Your may not realize it, but your unconscious mind dictates a great deal of your behavior. Very few of us pay attention to it, however. Some of us are even lucky enough to unleash it with a glass of wine, here and there, but still don’t take the opportunity to learn from it. Do you ever experience contradictory behavior? For example, you know you want something, and you have a goal, but you’re not doing a damn thing to help yourself get there. What’s the reason behind this self-sabotage? The reason, very possibly, is that your conscious mind wants one thing, but your unconscious mind wants something else. This harsh reality is something that very few of us are willing to admit to ourselves, but I promise you, it might be worth looking into. Our life trajectories can often lie in the simple space between our conscious and our subconscious minds.
I meet countless people who do the opposite of what they say they want to be doing. People who claim to have dreams they do nothing to pursue. I meet people who claim to love their jobs yet put minimal effort into their work and, consequently, put their jobs in jeopardy. People who claim to be in good marriages and relationships but purposefully do things to piss off their partners. I meet people who want to be artists yet never create anything. If you find yourself in a similar predicament, perhaps it’s time to really check-in with yourself about what it is you really want. It’s simply counterintuitive to claim to want something and, yet, to do nothing about it. Granted, there are extenuating circumstances and emotions that can act as a barrier to getting what we want—fear being a leading one. If you have a dream but are simply too afraid to pursue it, that can be a reason never to go there. If you’re depressed and, therefore, fragile, and your self-esteem has taken a recent nose-dive, that can be another reason you don’t feel strong enough to take risks. Emotion can certainly get in the way of our highest aspirations, but what about the possibility that maybe your unconscious mind doesn’t want these things as badly as your conscious mind does?
What interests me the most about this puzzling phenomenon is why our conscious minds want something when our hearts desire the opposite. What is the reason for thinking we want something our souls just aren’t into? For many of us, we’re hardwired into thinking what culture, society, tradition and friends and family tell us we ought to want rather than really questioning our own wants.
I know a guy who dove into a marriage simply because he thought he should due to his age. He feared losing credibility with others if he let himself turn 50 without ever having “settled down”. I meet countless people who commit to career choices they’d rather not dive into. We all have obligations and responsibilities, of course—and in life, no question, we have to do things we don’t want to do. Most of us need to earn a living. If we have families, most of us need to provide for them. If you don’t have these responsibilities, however, could you, arguably, follow a less conventional path, free from the judgment of others?
I honestly think you shouldn’t have to apologize for any of life’s choices unless you’re making choices that negatively affect others, such as being a mooch. If you barely work and constantly have to borrow money from your friends and family just to get by, then you’re probably not looking after yourself, properly. If you’re partnered-up, however, and your spouse is happy to provide you with a jobless lifestyle, or a more creative and less lucrative career path, then who is to say you can’t enjoy that? The important thing to look at is whether or not that existence gives you meaning. If that existence isn’t enough for you, isn’t meaningful enough for you, then it might be time to explore something else. But the key is deciding for yourself and not letting others guilt you into taking on something you don’t even want or need.
I’ve worked with countless housewives who felt deeply embarrassed and apologetic for not having careers, despite having happily, and very successfully, raised children and built a home and life with someone. One woman, in particular, and I worked for years on trying to get her to own her choice and to stop apologizing for it. Her conscious mind experienced guilt over her life’s choices, while her unconscious mind felt elation. She never did succumb to the guilt and take a job, because in her heart she knew she didn't want to.
And let me open this up to the men I know and work with—who typically experience a different type of pressure. I’ve worked with burnt-out finance guys who, after years of sleepless workweeks, weekends in the office, schmoozing clients until 6am, and coked-up, powdery mornings (just to make it through meetings) were finally sick of the lifestyle. The main pressure I gleaned from their experiences was that they simply had to keep going, no matter how miserable or disinterested they might have become in the game. I worked with guys who had put plenty of money away, but still feared being perceived as either losers, or dropouts if they were to change careers or take time-off. Time-off for a NYC finance guy might, unjustly, be perceived as weakness. For the ones who even made enough money to retire at 38, they still struggled with the decision to take a break. As an onlooker, you might say, why the hell would one continue in a miserable, overworked existence if money were neither an incentive nor an object?
I celebrate anyone’s ambition, however, even if it’s just success for success’s sake, and I support anyone who pushes themselves to keep trucking despite struggle. I do, however, believe that ambition does require fueling on both a conscious and an unconscious level. If your heart’s not in it, you might risk burning out. For someone who is a breadwinner and a provider, the desire to provide might be enough to unite both the brain and the heart—and that’s a winning combination. If there’s nothing linking those two organs, however, it’s very possible your unconscious mind may start to act out. Our subconscious has a tendency to send us messages via our peculiar, inconsistent behaviors—and it can be both fascinating and amusing to do an inventory of times in your life when that’s been the case.
The lesson here is to pay closer attention to ourselves. Do the words we say match the choices we make and the actions we carry out? If they don’t, then here lies an amazing opportunity to get to know yourself a little better—to live more honestly. Honest living could be our greatest freedom and can potentially, led us to a more authentic path based on true teamwork and solidarity between our hearts and minds.