“The best way to clear muddy water is to leave it alone.” Watts, Alan
I've been thinking about The Law of Reversed Effort lately.
Simply put, the more effort we put into something, the less effective it becomes.
The insomniac is a prime example of this. Sleep is a completely subconscious process, and ‘willing' or ‘trying' to sleep has the opposite effect. The more you think about sleeping and tell yourself to ‘get' to sleep, the more awake you will become.
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Consider this: when you're swimming, what happens if you want to float? You begin to float and sink. If you want to sink and push down, your body will fight you and pull you back up to the surface. You float if you want to sink.
This law exists because our conscious and unconscious minds frequently clash, and the unconscious mind always wins. Why? Because it is our guardian and is rarely rational. Émile Coué, a French psychologist, defined the law of reversed effort as follows:
“When the imagination and will power are at odds, it is always the imagination that wins, without exception.”
Consider what would happen if I placed a board on the ground and asked you to walk on it. You'd do it without hesitation, right? After all, it's just a board, and walking from one end to the other isn't difficult. You can tell your body to do something and it will.
But what if we took that same board to the top of your city's two tallest buildings? One end of the board was placed on the tip of building one, and the other end was placed on the tip of building two. Now I ask you the same question: will you cross the board? It is exactly the same physical action as before. Simply walk down the board, one foot in front of the other. Your unconscious mind, on the other hand, will fight you with everything it has. You will be terrified, anxious, and afraid of falling, and the more you try to “will” yourself not to feel this way, the worse it will get.
You see, you have no more chance of stepping off the board in the air than you did on the ground, but your mind conjures up all sorts of terrifying scenarios and prevents you from completing the task.
“The more we try with a conscious will to do something, the less likely we are to succeed. We cannot make ourselves understand; all we can do is cultivate a state of mind in which understanding may come to us.” Aldous Huxley was a British author who lived in the early twentieth century (The Law of Reversed Effort)
So, how does this impact our daily lives?
I can tell you from personal experience that this is something I struggle with on a daily basis. By day, I am a real estate teacher and coach (which I enjoy and am passionate about) and by night, I am a writer/speaker/community organizer. But why is it called a dream? I've always wanted to write and felt as if I had something to say. My conscious mind tells me, “I can do that.” “I can share, speak, and write,” but what happens next? For years, my unconscious mind has sabotaged it with doubt, insecurity, and fear. My fear of what could go wrong outweighed my desire to make it happen.
I couldn't write, speak, or share until I completely let go as a person and began to blend relaxation with activity. I still have a long way to go. Enlightenment is a journey, not a destination. At best, I hope to be able to stop fighting myself.
Is something similar happening in your life right now? The agents I coach are extremely talented. They are wonderful people with compelling, genuine, and true stories. However, many people are hampered by self-doubt. Their conscious mind has established a goal, and their unconscious mind sets out to undermine that goal.
Take a moment to assess yourself. Are you still fighting this battle?
According to Émile Coué:
“The solution to this fear is to relax, let go, and think about relaxing things that will give us a confident feeling. When we are confident and feel fresh and secure, we can easily deal with anything that appears less threatening.”
Allow yourself to relax and let go. Stop battling yourself. Smile. When was the last time you took a test? You study and study, your stress and anxiety increasing until you sit down, and then….poof. You go completely blank. The more you sift through your brain for answers, the less you remember. What happens when you leave the room? You remember everything an hour later, when the pressure is off and you are relaxed.
Because the negative usually carries more emotion, it is more likely to be effective than the positive.
Consider your goal and concentrate on relaxing, letting go of the negative feelings associated with not achieving it. Create a positive mental image of the goal, then associate feelings with it. Nothing is easy, but everything is worth a shot.
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