First thing in the morning, I get up and make a pot of coffee. No biggie. It’s just a routine. And I’m certainly glad I don’t need to reevaluate morning coffee and consciously come to a new decision every day.
As I go through the coffee-making motions, I’m usually thinking about plans for the day and so on. I’m sure you do something similar, right?
Researchers at University of New South Wales recently found evidence that unconscious thinking does impact decision making. That’s the point of my coffee story. Your unconscious mind can guide you right through routine decisions without consciously realizing what’s going on.
All of us are continually making tiny decisions, based on experience and routine, that serve to chart our course through the day. Unconscious decisions are like an autopilot system to efficiently take you where you need to go, without having to evaluate every move as if for the first time.
Unfortunately, some unconscious decisions aren’t the greatest.
The consequences of many automatic or unconscious decisions are often dire.
For example, some unconscious decisions result in death.
Not the best outcome in the world, is it? Yet far too many of our autopilot decisions lead us straight into an early grave.
Smoking and overeating, for example, are daily decisions many don’t think much about, consciously. And the consequences are usually dire in the long run. Yet for some reason, unconscious decisions are made every day to continue on the same path, without being called into question.
Of course, unconscious decision-making is still a good thing. If you had to make every daily decision consciously, you’d be so bogged down. Many of your behaviors are best carried out as part of a predetermined routine, right?
In other words, you consciously learned the ‘right’ choice a long time ago….and you still make the same decision regularly. However, the decision-making process has dropped away from consciousness for practical purposes.
The process works against you when you’re unconsciously carrying out orders that are presently doing you harm.
How can you alter unconscious decisions that are doing you harm?
By addressing them head-on, face-to-face.
In other words, with certain habitual decisions that are not serving you, you’ve got to get off autopilot and confront the decision consciously. The primary tool for doing this is honest self-awareness in the form of a truth statement.
A truth statement’s function is to connect the dots between what you are doing the consequences. Most of us who make chronic bad decisions on autopilot are Ignoring the consequences. Denial ends with truth statements!
Here’s the formula for creating a truth statement:
Name the action (e.g. eat a donut).
Name the consequence (e.g. raises blood sugar, makes me fat and diabetic)
Here’s the template for an unconscious decision truth statement. Remember, the only goal for now is to make the decision conscious.
I am now making the decision to ____(action)_____________even though it will ____(consequence)____________.
I am now making the decision to eat this donut, even though it will give me diabetes and make me fatter.
I am now making the decision to put off doing my report, even though it will create a ton of stress, force me to do substandard work and limit my career.
I am not making the decision to ignore my wife’s needs even though it will cause her to resent me more and ultimately end my marriage.
Call yourself out! This is one way to confront your negative psychological attachments and achieve rare insight into yourself. In my experience as a coach, most people who stick with this protocol end up getting off autopilot and onto more productive behaviors.
Of course there are no guarantees and this isn’t magic. You have to try truth statements for yourself – over a short period of time – to discover if they have power to take you in the right direction.
Mike Bundrant is a retired psychotherapist, Master NLP trainer, and practicing life coach. He and his wife, Hope, founded iNLP Center in 2011. For information on coaching with Mike, please visit his coaching website AHA System.