“This Had Better Be Important, Or It Isn’t Happening!”

A couple of nights ago I was watching the news (something I rarely do). It was because there was a segment about people’s new year’s resolutions to be fit, and how to keep them. They showed a man who worked at a health club saying that typically right after a new year begins, you have to wait several minutes to get to a piece of equipment, such as a treadmill.

By the end of February, he said, the gym is like a “ghost town.”

In order to understand why this is typically the case, we need to look at our conscious and habitual minds, and the differences between them.

The conscious mind, the one we’re aware of, controls between 2 – 4% of our perceptions and behaviors. The subconscious part of our brain, is habitual, and it controls 96 to 98% of perception and behavior.

The conscious minds sets goals. It judges the results we receive as good or bad.

The subconscious mind doesn’t set goals. It achieves the goals it’s given without judging the results. It’s only concern is that the results match the goals it’s presented with.

The conscious mind operates in terms of past and present. To the subconscious mind, everything is happening now.

The conscious mind is capable of processing approximately 2,000 bits of information a second. The subconscious, habitual mind processes approximately 400 billion bits of information a second.

So how does your brain decide what part of the 400 billion bits of information you become aware of, and what does any of this have to do with gyms eventually becoming devoid of wanna be skinny people?

Behold the power of the Reticular Activating System, or RAS, a bundle of nerves that functions as a filtering system for our brains. It’s function is to let us know when we need to be aware of something happening which we have determined to be essential to our health, happiness, and well being, allowing us to ignore what we deem to be unimportant, even if we think it’s something’s important … like going to a spinning class.

I have a cartoon showing a woman sitting at a desk. She is the “Director of Important Stuff.” The cartoon shows her on the phone saying, “This had better be important!” Just like the RAS in our brains. It’s function is to filter out experiences that aren’t “important,” aren’t consistent with the goals of our habitual mind.

How does RAS determine what’s important and what isn’t? Through a process known as “habituation.” Habituation happens when you do or think something over and over again, until you no longer have to think about it consciously in order for the process to repeat itself perfectly.

This is the essence of the subconscious or, habitual mind. You think the same thing over and over again, until it becomes a habitual thought. Another name for a habitual thought is belief. A belief is nothing more than a specific neural pattern in your brain, a thought that is so fixed it becomes an automatic way of thinking, and reacting, and beliefs tend to be self-fulfilling.

The reason why we tend to set goals and not achieve them is that beliefs will trump desires every time. Setting goals happens in your conscious mind. Achieving them is the function of your subconscious mind, in which 96 to 98% of your thoughts and behaviors are automatic, causing you to think and believe what you’ve always thought and believed before. Your habitual thoughts control your actions, and they’re thousands of times stronger than any desire you may have.

Any desire. Whether it’s making a million dollars in a year, becoming debt free, dropping 10 lbs in two months, finding a career that satisfies you, or a relationship that’s worthy of your love, time and energy.

So here’s the question. If the beliefs you have now aren’t serving you, do you throw up your hands, drop to your knees, cover your face as you weep like a baby, abandoning all hope? The answer is, “No.”