still be drifting in the open sea or long since wrecked on an unfriendly shore.

And such is the voyage of life.  Personal effective authorities and their research all agree that of the principles and practices that promote personal effectiveness, none is more important than setting goals.  It is the foundation of virtually every successful effort at self-improvement.  I don’t know anyone from personal association or historical research who has stumbled into a successful life.  Everybody I know who lives life well has at least the rudiments of goals to guide him or her.

If goals are so effective why do we so often dislike them?  Some very good reasons.  Often the goals have been assigned to us.  They are somebody else’s goals not ours.  Goals sometimes intimidate us.  They look too big for us to handle.  Perhaps our greatest hangup is that we don’t like to be measured.  We may come up short, and it may take effort to achieve what we have laid out for ourselves.

Try these antidotes for those spiritual illnesses.  Set out your own goals and have them supersede your assigned ones.  Break big indigestible goals down into little bite sized nibbles.  As the saying goes you can eat an elephant a bite at a time.

And finally start slow and easy. Especially at first, nibbling on a small succulent success is a lot more satisfying than choking on a heaped platter of failure.