I’m sure you’ve heard the analogy of our minds being like an iceberg; where the stuff we are aware of, goes on above the water’s surface, but so much more is below that! It is thought that our subconscious, the part below the water’s surface, controls over 90% of our mind and how we operate (Lipton, 2018).
It has a powerful influence on our decisions and behaviour. It’s a big storage unit, like a computer hard drive, which holds all of our experiences and memories and can quickly match a current situation, feeling, sensation, thought, with something in that huge storage unit. Once it does this, our brains will automatically operate according to the programme that the subconscious switches on, i.e. what it perceives, to be the best response, based on past consequences.
It makes sense that we are not aware of having to make decisions about every single thing and reaction… it would be impossible to be aware of the millions of processes that our brain has to interpret and carry out in just a split second.
But equally, how often do we react to things without awareness? Without a clear understanding of why? Because if you think about how powerful our subconscious it makes sense that, if we want to take control of our lives, then we need to create a feedback loop and support our subconscious to drive decisions and behaviour that enables us to move towards our desires and goals.
We know that there are ways in which we can reprogram the subconscious. For example, if we have a goal, we can focus on re-programming the subconscious to actually believe that we have already succeeded. This is because the subconscious responds to commands and visualisations from our conscious brain as if it were real: if something is vivid and the feelings can be conjured up by using our imagination, then the subconscious mind responds as if it were happening.
In this way, you can see that the subconscious mind will receive this ‘success’ as a new experience and add it to the storage unit. If it this is practiced consistently, it becomes a new programme. And if the subconscious mind is in charge of over 90% of our actions… then this is some powerful force to have on our side!
Here are some of the ways you can re-programme your subconscious for success, whether that be for a goal you have in relation to your running or even overcoming limiting beliefs…
Many successful people and athletes swear by visualisation in helping them to achieve their goals, and the research supports this. Predoiu et al (2020) found that through visualising and mental rehearsal the subconscious processes the experiences as a real one and the nervous system responds accordingly; it can even grow muscle strength and improve motor skills.
To get the most out of your visualisation, you can do it both from the perspective of imaging the scene through your own eyes and also as watching yourself go through the process of achieving the goal. Use all of your senses to feel, hear, see, smell and taste as you want it to be; this is what will fire off the neurons and make it as vivid as possible.
Consistently repeating both written and verbal affirmations about your goal, has been shown to activate the brains reward centre (Cascio et al, 2016). When practiced consistently, self-affirmations will become part of the subconscious programming; meaning your conscious mind will start to be more attuned to opportunities and look for ways to achieve your goal.
As with visualisation, the key is to conjure up how it would feel for you if your chosen statement were true. Connect to the sensations that it would produce in your body; notice the emotions it activates. Embody it and this will trigger your subconscious to think it is already a part of your experiences, therefore, making it more likely that you will be able to achieve this. Our subconscious has a way of driving us towards the opportunities which fit with our programmes.
Use your self-awareness to create neurofeedback to the subconscious.
A huge subject in and of itself, developing self-awareness and using this to consciously feedback to the subconscious, allows you to begin seeing the patterns in your behaviour and identify areas that are holding you back. We know that being mindful and self-aware develops new pathways in the brain and this empowers you to take control rather than passively operating via old programming.
You can begin this process by paying attention to reactions to experiences and being curious about this. Be open to questioning your reactions and any core beliefs you hold. This helps you confront the old programming and conditioning and gives new messages to your subconscious.
- Why am I thinking/reacting in this way?
- Are my actions being driven by old beliefs and programming that no longer serve me?
- What if I thought about this in a different way? And what scares me about doing that?
Get to know your subconscious, it is a powerful part of you! Try it out, if you have signed up for one of the Running Woman challenges it could support you in hitting the pavement!