Why do you eat unhealthy food when you are trying to be healthy? Why do you seek out arguments when you are striving to find peace? Why do you choose the wrong person when you want a loving relationship?
And … if you are like most of us, you don’t just do it once. You do it over and over again, even though you know it wasn’t a strategy for success the last time you did it.
The Unconscious Strategies That Run Your Life
It isn’t because you aren’t smart. What often causes these repeating unhelpful behaviours are unconscious strategies. These are decisions your brain made in the past about the best way to handle things. Your brain creates these unconscious strategies to save you decision making time. I have yet to come across anyone who doesn’t have at least one really unhelpful unconscious strategy.
You will also have some really helpful strategies that you repeat every day like your routine for getting out of bed and getting to work on time. You might also have brilliant time management or study strategies.
Although unconscious strategies in relation to study and time management can cause you challenges, they’re not usually the strategies that cause you the most grief. The ones that cause most of us the biggest problems are often strategies to do with relationships with others (and ourselves).
Strategies Start With Triggers
Most strategies start with a trigger of some sort (I see something, I think something, I feel something) and then roll forward in a sequence of steps. We habitually repeat the unconscious strategy whenever the trigger occurs unless we become aware of it and make a choice to run a different strategy instead.
Let’s have a look at two strategies that aren’t working well:
- A dating strategy – Let’s say you are attracted to men with dark beards who smile and make eye contact. This is ‘your type’. Your unconscious strategy for choosing a potential partner is based upon this trigger. Is it a sensible way to create a healthy happy relationship? Probably not. If you have a history of unhappy romantic relationships, look at the unconscious strategy you run when choosing a potential romantic partner.
- A saving/spending strategy – Assume you save for things you want, but then spend the money on something else just before you hit your savings target. The trigger happens when you look at the bank account balance and realize you are close to having the money to buy the thing you want. When you unravel the strategy you can see it is based on a belief that you are not worthy of having nice things. When you get close to something you would love, you sabotage myself and spend the money on things you don’t really want or need instead. As soon as you become aware of your unconscious strategy, you can take steps to change it and maybe for the first time in your life save for and buy something you would really love.
Changing Strategies That Aren’t Serving You
If something isn’t working for you, have a look at the strategy that is giving you the outcome you don’t want. Once you are aware of it, you can then choose to change the parts of it that aren’t working and get a different outcome. For example, make a decision on whether to date someone based on a conversation instead of a beard. Set up a separate bank account for savings and don’t let yourself look at the balance until after the date you have saved enough.
Changing strategies changes your outcomes.