ARTICLE: Radical Self-Honesty (Unconscious Commitments)

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“It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” – Noel Coward

truthThe inspiration for this tip came after I had the great fortune to find out about the work of Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks. Together they run The Hendricks Institute, a hugely successful learning center that teaches core skills for conscious living. Whilst much of the work they do is based around strengthening relationships, the area that I was particularly struck with is a process they have devised for identifying and transforming what they call “unconscious commitments”.

Have you ever been really frustrated with yourself for not following through on a task or activity that you know would have given you great rewards?

For example:

* Not filling out the job application even though you were really keen on moving forward in your career.
* Falling off the healthy eating plan even though you already felt uncomfortable with your level of wellbeing.
* Treating yourself to a little luxury item after you vowed to pay off maxed-out credit cards first.
* Saying you’d make more of an effort in your relationship and then spending more time in front of the TV.

Those scenarios may ring bells for you or they may not, but I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that everyone has a little thing or area of life where their own actions stop them from getting what they really want.

The key to reversing this kind of self sabotage is to take a good look at yourself and to be completely honest about what is really going on in that head of yours. Although we like to think that our desires are driven by what we consciously choose, there is a far more powerful force at play in the deepest recesses of your unconscious mind.

Take the guy who says he wants to move his business up to the next level. He may have all kinds of ideas and visions for where he’d like the business to go; he might even write down a few lofty goals and do some research on the kind of resources he might need. BUT, if his unconscious mind, for whatever reason, is not ready to play ball, he will inevitably seek out and find all the excuses as to why progress cannot be made right now: It’s not the right time; the market is not there; he’s too busy; he’s too tired; there’s no support; his wife wouldn’t like it… And the sad thing is that probably the only place where any of these excuses are actually true is in the story he’s making up in his head.

It may be a bitter pill to swallow but he will only be able to stop obstructing himself when he is willing to admit that he is holding onto an unconscious commitment to keep his business exactly where it is right now.

Initially it can be a very uncomfortable thing to acknowledge that you may be unconsciously committed to avoiding the very thing you say you want. Some people start out by strenuously resisting this notion:

“That’s ridiculous, there is nothing more I’d love than to do than be the most successful person in my industry. It’s not my fault it happened to rain today. I definitely would have gone to that networking event had it been less of a downpour!”

The purpose of taking a radically honest stance is not to beat yourself up about not doing the best you can, but it’s to uncover the mental blocks that are getting in the way of your success.

My own experience of this is when some years ago I got the idea into my head that I wanted to build a career in personal development (of all things). I thought about all the possible ways that I could be of service make a positive difference in the lives of others through private consultation, workshops and seminars, creating products and generally being a pretty damn good coach. So I set about signing-up to as many training events as I could get onto (and afford). I read mountains for books on just about every area of personal growth and self development, and I even set up my very first website. I was on a roll. I was so excited at the prospect of being a sought after and respected expert in the field, and I felt so strongly that this was the right path for me to follow.

There was one small problem though. In my busyness to expand my knowledge and formulate a plan for magnificent success I wasn’t actually doing anything to get any work. But more than that, I was even turning down opportunities that were being handed to me on a plate. I’d get invites to deliver talks to local groups. Friends were always offering to pass my details onto other people they knew would definitely want to see me for coaching or therapy. But somehow I always found a way of avoiding putting my skills into practice. I’d find reasons why I was too busy, or my presentation wasn’t quite polished enough, or I’d think I might be coming down with something. I spent so much time perfecting the look and feel of my website that I forgot to fill it with the kind of content that people actually wanted to know about. I’d hide behind emails, rather than picking up the phone and talking with people directly.

This carried for a while until eventually it got to the stage that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. It was the elephant in the corner of the room. Even though I hadn’t heard about the Hendricks’ idea of “unconscious commitments” back then, I came to my own realisation that I was committed to being invisible and resisting my own success.

Is that because I was lying when I talked about all the things I wanted to achieve as coach? Of course not, but what it did mean is that I was probably a bit scared, and my unconscious mind was doing the only thing it knows how to do; to protect me from coming to any harm.

The really cute thing about the unconscious mind is that, despite its infinite wisdom, it really isn’t very good at distinguishing between a real threat to our physical being and an imagined threat to our imagined being, or self-image – otherwise known as the ego.

When you are about to embark on an exciting but uncertain journey the ego has no assurances that it will survive unscathed. “What if I fail? What will other people think? What if they disapprove? What if I can’t handle the pressure of success? You’d better back in your box right now!”

Your subconscious is an extremely powerful force in your life and drives the majority of your behaviour. But it craves familiarity! It likes your self image just the way it is and, left to its own devices, will organise your thoughts and actions to keep it that way. If you want to move past this you have to become aware of what’s really going on inside and consciously decide to override this well intentioned protection system with deliberate thoughts and actions that are congruent with your desired outcome.

Here is the really magical thing that I experienced. As soon as I admitted that I was just a bit nervous about launching myself onto the public stage, and that I was willing to work consciously towards being clearly visible my potential client base, it’s as if I was suddenly free of that old unconscious commitment to remain hidden from view.

Anyone can overcome their unconscious commitments and unblock the flow of success in their life, but it takes two things: Radical self-honesty that the only obstacle you are facing is yourself, and a genuine willingness to be consciously committed to turning the situation around.


Homework

I encourage you to think about your own life and the areas where you may have unconscious commitments that stop you achieving the results you want. Here are some steps to overcome them (it’s important that you let go of any self-judgement as you do this).

1, Identify the non-desirable recurring issues in your life. What do you find yourself consistently complaining about, either verbally to others or silently to yourself? Have you been blaming something or someone for holding you back?

Example: You’ve been fed up for ages that you are working so hard in your job that it leaves you too little energy to go to the gym.

Now, as if you knew that this is just an excuse, finish off the following sentence with the real unconscious truth.

“I am committed to…”

Example:

* “I am committed to blaming everything else for my own lack of action”
* “I am committed to finding excuses not to exercise”
* “I am committed to convincing myself I am too tired when that’s not actually true”
* “I am committed to presenting myself as a victim”

2, Say the unconscious commitment out loud and notice the emotional effect it creates in you. If it feels uncomfortable there’s a good chance you’re on the money!

3, The next step is to repeat the statement out loud over and over, but each time vary the way that you say it. Say it slowly then really quickly. Use a high pitched voice and then a deep low voice. Say it in a sexy voice and then in the style of your favourite cartoon character.

Carry on doing this for a little while and then check back in with your feelings to see how the statement affects you now. This process is very good at ‘de-sensitising’ the unconscious commitment by removing its emotional charge. When you can say the statement without any negative sensations, move on.

4, This is a really important step. Identify the positive intention your unconscious had in giving you this commitment. Ask yourself “What are all the positive ways in which this unconscious commitment has served me?” And with whatever comes up, send your deep gratitude and love to your unconscious for everything it has been trying to do you for doing.

Example: By making me frustrated with my it was trying to get me to have a better work / life balance

5, Create a conscious commitment to override the unconscious one

* I am committed to taking the best care of myself
* I am committed to making health and happiness the most important part of my life
* I am committed to finding creative ways to exercise even when I’m busy
* I am committed to being 100% responsible for myself

Repeat the new commitment out loud over and over until it feels natural and a part of you. Do things to remind yourself of it, like putting post-its around your desk, your home or in your car.

When you catch yourself revisiting that old unconscious commitment, which you inevitably will from time to time, just bring yourself gently back by affirming your new commitment until you feel it in your body.


Take great care. Namaste.

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