You know what it’s like when you go to a room to get something, but forget what it was when you arrive? You’re standing in the doorway with your mouth hanging wide open and a blank gaze on your face, thinking, “I know I came in here for a reason, but what was it?”
This is because your conscious mind has a very limited attention span.
It’s also why mentally-driven personal development is so difficult.
The Limitations Of The Conscious Mind
In the previous article, Mind-Brain Cooperation, I distinguished between the conscious mind and the unconscious brain.
Research in the 1950s and 1960s compared the computer processing power of the conscious mind to the whole brain. That research found that the total processing capacity of the brain is about 200,000 times greater than that of the conscious mind. Assume you’re planning a trip and take ten minutes to review hotels and then ‘trust your gut’ (i.e. your unconscious brain) to make the decision. In those ten minutes you could process as much as 6.6 billion bits of information. If you process that same amount of information solely through your conscious mind it would take four years to choose your hotel!
Compared to your whole brain, your mind is a simpleton.
Moreover, as the mind’s processing capacity is so limited, it is blind to most of what goes in the brain and body. It just doesn’t have the capacity to deal with all that information. Compound that over the years of your life, and you’ll realize that your conscious mind knows very little about the accumulated experience and knowledge of your entire brain.
Your Mind Can’t Cope With Personal Development
So how does this relate to personal development?
Well, we use our conscious minds to identify our problems, to set our personal development goals, and usually to manage the process of change.
Unfortunately, as our conscious minds have so little information, they are terribly unqualified for the task. Let’s say you have a goal to improve your relationships. Your mind is well equipped to set that goal, but may be blind to your self-sabotaging behaviors and ‘unique’ personality traits that prevent you from having the relationships you want. Your mind just doesn’t have the information it would need to make the right changes.
These observations do not mean that personal development is beyond our reach. It does mean that if we only use our conscious minds to pursue our development, then most likely our efforts will be misguided and fruitless.
There Is Hope
Taken on its own, this article could be a bit of a downer. However, it is one in a series on The Neuroscience Of Body-Psyche, which explores how we can use our whole brains – the conscious mind and the unconscious brain – to successfully pursue personal development.
In an upcoming article, The Power Of The Mind, you’ll learn about the unique ability of the mind to focus the attention of the whole brain on a chosen topic, such as meditation, sports or a work project. In the right circumstances, the mind can even focus on the ‘unconscious’ processing in your brain, opening up doorways to deep healing. Those unconscious things that sabotage your relationships? Your mind can access and change them too if you know how.
Once you understand your mind’s true purpose, you’ll know how to use it to direct life changing processes in your unconscious brain and body. The results often seem miraculous. We’ll cover how to do this in later articles in this series.
Your conscious mind has the potential to be your most powerful ally in personal development. Use it wisely.