Break Your New Year’s Resolutions Yet?
What is there about New Year’s resolutions that we still make them knowing we will soon break them? It all has to do with our over-dependence on “will-power.” Our will-power is not very powerful! Though we know it’s true, we hate to admit it. Think back to your last diet. How long did it last? And what about your commitment to keep that weight off? How long did that last? Our will power runs out of energy and lets us down. Why is that? It’s because we really have two minds that can be at war with each other! Paul describes this battle in Romans 7, “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:18-19). Paul calls one mind “the flesh, or the sinful nature,” and the other he calls “God’s good commands.” Here we’ll say that the part of our mind that wills the good is called the conscious mind, and the part of the mind we can’t control is called the subconscious mind.
I have a new book, just released: It’s called Rethink How You Think, published by Fleming Revell, and available at Amazon, etc. In it, I describe what brain scientists call the subconscious mind as being a very safe and understandable part of our mind. Without emotion, it is simply the database of our stored experiences, those things we experienced very early in our life. In fact, you can think of your subconscious mind as being similar to the hard-drive on your computer. The hard-drive contains all the programs that make your computer work and our subconscious mind is what makes a large part of our lives work the way it does. The early programming of our subconscious mind directs most of our behavior.
An important difference between these two minds is that the conscious mind is the “self” that we are. Who we are and how we see ourselves is a product of the conscious mind. It also has the ability to be aware of events in the past, as well as ones we anticipate in the future, whereas the subconscious mind learns from the past, but only deals with the present. The subconscious mind is always “on duty” in our here-and-now. Its programming is based on our past experiences, but it only sees the present. And the subconscious has no awareness of the self, of who we are.
In a very real sense, it is the subconscious mind that is running most of the activities in our lives. So what happens when the conscious mind wants to do something, but the subconscious mind doesn’t want to? Eventually, the subconscious mind will win the battle. That’s why “will power” only works for a short time. What we are “willing” to take place is often at odds with what is programmed into our subconscious. Look again at the example; we want to lose weight. We go on a diet. We are determined. Our conscious mind has made the commitment. But our subconscious mind was programmed to see food as an emotional reward. When we were good, or when someone hurt our feelings, our mother made special cookies for us, and we would sit and eat them and talk with Mom. So our conscious mind says “lose weight,” but our subconscious mind remembers the warm feelings we had with cookies, milk, and Mom. Eventually the subconscious wears down the conscious mind and our diet simply fails. The subconscious has won the battle.
Question: How do you see your subconscious mind working against your “will power?”