Life is full of tough choices that can have a major impact on your future. If you’re sweating the big stuff, try a new approach. It turns out that it’s better to let our unconscious minds do more of the work.
Not only is allowing your unconscious mind to work on your dilemma more effective, it’s also easier!
Background on How Your Unconscious Works to Solve Dilemmas
1. Check out the research. David Creswell,
a neuroscientist at Carnegie Mellon University, recently did a study on the
power of the unconscious. In this study, people made better decisions about a complicated
car purchase comparing 12 different features after they did a distracting task
for a few minutes.
2. Understand the process. Our unconscious
minds have vast resources. Brain scans show that we can still work on a
question even when we take a break to put out the garbage or make a pot of
3. Take it easy. Pushing yourself too hard
often backfires. When an issue is too much for your conscious mind, relax and let the
answer come to you.
4. Schedule brief distractions. One of the most surprising things about this study was that breaks of a few minutes or less really work. Even if you don’t have time to sleep on it, you can still make headway by taking a short break.
Everyday Examples for Using Brief Distractions in Problem-Solving
1. Improve your job performance. Maybe
you’re having trouble writing a conclusion for an important report. Go catch up
on your filing and the ending may write itself.
2. Plan your vacation. Read the brochures
about your destination choices and then wait for your strongest preferences to
3. Reinvigorate your career search. It’s
easy to get discouraged sending out one application after another. Pause
for some fun, like watching a funny video or calling a friend. You’ll
probably get more done.
4. Strengthen your relationships. Dropping
old patterns that hold us back helps our relationships to grow. When it looks
like an argument is starting, before you say something you’ll likely regret,
remember a happy moment with your partner.
5. Sharpen your parenting skills. If your child’s
room is still a mess, go have a cup of tea. It will give you time to come up
with an alternative plan that may get you better results than another round of
6. Stick to your diet. Figure out why you
stray from your diet even though you want to lose weight. The answer may come
to you while you’re washing the dishes.
7. Evaluate major purchases. As the
original study showed, a few minutes distraction could help you buy a better
a walk around the block before you sign the contract.
8. Make wiser investments. Rational
investment decisions are likely to enhance your net worth. If anxiety about
choosing the right retirement vehicle is clouding your vision, play with your
dog until you feel calmer.
9. Set goals. Brainstorm about positive
goals in any aspect of your life. Then go about your morning routine as usual
and see what priorities come to the surface.
10. Play games. While these techniques are
beneficial for dealing with serious challenges, they are just as relevant for
the lighter stuff. In fact, playing games like word puzzles or Sudoku may help
you to practice listening to your unconscious so you’re better prepared for
when you really need it.
Put your unconscious to work for you to make better choices and live a more meaningful life. Even brief distractions are an effective way to strengthen your decision making abilities.