Think HBR

Is Your Subconscious Sabotaging Your Success?

Julianne Schwenke
Yellow Executive Business Coaching
Your subconscious has a huge impact on your reality. In fact, your subconscious represents 90 percent of your thinking.
The things you say:
• to yourself
• about yourself
• when you're by yourself
... can either make or break your success. Let me show you how
it works.
Ask great questions
Your Reticular Activating System, or RAS, is the goal-striving part of your subconscious. It is solutions-focused, and searches for answers to the questions you ask.
When something doesn't work out as planned, if you ask why does this always happen to me? It may come up with answers such as because I'm not smart enough, or because I'm not worthy of success.
If you let this train of thought take over, it can lead you down a very unproductive path of negative thinking.
Using the solutions-focus of the RAS, a better question would be how do I make sure this works next time? To which you might come up with the productive answer next time I will prepare more thoroughly.
Whatever you think, you're right ...
In addition to finding answers to the questions you ask, your RAS wants you to be right. In fact, it strives to prove true what you are thinking and telling yourself about the world, about other people, and about yourself.
Importantly, it has no concern whether or not those thoughts and statements are actually true.
Here's an example. If you are told (before meeting them for the first time) that someone is rude, your subconscious will be looking for evidence of that rudeness in your first few interactions with them. You may disregard evidence to the contrary in order to prove your belief is correct.
Conversely, if you meet someone for the first time whom a lot of your friends like, your belief will be that the person is likeable, and you will probably look for what you also relate to in that person.
Focus is everything ...
Have you ever "got out of bed on the wrong side" and had the day turn from bad to worse? Your subconscious was focusing on all the bad things that happened, sending your day into a downward spiral.
But your RAS can also work to your benefit. If you expect your day to go well, chances are it will. Put simply, you get what you expect.
It has been shown in various studies that students perform better when their teachers have high expectations of them. Similar studies have shown that students under-perform to meet a teacher's belief that their abilities are below average.
Still not convinced? Here's an exercise that master of professional development Tony Robbins uses to illustrate the point.
Ask someone to look around the room for 10 seconds and make note of everything in the room that is brown. When done, ask them to close their eyes - then tell you everything they saw in the room that was yellow.
They were probably spending so much time focusing on brown (what we could call the bad stuff ) that they didn't notice anything yellow (the good stuff). That's what we tend to do in life.
Police know that eye-witness accounts of the same event can differ greatly. People’s perception is based on the position from which they viewed the event. Same incident, different focus!
So how do we make sure our subconscious is working for us and not against us? Realise that:
1. What you look for, you get.
2. What you focus on expands.
3. What you expect will become your reality.
Train your subconscious...
Here's an exercise to help set your subconscious on the right path. No matter how you are feeling right now, complete the following sentences with a positive word or phrase:
The world is ...
People are ...
I am ...
For example:
The world is full of opportunities, People are committed to helping me succeed, and I am becoming a better leader every day.
I call this the Is, Are, Am exercise.
Complete each statement as many times as you can with statements that support your success. Your subconscious will look for evidence that the statements are true.
To really effect change, use these as daily affirmations. Say your Is, Are, Am statements to yourself each day in front of the mirror. It may be uncomfortable at first, but persevere and you'll find it's a powerful tool for success.
"Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality." - Earl Nightingale
For further information contact Julianne on (02) 4933 6622, email or visit
Julianne Schwenke2 Julianne Schwenke

Julianne Schwenke Business Coach at Yellow Executive Business Coaching, has qualifications in Communications and Public Relations and a diverse business background. She coaches business leaders to success in areas including marketing, sales, team, systems, profit, and cashflow. A self-confessed “word nerd”, she loves nothing more than assisting clients with their marketing messages. She is passionate about helping business owners define what success means to them, and working with them to achieve their goals.