When talking about life on autopilot, many refer to a negative state — the one in which you don’t have control over it, just being bounced around by the environment.
That might be true. People love to run from themselves, silently snoozing their demons. Their mind is what scares them the most, and to run away from, means to be guided by it without any power, unaware of your actions.
By acting unconsciously, a person doesn’t have the time to think through their actions, they are executed automatically.
There is no way to consciously execute every action — it would take way too much energy. In his book Innercise, John Assaraf claims that around 95% of our life is guided by the subconscious mind, in other words, by automatic reactions.
To live life properly, those actions have to be positive. They should bring you accomplishments, keeping you on the road of growth, making you wiser and stronger. We have those 5% remaining, where our conscious mind takes action.
The conscious mind is the master; it can lift you up in the clouds by creating an unconscious beauty, or destroy you if you give up its power.
5% to do our best. 5% to tame the beast, to get the control.
You are the creator
Do you create your environment, or does the environment create yourself?
You are a being of habits. Habits determine your character, character determines your destiny.
By repeating actions, you’re promoting them to habits. You’ve completed them so many times that your brain got completely familiar with them. The connection between neurons got stronger, and the brain wants to automatically execute the action.
Taking the power of the conscious mind is absolutely crucial for making the strongest version of self.
Our habits are rooted deeply in our subconscious mind, and if they are good, so is our life. The more positive habits you have, both physical and mental, the better navigated your life is. You get to the point where you no longer have to consciously question every decision.
At first, you have to ask yourself what you want to become. And then, you decide what you have to do to get there.
Analyze your habits. Which ones are dragging you away from your goal, and which ones are keeping you on the blissful road?
You and your brain don’t have the same goals
The main purpose of your brain is to keep you safe — you have to survive. That characteristic is a consequence of evolution.
Imagine yourself living a million years ago. Everything was a threat back then — from the poisonous berries, over the merciless weather, up to the deadly predators.
Nothing has changed for a long time, threats were everywhere around humans. Only during the last couple of hundreds of years (or even less), the number of threats on a daily basis was drastically reduced.
But our brains don’t know that. They’ve been evolving for millions of years. What is a couple of hundreds compared to that? Nothing.
That’s why we have to learn to live in this modern world with our ancient brains. Those brains are used to comfort, and they see every change as a threat. Unfamiliar action is a no-no to the brain. It slowly starts to drag us back to the comfort zone.
That comfort zone was a way to go before, but in this modern world, it’s a huge disadvantage. How can you succeed at anything if you’re afraid to try something new and if you’re avoiding every risk?
By understanding this, we can take the correct actions during that 5% period of conscious time. We can be smarter than our brains.
The power of tiny actions
There are many ways to tame the subconscious beast. We can use our power of will. We can try to convince ourselves and everyone else that we will quit the negative behavior. It looks so promising at the beginning, but after some time, the initial motivation is lost. The subconscious mind beats the power of will, almost every time.
There is another way. Our negative habits are, most of the time, triggered by the environment. To change them, we have to change our environment.
For example, we decided that we want to lose some weight, and we won’t eat anything sweet to accomplish that.
If we come back from work every day and see a fridge full of cakes and chocolate, at some point, we will fail. One day would be so exhausting that we won’t care about our promises to ourselves. We will eat junk.
The solution is to change our environment — to not have any sweets in the house! It’s so easy to break our rules if we just have to take a few steps and grab the chocolate. It only takes a couple of seconds of unawareness, and our promises are broken. We betrayed ourselves.
Chances to break our rules are way smaller if the cakes are in the supermarket, 2 miles away from us. We have much more time to turn down the ancient brain and stay out of our comfort zone.
Unfortunately, changing the environment just isn’t possible in every situation. To overcome a bad habit, one has to use the power of tiny actions.
The main idea is to introduce a change so tiny that your brain doesn’t even notice it at all. If it doesn’t notice it, it can’t resist it. And you can continue.
If you’re dissatisfied with your diet, you will highly unlikely succeed if you try to change everything overnight. Changing a diet from the average one to a super healthy is a process that takes time. You can force a healthy diet for some time, and then you’ll return to the old patterns. It just doesn’t work.
On the other hand, if you try to change only one meal, that might work. You can remove the greasy potatoes, and add some fresh vegetables instead. Everything else can remain the same. After a week, add another change. Your brain won’t notice it, it’s too small.
But over a period of time, small changes stack into huge ones. Do it for a year, and you have 52 correctly applied small changes. That’s massive. Your diet will be way better after it.
And your brain won’t notice it. It will just be slightly different than before, but not so much. Not enough to drag you down to the comfort zone.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
Be consistent. To adopt a habit, it has to be repeated many times. Analyze your habits — you have surely repeated them many times. New ones aren’t different at all. Be consistent, believe in the change. And the change will manifest.
You did it enough times. The habit has grown up, rooted deep inside you.
Your mind chooses the right action. You trained him to do it. You’re on the right road.
The steering wheel is aligned correctly. You can move your focus to other things. You’ve beaten this one, and it’s handled automatically.
Continue to drill. Don’t let the brain to use you — it’s just your tool.