By Donnie McKinney c 2005
We've talked about the subconscious mind and how it works. Now start thinking of your subconscious mind as goal-seeking mechanism. Picture a heat-seeking missile. As it travels toward the target, it continues to make minor adjustments in its course until it hits the target. Your subconscious mind does the same thing and continues to take you toward whatever you picture in your mind, good or bad, positive or negative, right or wrong. It doesn't know the difference. Remember that! This simple fact will be useful in a lot of things we will be doing as we work together.
Your subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between a real experience and one that is vividly imagined.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon who discovered some interesting things about the subconscious mind. Dr. Maltz tells in his book, Psycho-Cybernetics, how he could do his best work and give someone a Marilyn Monroe nose, but the person still saw herself as "ugly." On another patient, he could make some really minor change, that didn’t affect their looks; but he would become an entirely different person. Dr. Maltz was baffled. Then, he was called into active duty to work in an Army hospital during World War II. That was where he discovered the laws of the self-image.
As Dr. Maltz worked with amputees, he noticed that someone who lost an arm would still have an "itch" for about twenty-one days after the loss of the arm. Sometimes a man with both legs amputated would wake up during the middle of the night and "step" out of bed falling flat on his face because he didn't have any legs. After much study and experimentation, Dr. Maltz learned that it took about twenty-one days to replace a "memory" in one's self-image with new facts. Those amputees subconsciously thought they still had arms and legs even though it was obviously not true. That simple fact has great implications for all of us. Dr. Maltz summarized all that he learned in these two laws of the self-image:
Law #1 - All of your actions, feelings, behaviors, even your abilities are always consistent with your own self-image.
Law #2 - The self-image can be changed.
Simply put, that means that LIMITS for everything you do are set by your self-image. Don't forget that most of your self-image has been determined by OTHER PEOPLE. Therefore, until you learn how to change your self-image, OTHER PEOPLE set the LIMITS in your life. Ouch! Let that soak in for a minute.
How We're Limited
One young man I know is a simple example of this law. He played basketball at Heath High School a few years ago. This young man had all the physical attributes needed to be a great basketball player. He was intelligent, tall, in perfect physical condition, and well coordinated. But, even though he learned "how" to play the game, he never really developed his potential in high school. He was just a "pretty good" player. Then an amazing phenomenon occurred. After high school, he continued to play basketball with his friends and became a truly outstanding basketball player.
Nothing had changed physically. He already knew "how" to play. He wasn’t any taller. But he had learned how to change his self-image. He started "seeing" himself as a great player. He stopped being limited by faulty programming and just "allowed" himself to do what he was fully capable of doing all along. He was a joy to watch as he gracefully dribbled up and down the floor and put the ball in the basket. Remember, you can never do anything that is inconsistent with your self-image.
Another example that you may relate to is shooting free throws. If you think you are a 60% free throw shooter and hit four in a row, guess what happens? Your subconscious mind will make certain that you never do anything inconsistent with your self-image. Your little finger will twitch or something to make you miss the next shot. Ah. That's better.
Setting New Limits
Another way of stating this law is to say that you can never exceed the LIMITS you put on yourself. You can only set NEW LIMITS by changing your self-image. That's the key. You can set new limits! You're going to learn how to do exactly that.
I remember a story about farmer who walked out into his pumpkin patch saw the young pumpkins starting to grow, stuck one of the vines into a gallon jug, and forgot about it. When he harvested his crop at the end of the season, he ran across the jug. The little pumpkin that he stuck in the jug had assumed the shape of the jug, growing to fill it, and then stopping growing.
I want you to close your eyes and picture your own face in that jug. Get a clear picture of your face pressed up against the inside of that glass jug and filling it up. Pretty funny, huh? That's a good illustration of you reaching the limits you set for yourself - no more growing. You've already filled the jug! You're going to learn how to break that jug and change your limits.
Setting New Limits
The Heath High School principal called and said, "I have a challenge for you." Apparently, a young man's diploma and his sanity were in jeopardy because of geometry. Todd had dropped geometry as a junior, after only one week, because he just couldn't do it. He couldn't drop it this year and still graduate, however, and it had him so depressed that it was affecting his whole life. His grades were all in the toilet. He couldn't function because of his depression. His family was afraid he might do something drastic.
I didn't mind becoming a geometry tutor. Geometry was my favorite subject in high school. It came so naturally to me that I received an award from the University of Kentucky as a high school sophomore. No problem. Now, I'm a geometry tutor. I was just happy he wasn't failing chemistry! My goal was to spend some time with him and work on his mind.
Who would have thought that they would have completely changed the way to teach geometry in the twenty years since I had taken it? I was as lost as he was! I hope my face didn’t look as blank as my mind felt when we opened his book. I had to learn geometry all over again in order to help him learn it.
But learn we did. He built self-confidence, one step at a time, by doing the thing he feared. He built self-esteem by learning to accept himself as an imperfect, but growing and changing human being. He learned that he could do anything he wanted to in his life. He learned that the only limits in his life were those imposed on him by his own images. I learned how to do geometry the "new" way.
Within a few weeks, Todd became a positive, outgoing high school senior. He ended up with an A- in geometry; and brought all of his grades back up. He was a happy guy, looking forward to graduation. What changed? Geometry didn't get any easier. He simply raised his limits by changing his self-image. He learned an important principle of success in life.
All of your actions, feelings, behaviors, even your abilities are always consistent with your own self-image. You can never exceed the limits you put on yourself - you can only set new limits by changing your self-image.
Todd learned some simple lessons that year that changed his life. He learned that he had enormous potential that he hadn't been able to access before, because he had set artificial limits for himself through faulty thinking. He thought he was limited in geometry, but he wasn't. In the process, he also learned that depression is a temporary problem caused by faulty thinking. He learned that the difference between feeling defeated and being confident is just a mindset. He had the ability all along. He just didn't know it. Now he does.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, helped me understand a simple way of changing the self-image. I wrote Dr. Peale and asked him what he thought was the most important thing that I should be teaching teenagers. He said, "Tell your young people to practice the 'As-If' principle. Tell them to decide who they want to be and what they want to become and act 'as-if' they are already that person. Slowly and imperceptibly, they will become that person."
Decide who you want to be and what you want to become, and act "as-if" you are already that person. Slowly and imperceptibly, you will become that person.
That's powerful! The secret is to have a clear picture of who you want to be and what you want to do and vividly visualize it every day of your life. That's who you will become, because you become what you think about. Do you understand, now, what that simple statement means in your life?
You Can Only Start Where You Are
Don’t get hung up on who you've been or what you've done in the past. Rembember what Carl Sandburg said in his poem, " The past is a bucket of ashes. You can't change the past. Remember Basic Principle #2 - You cannot change anything that has happened in the past. You can only start wherever you are right now and move forward with your life.
So, it is not our intention to analyze the past. Decide who you want to be, what you want to achieve in life, and how to substitute the new images in your subconscious mind. You don't need to analyze old stuff - just move toward the new stuff.
I love reading about young people like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck doing what they love to do and beating the odds. They didn't let other people tell them what they couldn't do. They just did it anyway. Listen to Ben Affleck talk about his and Matt's thoughts before Good Will Hunting came out, "This film was many, many years of work. Whether it's successful or fails, I want to take the victory lap now, just to say, 'Hey, at least we did it: we wrote it, we set it up, we did what we wanted to.' It's a movie I'm proud of." Is there any reason you can't also accomplish the same kind of great things in your life? I don't think so. I want to open an e-mail from you one day telling me that something you're as proud of as Ben Affleck was of their movie.
(Paste these questions into a Word document and REALLY answer them)
Think of some attributes that you want to incorporate into your image of who you are becoming:
What are some things you want to leave in the past?
Can you think of some ways other people have set your limits?
Are you starting to understand that you are in total control of who you are?
Are you ready to take responsibility for your life from this point on?
What changes will taking responsibility cause in your life?
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