Sat, 16 January 2016
An interesting conversation occurred on our Facebook group (facebook.com/brilliantlivinghq) this week. We’d posted something about ‘Why people don’t like goals (and are they right?)’ and one of our Facebook members made the comment:
The Anglo-Saxon aside, what a great comment from someone who is obviously not a total convert of goal-setting. Direct and to the point.
And that got us thinking. As Kathryn is the writer of the international best-seller “Changeability: Manage Your Mind – Change Your Life” and goal setting is a key element of developing your Change-ability, the ability to manage your mind to make changes in your life, then surely we need to be able to explain ‘Why your mind needs goals.’
So we set about explaining just that.
Entrepreneur, author and writer, Jim Rohn has always plenty to say on the subject of personal development and so this quote caught our eye as in part answering the question.
No plan, then in essence your plan is likely to be someone else’s and chances are they’ll be looking after themselves more than you in that process.
But what’s going on in the actual brain?
Why your mind needs goals
The brain operates on two levels – the conscious and the unconscious or subconscious with the conscious being less powerful but crucial to achieving your life’s aims. We know, for example, that all great ideas must begin with the conscious thought of that idea.
So your conscious mind is often where it begins, and that’s also where we often decide on the actions we need to take to achieve that goal.
But the conscious mind has limitations, it quickly loses focus and holds limited amounts of information at any one time – thought to be around 7 chunks.
So it needs a subconscious to process things in the background. All those myriad functions our bodies and brain must undertake to keep alive.
But how does your unconscious mind determine which bits of the millions of pieces of sensory data it takes in every second of every day through your senses it should make your conscious mind aware of?
The subconscious minds’ function
It decides its reaction based on a comparison between new incoming data (through the senses) and existing data stored in your subconscious and then taking an appropriate response.
It’s like having a library in your brain (memory to you and I) with a record of all your experiences, values and beliefs.
Essentially your subconscious is trying to keep you safe, so when something happens it compares this situation with previous situations it has stored in your mind and formulates an appropriate response which it feeds to your conscious mind. You know the sort of thing – fight or flight and in practice the brain is primarily concerned with just maintaining your safety (and some might say the status quo!)
Now this is all well and good most of the time. You want to know hot things burn from previous experience and your conscious mind with those limitations we talked about earlier needs to only know what it needs to know.
Furthermore, there’s a filter mechanism in the brain – the Reticular Activating System (RAS) which processes everything it receives through the senses and then judiciously selects what the conscious mind needs to be aware of! And remember, it’s primarily concerned with your safety!
And in deciding what it makes known to the conscious mind, it chooses this based on what you’ve programmed your brain to focus on – rather as Google searches for matches to the words you type into the search engine.
So what happens if you haven’t set goals?
Then we default to what we already know, based on your previous experience, habits, values, etc. stored in your subconscious. Essentially, more of the same.
But if we use our conscious mind to set the coordinates of travel, i.e. we set goals, then our subconscious will look to provide the conscious mind with evidence to support our ideas or goals we’re searching for. We’ve in effect by passed the gate-keeping function of the brain, or at least tipped off the gate-keeper to let our conscious minds know of things which fit in with what we’re looking for. It’s in effect providing a lens through which to focus the subconscious mind, plus giving a nod to our gate-keeper the RAS to let through to our conscious mind things which might support this goal or aim.
Episode 76 of the Changeability Podcast
Hear us discuss this in full and more, plus a sneeky, dramatic look at the effects of the wrong way to use the Google in your brain, in episode 76 of The Changeability Podcast.
Go on, you have to be at least a little curious!
The last word, or do you have that?
We’ll leave the last word to Melody Beattie in The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditation on Codependency:
Where do you sit?
Let us know in the comments below.