Most people would say that YOU are responsible for YOUR own success.
That if you want to be successful, you need stop blaming the world, take ownership of your life/career, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
While this advice is true, it’s not very useful.
Many people follow this advice, yet still struggle to achieve results, are unable to have meaningful relationships, and find it difficult to obtain happiness.
In today’s lesson I’d like to go a little deeper and explore what part of you is responsible for your success.
The Rider & The Elephant
Imagine that you are riding an elephant. You are able to move your elephant forward and you can steer your elephant left and right.
This is how most people view their lives. They believe that they able to make progress in their lives by moving forward and steering left and right.
But who is really in control?
When our elephant is frighted by a mouse, and starts running in the opposite direction from where we want to go, we quickly discover that as the rider, we are not really in control and are simply along for the ride.
The rider and elephant is a metaphor for the relationship between our conscious and unconscious mind. The rider is our conscious awareness and the elephant represents the unconscious (or subconscious) part of our mind.
While we like to think we are in control of our elephant, the following is really true:
- Most of us let our elephant wander aimlessly and are surprised when we don’t arrive at our designation,
- Or we allow our elephant to be startled by mice (aka emotional hijacks) and are taken on wild rides.
To appreciate the difference between the rider (conscious mind) and elephant (unconscious mind), lets highlight some important brain facts:
- Brain Mass: The conscious part of our mind represents 17% of our brain mass while the unconscious mind accounts for the remaining 83%.
- Control of perception & behaviour: The conscious mind has control of roughly 2% to 4% or our perception and behaviour while the unconscious mind controls 96% to 98%.
- Speed of thought: The conscious mind moves at a snails pace of 16 to 50 bps (bits per second) while the unconscious mind travels at a lightening speed of 11,000,000 bps.
- Memory horizon: The conscious mind is able to remember something for about 20 seconds while the unconscious mind it able to hold onto it forever.
- Hold at one time: The conscious mind is only able to hold 7 plus or minus 2 pieces of information at a time while the capacity of the unconscious mind is virtually unlimited.
- Processing (sequential vs parallel): The conscious mind is only able to process one thought at time while the unconscious mind is able to process thoughts in parallel.
The facts speak for themselves. The conscious mind is not nearly as powerful as the unconscious mind. So what can we do?
Leading The Elephant
While the brain facts show that the conscious mind is at a huge disadvantage, there is hope.
The are two keys that our rider (conscious mind) can use that enables it to influence and direct our elephant (unconscious mind). These keys are intention and attention.
The first key is intention.
Intention is the purpose or attitude that we direct toward our actions and behaviours. It is a concentration of mentally energy that we consciously put behind a result that we want. This ability to focus nudges our internal navigator into action. Once nudged, our elephant takes over and follows through on the intended action. As the rider, we can use intention to influence our elephant and move it in the direction that we want to go.
The second key is attention.
Attention is the concentration of the mind on a single object or thought. It is the ability to hold our awareness on a specific area of focus. When you are able to consciously hold your attention for longer periods of time you move toward full-awareness.
We can greatly increase our chances of achieving what we want (achieving goals, meaningful relationships, obtaining happiness) when we use the keys of the conscious mind, attention and intention, to direct and influence our unconscious mind.
Both intention and attention are muscles that must be exercised, just like your body needs exercise. I’ve found meditation to be a great way to exercise he muscles of your mind.
When you practice meditation you train your intention – your ability to make good choices and follow through on them; and your attention – your ability to focus on what matters and to achieve full awareness.
If you would like to learn more about strengthening your intention and attention, simply head over to www.learn2lead.co and sign-up for my free online training called The 31 Lessons of Mindful Leadership.