Are You Getting in Your Own Way? Train your Unconscious Mind like a Horse!
How frustrating is it when you’re not where you want to be in life and not achieving what you want to be achieving? Whether your goals are equestrian based or not, it becomes tiring hearing the same advice over and over. “Think positively” and “believe in yourself” can become hard to hear at times, especially when the same things seem to go wrong repeatedly.
Whilst the advice above is technically correct, it is becoming clearer to me as I delve deeper into creating ways to help people overcome their fears and achieve their goals, that many people don’t know how to nurture the relationship they have with their unconscious mind. This, in my opinion, is the KEY to unlocking your potential.
Without going into too much detail, everyone has a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. Your conscious mind is responsible for your internal dialogue, your decision-making and for thinking & planning. Your unconscious mind is for everything else. It deals with your feelings, memories, intuition, instincts and sensations. This is also the part of your mind responsible for habit forming and your behaviours, along with your moral code.
The great news is that your unconscious mind is extremely trainable, and it loves receiving instruction. The trick is to give it the correct instructions, and for this reason I’d like you to imagine your unconscious mind as a horse, and your conscious mind as the rider.
The rider must give clear and specific instructions to the horse in order to achieve the outcome they want, no matter how big or small. If the rider were to make a decision but not give the correct instruction to the horse then they may end up with an “ok” result, but not the one they set out to get. Alternatively, it could all go horribly wrong!
Your mind works best as an integrated unit, the same as a horse and rider who are in perfect sync. When your mind is disjointed and not used as a whole, you can start to feel conflicted with yourself and you may find it becomes harder to make decisions because it feels like each part of your mind wants to do something different. Luckily, there are ways to treat your mind, and retrain it to work as a whole again, just as we can retrain a horse and rider to work together after a bad patch. It can take time, but the relationship between the two will probably end up stronger afterwards.
Like a horse, your unconscious mind will always follow the path of least resistance to achieve a goal. If you tell a horse to go over a jump, but with no specifics, you know it’ll get there but it might not be pretty! This is why it is imperative to make your goals as precise as possible. Creating a picture in your mind of how things will look and how you will feel once the goal is achieved lets your unconscious mind know exactly what you’re after.
This is why practicing manifestation has become so popular recently, as it encourages you to constantly revisit your goals and therefore remind your “horse” where you’re heading. This is also the reason why Vision Boards work so well when aiming for a goal.
The unconscious mind also loves to gain positive feedback, just like a horse (think treats!). Satisfaction and good feeling from achieving a goal exactly as it was visualised, leads to a feeling of empowerment, which in turn means that further goals will become easier to achieve. Again, this is why breaking down a large goal into smaller steps works better as you will feel a sense of achievement more regularly.
The unconscious mind cannot process negatives. I cannot stress this enough. Your goals must be what you WANT rather than what you don’t want. For example “I don’t want to fall off again” will immediately make you think of falling off, even if you replace that thought immediately with another one. The problem here is that you have created that image in your unconscious mind, therefore it’s already there. By only concentrating on what you do want, it gives your unconscious mind the correct things to focus on. Again, like when giving aids to a horse, you are asking for what you do want, rather than what you don’t want.
Like a horse, your unconscious mind loves routine and habits. To form a new habit, you must create and repeat a new conscious behaviour until it becomes unconscious. This also helps when dealing with your “fight or flight” response to daily stresses. I like to compare this to getting a young horse used to something scary, such as water. By showing them, over and over again, that it’s not to be feared, you can change their behaviour, so that the habit of spooking is eventually extinguished. The same works for your unconscious mind and how you react to certain stressors in your life.
If you were to shout at your horse, but about someone else, your horse would think you were shouting about them. Your unconscious mind is the same, it takes everything personally and will react accordingly. Bitter thoughts about other people can create bad feeling within yourself and you can even start to mirror the behaviours that you dislike in other people. It is hard to only think good thoughts about others at all times, I know. The best advice I can give here is to perhaps think about why someone is acting in a certain way, in order to justify it in your own mind.
Lastly, your unconscious mind is responsible for the distribution of energy within your body. For example, when you are excited about something you may have more energy in the mornings when you wake up. The ultimate goal is to have a good relationship between your unconscious mind and conscious mind so that you can “create” energy in the areas of your life when and where you need it. This is also the most important part of a rider’s relationship with their horse, as it leads to a feeling of togetherness when the horse directs their energy in exactly the way that the rider has asked.
Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes your “horse” needs a day off!