Why You’re Not Living Your Best Life – And The Simple Shift That Holds The Solution
So many of us are putting incredible mental effort in order to change our behaviors or reach new levels of success. But what if mental effort is actually part of the problem, and there’s an entirely better way to achieve real transformation?
High achievers across all industries, from business to sports, know about the power of positive thinking.
We know we have to “think big to be big,” that we can harness the power of the Law of Attraction, that two weeks of hard effort is what it takes to change a habit, and that if we only want something badly enough, we’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it.
That’s what self-help teachers, spiritual gurus, and life coaches of all stripes have been telling us for decades. So it must be how we create the lives and successes we so deeply desire—right?
Well, not exactly.
The limits of positive thinking and “changing our mindset”
While positive thinking has been demonstrated to be an effective, perhaps even necessary step to becoming successful—just think of all the Olympic athletes who practice positive visualization—there are real limits to what it can help us accomplish.
We know this thanks to neuroscience. As the extremely well-respected, high-performance business coach Jim Fortin says, “Research has demonstrated that 95% of all habits and everything that we do is subconsciously-driven, which is housed in the right brain. But when we say, for example, ‘I’m going to change my mindset,’ that is a left-brain, analytical thought. We’re using the smallest part of the brain, the 5% analytical part, to try to change our habits at a core level, and it just doesn’t work that way.”
So let’s say you’re trying to change a habit. Maybe you’re not a morning person, and you want to change that about yourself. You want to be able to wake up early, feeling good, so you can have more time for yourself, or plan your day, or better prepare your children for their school day.
Now, after advising you to do the practical work that it takes to make an easy morning more attainable, like going to bed earlier, a typical personal development coach would likely advise you to visualize yourself waking up happy, well-rested, and ready to greet the day. They might give you an affirmation to repeat, or ask you to think through the reasons you might not be a morning person, and work with those assumptions one by one.
And no matter how much of this work you do, there’s no doubt that there’s going to be a whole lot of willpower involved, which Jim says does not work. If you don’t like getting up in the morning, you’re simply going to have to muscle your way through those early wake-ups for a while.
This work all has value. But the hard truth is that the results you’ll get from it will likely be limited. After all that willpower and all that positive thinking, you’ll probably be able to get up in the morning a bit more easily than you did before.
This is changing behavior on a conscious level. If you’re an entrepreneur or a high achiever, you’re probably practiced at changing your behavior at this level, which Jim says is a “backwards strategy” that almost everyone uses.
Changing it at the subconscious level, however, where the rubber meets the road—that’s a whole different ball game.
And it’s also where the real, lasting, life-transforming change can happen.
The alternative approach: Working with the subconscious mind
Since the subconscious is where most of our habits and actions originate, it makes sense that we have to work in that realm if we want to really up our game.
Fortin is one of the leaders in this field.
He’s a certified Master Hypnotist and a certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. His approach is rooted in neuroscience, subconscious reprogramming, and ancient, spiritual wisdom. It’s the combination of these three elements that’s allowed him to help so many business leaders—people who were already highly successful—achieve entirely new levels of personal and professional success. I became familiar with Fortin through his podcast, and I recommend it to anyone I know who’s interested in transforming their subconscious mind.
The powerful core of Fortin’s teaching is that changing our behaviors in any sustainable way first requires a change at a much deeper level.
“People try to change their behavior, but those behaviors are driven by their identities, beliefs, and capabilities,” Jim says. “So no matter how many times we try to change our behavior, if what we’re trying to create with our behavior isn’t consistent with the identity we hold, the behavior will not stick. It might last for a while, but will not stick.”
The idea is that we must change our “brainset,” which is the thing that happens in the brain that makes us do what we are. He gives the example of a smoker, which is probably one of the most familiar identities that people turn to neuroscience and hypnosis to change: “What people do is go into the automatic behavior—in this case, smoking—of being the identity of a particular type of person—a smoker. It happens automatically, with no analytical thought. It’s a subconscious behavior.”
In other words, nothing in your life will truly shift until you transform your subconscious identity. It’s a new way of understanding the Law of Attraction, based not just on a model of abundance—but on an identity of abundance.
So many of us are putting out incredible effort in order to change our behaviors or reach new levels of success. But if all our work is being done in the conscious mind, there will always be limits to what we can accomplish. The next time someone advises you to think your way to a better life, take it with a grain of salt. If we want true transformation, we have to go deeper, into the subconscious.