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27 October, 2015

Subconscious Mind and Habits

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence is not an act, but a habit.
~ Aristottle

Subconscious Mind and Habits forming positive habits and character

       We are all born to lead successful lives, but our conditioning leads us to failure.  We are born to win but are conditioned to lose.  We often hear comments like, "this person is is just lucky, he touches dirt and it turns to gold" or, "he is unlucky; no matter what he touches, it turns to dirt."  These comments are not true of anyone.

       If you were to analyze the lives of the lucky and unlucky individuals being commented on, you would find that the successful person is doing something right in each transaction, and the failure is repeating the same mistake time and again.  Practice does not make perfect - only perfect  practice makes perfect.  Practice makes permanent whatever you do repeatedly.  Some people keep practicing their mistakes and they become perfect in them.  Their mistakes become perfect and automatic.

       Cultivating a habit is like plowing the field.  It takes time.  Habits generate other habits. Inspiration is what gets us started, motivation is what keeps us on track, and habit is what makes it automatic.  

       The ability to show courage in the face of adversity; show self-restraint in the face of temptation, choose happiness in the face of hurt, show character in the face of despair, and see opportunity in the face of obstacles are all valuable traits to possess.  But these traits do not just appear; they are the result of constant and consistent training, both mental and physical.  In the face of adversity, our behaviour, whether positive or negative can only be what we have practiced.  When we practice negative traits such as cowardice or dishonesty in small events, and hope to handle major events in a positive way, it won't happen because that's not what we have practiced.

       If we permit ourselves to tell a lie once, it s a lot easier to do it a second and third time until it becomes a habit.  Success lies in the philosophy of "sustain and abstain."  Sustain what needs to be done and abstain from what is detrimental until this becomes habitual.  Human beings are more emotional than rational.  Honesty and integrity are the result of both our belief system and practice.  Anything we practice long enough becomes ingrained into our system and becomes a habit.  A person who is  honest most of the time gets caught the first time he tells a lie, whereas a person who is dishonest most of the time gets caught the first time he tells the truth.

       Honesty - or dishonesty to self and others becomes a habit:  The choice is ours as to which we practice.  Whatever response we choose, our thinking pattern becomes habitual.  We form habits, and habits form character.  Before, we realize that we have got the habit, the habit has got us!

       Someone once said, "Our thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to habits, and habits form character."  Character leads to destiny.  Form the habit of thinking right.


       Most of our behaviour is habitual - comes automatically without thinking.  Our character is the sum total of our habits.  If we have positive habits, then we have good character.  Conversely, if we have negative habits, others will find our character lacking.  Habits are a lot stronger than logic and reasoning.  In the life cycle of habit formation, a habit starts by being too weak to be felt, and ends up becoming too strong to get out of.  Habits can be developed by default or determination.  If we don;t decide what habits to form, by default we may end up with bad habits.


       Anything we do repeatedly becomes a habit.  We learn by doing.  By behaving courageously, we learn courage.  By practicing honesty and fairness, we learn these traits.  By practicing these traits, we master them.  Similarly if we practice negative traits such as dishonesty, unjust behavior, or lack of discipline, that is what we become good at.  Attitudes are habits.  They lead to behavior patterns.  They become a state of mind and dictate our responses.


       Conditioning is the psychological process whereby we get used to (or become conditioned to) specific events occurring in association with each other.  The most famous example of conditioning is Pavlov's dogs.  

       The Russian scientist Pavlov would ring a bell each time he fed his dogs.  Of course, the dog would salivate at the sight of their meal.  Pavlov did this for some time.  Then Pavlov rang the bell and did not produce the food.  The dogs still salivated because they had been conditioned to expect the bell with their food.

       Most of our behaviour comes as a result of conditioning.  We are all being conditioned continuously by the environment and the media, and we start behaving like robots.  It is our responsibility to condition ourselves in a positive manner.

       If we want to do anything well, it must become automatic.  If we have to consciously think about doing the right thing, we will never be able to do it really well.  That means we must make it a habit.

       When I was a student of martial arts, I observed that even the black belts were practicing block/punch, the basics, because if they needed to use these skills, they had to come automatically.

       Professionals make things look easy because they have mastered the fundamentals of whatever they do.  Many people do good work with promotions in mind,  But the one to whom good work becomes a habit is deserving.

       Good habits are hard to come but easy to live with.  Bad habits come easy but are hard to live with.


       Think of the mighty elephant that can lift in excess of a ton of weight with just its trunk.  How does an elephant get conditioned to stay in one place, tied with a weak rope and a stake, when it could easily uproot the stake and move wherever it wants?  The answer is that when the elephant was a baby, it had been tied by a strong chain to a strong tree.  The baby is not used to being tied, so it keeps tugging and pulling the chain, all in vain.  A day comes when it realizes that tugging and pulling will not help.  It stops and stands still.  Now it is conditioned.

       And when the baby elephant becomes the mighty full grown elephant, it is tied with weak rope and a small stake .  The elephant could, with one tug, walk away free but it goes nowhere, because it has been conditioned.

       We are constantly being conditioned, consciously or unconsciously, by exposure to:

  • The kind of books we read;
  • The kind of movies and TV programmes we watch;
  • The kind of music we listen to;
  • The kind of company we keep.

        While driving to work, if you listen to the same music every day for several days and if the tape deck breaks down, guess what tune you will be humming?

       Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  If you keep doing what you have been doing, you will keep getting what you have gotten.  The most difficult thing about changing a habit is unlearning what is not working and learning positive habits.


       The computer phrase GIGO (Garbage in, garbage out) is very sound.

  • Negativity in; negativity out.
  • Positivity in; positivity out.
  • Good in; good out.

       Our  input equals our output.  Our subconscious mind does not discriminate.  Whatever we choose to put into our mind, our subconscious will accept and our behavior will reflect accordingly.

       Television has a considerable impact on influencing our morals, thinking and culture.

       While bringing us lots of useful information, television has also contributed heavily to degrading our tastes, corrupting our morals and increasing juvenile delinquency.  By the age of 18, a child sees more than 200,000 violent acts in TV.

       Advertisers are good at conditioning their audience.  Companies spend close to a million dollars for a 30 second and during a major event.  Obviously, they are getting results.  We see an ad for a particular brand of soft drink or toothpaste and we go to the supermarket and buy that brand.  We don't want just any soft drink b ut only that brand.  Why?  Because we are programmed and act accordingly.

       When we watch TV or listen to a radio advertisement, our conscious mind is not listening, but our subconscious is open and we receive whatever is being dumped in.  Have you ever argued with a TV?  Of course not.

       When we go to the movies, we laugh and we cry because the emotional input has an immediate emotional output.  Change the input and output changes.


       The conscious mind has the ability to think.  It can accept or reject.  But the subconscious only accepts.  It makes no distinction regarding input.  If we feed our mind with thoughts of fear, doubt and hate, the auto-suggestions will activate and translate those things into reality.  The subconscious is like a data bank.  The subconscious is like the automobile while the conscious is like the driver.  Of the two, the subconscious mind is more powerful.  The power is in the automobile but eh control is with the driver.

       The subconscious mind can work for us or against us.  It is not rational.  If we are not successful, we need to reprogram the subconscious.  

       The subconscious mind is like a garden, it does not care what we plant.  It is neutral; it has no preferences.  If we plant good seeds, we will have a good garden, otherwise we will have a wild growth of weeds.  I would go a step further to stay, even when we plant good seeds, weeds still grow and the weeding process must continue constantly.

       The human mind is no different.  Positive and negative thoughts cannot occupy the mind simultaneously.

       In order to succeed, we need to get programmed in a positive way.


       Remember how we learnt to ride a bike.  There are four stages:  The first stage called unconscious incompetence.  At this stage, we don't know that we don't know.  The young child does not know what it is to ride a bike (unconscious) nor can he ride a bike (incompetence).  This is the stage of unconscious incompetence.

       During the second stage, conscious incompetence, the child becomes conscious of what it is to ride a bike but cannot ride one himself, so he is consciously incompetent.

       But then he starts learning g and is at the third stage of conscious competence.  Now he can ride a bike, but has to concentrate on the mechanics of the process.  So with conscious thought and effort, the child is competent to ride a bike.

       The fourth stage unconscious competence comes when the child has practiced consciously riding the bike so much that he does not have to think.  It becomes an automatic process.  He can talk to people and wave to others while riding.  He has reached the stage of unconscious competence.  At this level, he doesn't need the concentration and thinking because the behavior pattern has become automatic.

       This is the level that we want all your positive habits to reach.  Unfortunately, we probably also have some negative habits that are at the unconscious competence stage and are detrimental to your progress.


       I have two nephews who are tennis buffs.  One day their father said to me, "This game is getting very expensive.  There is the rackets, balls, lawn fees and now they have a coach.  It all costs money."  I asked him, "It is getting expensive compared with what?"  He could have them stop playing tennis and save some money.  But if they stopped, and came home from school with all their time and energy at hand, what would they do?  He stopped to think quietly for some time and then said, "I think I will have them continue.  It is cheaper this way."  He realized the importance of keeping them involved in positive activities.  Otherwise they would be attracted to the negative because nature abhors a vacuum.  There is either a positive or negative; there is no neutral ground here.

       Character building becomes a habit.  If we want to build a pleasing personality, we have to examine our habits closely.  What begins as an occasional indulgence turns into a permanent flaw.  Ask yourself the following questions:

1.  Do you let the quality of your work deteriorate?
2.  Do you indulge in gossip?
3.  Are envy and ego constant companions?
4.  Is empathy in short supply?

       We are creatures of habit.  That is good because if we have to constantly think before doing anything, we would never get anything done.

       We can control our habits b y exercising self-discipline over your thoughts.  We need to harness the power of our subconscious mind.  We need to cultivate positive habits its during childhood which builds character in adulthood.  But it is never too late to start.  Every exposure to a positive or negative makes a difference.  Learning new habits takes time but positive habits, once mastered give new meaning to life.

       Having an optimistic or pessimistic outlooks is a habit.  Habits are a matter of the pain and pleasure principle.  We do things either to avoid pain or to gain pleasure.  So long as the gain is more than the pain, we continue with the habit.  But if the pain exceeds the gain, we drop it.  For example, when the doctor tells the smoker to stop he replies, "I cannot stop!  It is a habit that I enjoy!"  and he goes on smoking.  The pleasure is greater than the pain.  One day he is faced with a major medical problem and the doctor says, "You better stop smoking immediately if you want to live."  Most would stop.  Why?  Now the pain is greater than the pleasure.


       When people recognize or become aware of their negative habits, why don't they change?

       The reason they don't change is because they refuse to accept responsibility.  The pleasure of continuing is greater than the pain.  They may:

  • Lack the desire to change
  • Lack the discipline to change
  • Lack the belief that they can change
  • Lack the awareness for the need to change

       All of those factors prevent us from getting rid of our negative habits.  We all have a voice.  We can ignore negative behavior and hope it will go away - the ostrich approach - or face up to it and overcome it for life.  Behavior modification comes from overcoming irrational fears and getting out of the comfort zone.  Remember,  fear is a learned behavior and can be unlearned.

       The following excuses are the most common explanations for not changing negative habits:
  1. I have always done it that way.
  2. I have never done it that way.
  3. That is not my job.
  4. I don't think it will make any difference.
  5. I'm too busy.


       It is never too late to change, regardless of your age and how old the habit is.  We can change by being aware of what needs to be changed and using techniques that modify behavior.  The old adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks is wrong.  We are human beings, not dogs.  Nor are we performing tricks.  We can unlearn self- destructive behavior and learn positive behavior.

       An Earl Nightingale said, the secret of successful people is that they form the habit of doing things that failures don't like to do and won't do.  Just think about the things that failures don't do.  They are the same things that successful people don't like to do, but they do them anyway.  For example, failures don't like discipline, hard work, or keeping commitments.  Successful people also dislike discipline, hard work (an athelete doesn't like and want the discipline to get up and train every day but he does it regardless), but they do these things anyway because they have formed good habits.

       All habits start small but end up eventually being very difficult to break.  Attitudes are habits and can be changed.  It is a question of breaking and replacing old negative habits with new and positive ones.

       It is easier to prevent bad habits than to overcome them.  Good habits come from overcoming temptation.

       Happiness and unhappiness are a habit.  Excellence is the result of repeated conscious effort until the behavior or the attitude becomes a habit.


       What is auto-suggestion?  An auto-suggestion is a statement made in the present tense, of the kind of person you want to be.  Auto-suggestions are like writing a commercial about yourself, for yourself.  They influence both your conscious and subconscious mind that, in turn, influence attitude and behavior.

       Auto-suggestions are a way to program your subconscious mind.  They can be either positive or negative.

       Examples of negative auto-suggestions are:

  • I am tired.
  • I am not an athlete.
  • I have a poor memory.
  • I am not good at math.

       When you give yourself a negative auto-suggestion, your subconscious mind believes it and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and starts reflecting in your behavior.  For example, when a person who gives himself the auto-suggestion, "I have a poor memory," is introduced to a new person, he will not make the effort to remember the name because he tells himself, "I have a poor memory, so there's no point in even trying to remember."  Of course, he won't remember the person's name the next time they meet, and will again tell himself, "I have a poor memory."  It's a never-ending cycle - a self fulfilling prophecy.

       When a person repeats a belief often enough, it sinks into the subconscious and becomes reality.  A lie that is repeated often enough becomes accepted as the truth.

Why make positive statements?

       Because you want to create a picture in your mind of what you want to have rather than what you don't want.  Any picture that you hold in your mind becomes reality.  Auto-suggestions are a process of repetition.  If you repeat a statement often enough, it sinks into your subconscious mind.  For example, if you tell yourself, "I am relaxed.  I am cool, calm and collected," you will start responding to situations in a cool, calm and collected manner.

       Auto-suggestions should not be phrased in a negative way.  Don't say, "I am so disorganized."  Instead say, "I am organized person."  When a negative word comes in the auto-suggestion, it forms a negative picture that we want to avoid.  If I tell you, "don't think of the blue elephants."  it's like that the image of a blue elephant immediately propped into your mind.

       Auto-suggestions should be positive statements because we think in pictures, not in words. If I say "mother", what comes to your mind?  Most likely a picture of your mother comes to your mind, and not the word "mother".

       Make your auto-suggestions in the present tense.  Why?  Because your mind tell the difference between a real experience and an imagined one.  For example parents are expecting their child to come home at 9.30 p.m. but the kid is not home and it is now I am.  What is going through the parents' mind?  They are probably hoping everything's okey.  "I hope that kid didn't get into an accident."  What is happening to their blood pressure?  It is going up!  This is an imagined experience.  The reality could be that the kid is having fun at a party and is plain irresponsible.

       Supposing the kid was actually coming home at 9.30 p.m. but got into an accident.  What is happening to the parent's blood pressure?  It is still going up!  In the first scenario the imagined experience was not true.  In the second scenario it was true.  The body's response in both cases was identical.  Our subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between a real and an imagined experience.

Prepare the Subconscious

       Auto-suggestions can be used to eliminate negative habits and develop positive ones.  We have all used auto-suggestions unconsciously.  For example when we have to catch an early morning flight, when we get into bed we tell ourself that we have to wake up at six.  And invariably, we do (often , even without an alarm clock).  A prepared subconscious mind works for us.

       Auto-suggestion is a way to program and condition our mind to make a statement into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

       Auto-suggestion is a repetitive process through which you feed our subconscious with positive statements that translates into reality.  Repetition alone is not enough, unless it is accompanied by emotions and feelings.

       Auto-suggestions without visualization will not produce results.  The first time our mind receives an auto-suggestion, it rejects it.  Why?  It is an alien thought, contrary to our belief system.  Success depends on our ability to concentrate and repeat the process.


       Visualization is the process for creating and seeing a mental picture of what we want to have or do, or the kind of person we want to be.  visualization goes hand in hand with auto-suggestion.  Auto-suggestion without vizualisation is mechanical repetition and will be ineffective.  In order to see results, feelings and emotions - visualization must accompany auto-suggestions.


       Auto-suggestion may not be acceptable to our mind the first time we do it because it is an alien thought.  For example, if for the past few decades I have believed that I have a poor memory and now all of a sudden, I tell myself that I have a good memory, my mind will reject it, saying, "You liar!  You have a bad memory!" - because that is what I have believed up to this point.  It will take 21 days to dispel this notion.  Why 21 days?  Because it takes a minimum of 21 consecutive days of conscious, continuous practice to make or break a habit.  If you listen to an audio tape in 21 days and your player break down - guess what tune you are humming.

       The big question is:  Is 21 days of conscious effort a heavy price to pay to change a lifetime for the better?  Not really but only the committed do i.  The auto-suggestion process sounds simple, but it is not easy.  But you can do it.  Follow the steps in the next section to turn your auto-suggestions into reality.


Translating Auto-Suggestion into Reality

1.  Go to a spot where you won't be disturbed,

2.  Make a list of your auto-suggestions. Make sure they are positive and in the pesent tense.

3.  Repeat auto-suggestions at least twice a day; first thing in the morning and at the end of the day.
In the morning, your mind is fresh and receptive; at night you deposit the positive picture into your subconscious to be working for you overnight.  You can also write each auto-suggestion on a few small sticky notes.  Place them in places you will see them throughout the day (on your bathroom mirror; on your car's dash-board, inside your daily planner, inside your desk drawer).  Seeing the notes throughout the day will cause you to repeat the auto-suggestions again.

4.  Auto-suggestions alone will not work.,  Use visualization as well.

5.  Do this for atleast 21 days until it becomes a habit.


An ounce of action is worth ton of theory. ~ Friedrich Engels


1.  We all have some negative habits that are pulling us down.  Take 15 minutes alone and undisturbed to make a list of all the negative habits that are pulling you down.

2.  Take 14 minutes alone and undisturbed to make a list of all positive habits you want to develop,

3.  Make a list of auto-suggestions you can give yourself to develop the positive habits listed above.

3.  Follow the 21 day programme with visualizations.

Source: Exceprts from the book on "YOU CAN WIN" by Shiv Khera