“I am not good at doing nothing,” declared my wife, Laura, during our morning conversation. I smiled and agreed that taking time to just relax and leave your “to do list” mentality was especially difficult for her. I had put off and finally forgotten to write my weekly blog on something worth sharing. At that moment I smiled and realized the benefit of “doing nothing.”
Our minds were wonderfully designed to allow us to stay alive and progress at the same time. Our limbic brain contains our subconscious mind whose primary goal seeking functions are to keep us alive and work on keeping us organized. Our autonomous functions like breathing, releasing fear or flight hormones, and even long term memory are housed in this brain. Our conscious mind is what we use to analyze situations requiring logic and language. This neocortex brain is what separates us from other creatures.
Our conscious mind has control of actions because we give it control. The thoughts that drive achievement oriented people like Laura are constantly driving her behavior. When we think the same thought enough, we embed it in our subconscious mind as an overriding code. When our bodies tell us we are tired, this overriding code will tell us to keep going until we solve that current task. Worse yet, when we decide to allow for some recovery time or “doing nothing”, that same habit sends those negative thoughts that don’t allow us to enjoy our down time.
Here’s the irony: Down time is when your subconscious mind can do its best work for you. How many great ideas come on a vacation? How many ideas come when you are just day dreaming in the shower? Or how many times have you remembered a name after you gave up trying to remember it?
Your subconscious mind is a goal seeking part of you that believes whatever you tell it and works in the background 24/7. It will go through every file drawer in your memory until it finds what you asked it to look for. But, it gets overridden by your conscious mind which adds constraints like, “I need it now!” or “I need to answer the phone.” Only by turning off your conscious mind can you allow your subconscious mind to take center stage and show its amazing persistent power.
Perhaps that is why every personal development guru or coach recommends at least one of the following:
- Feed your mind something positive and self-affirming just before bed and/or first thing in the morning.
- Pray or meditate for 20 minutes in the morning.
- Schedule and take vacations.
- Schedule time with your family and other non-work related associates.
- Write and speak positive affirmations or goals no matter what the circumstance.
- When you are stumped on a problem say, “it will come to me,” drop it, smile, and move on to your next to do.
Albert Einstein may have understood this when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.” And perhaps Paul understood this when he wrote in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is substance of things hoped for, the evidence of which is unseen.”
So go ahead this year and intentionally turn off your conscious mind on a regular basis and see if some of the solutions to those pressing problems don’t magically appear. Like the answer to what to blog about!