Subconscious Ahead, Proceed with Caution
The older I get, the more I like predictability
in my vacations, and fewer things are as predictable
as sunny weather in Scottsdale, Arizona, especially
in March, especially to a Nebraskan. For that
reason, and many more, like I have for several
consecutive winters, I recently spent some
time in the Valley of the Sun.
Not only do I travel to some cities consistently,
I tend to dine at the same restaurants during
my visits. In Scottsdale, staff in some of
my regular haunts even recognize me. That's
why I was thrown off when I prepared to meet
a former student at one of my favorite sports
bars and discovered it was closed. On a recommendation,
I decided to visit another watering hole in
the area. The directions I was given included
a series of right and left turns, and an admonition
that "you can't miss it."
Well, I missed it. I spent nearly 20 minutes
driving around a shopping area on the other
side of the street, because I was sure that
I knew where it was. In my mind, that's where
a sports bar like the one I was looking for
would be, and I suspect that I tuned out the
directions almost immediately as they began.
Though I had never been there and had no idea
what was over there, the possibility that
my desired destination was on the other side
of the street never occurred to me.
When I heard "sports bar at the corner
of Scottsdale Road and Bell Road," my
mind automatically took me to the southeast
quadrant of that intersection, because that's
where all my related experience had been.
Subconsciously, I sought familiar territory,
at the expense of other possibilities.
Our subconscious is often extremely effective
in situations like this; and it allows our
progress to benefit from our experiences -
we don't have to start with absolutely no
context. It's why we feel more comfortable
surrounded by friends at a social gathering
than we do in a gathering where we know few
people. Familiarity allows us to make assumptions,
which accelerate our thought processes.
On the flip side, those assumptions can mislead
us, as they did in my Scottsdale experience.
As I searched for the sports bar, my subconscious
overruled my conscious, logical thinking.
While my rational mind focused on the admonition,
"you can't miss it," my subconscious
said that my destination had to be in the
southeast corner, even though it wasn't as
apparent as the directions I was given led
me to believe.
How often does that happen in the business
world? Maybe you call on a prospect, excited
about all the potential in the account, based
on your experience in the industry and with
similar prospects. Maybe that prospect reveals
itself as a far lesser prospect than you had
anticipated, but you are slow to disengage
because your subconscious overrules rational
thinking. Maybe a project in which you are
involved appears to be unraveling, but is
instead leading you down a more productive
path. If you can't separate from your negative-leaning
subconscious, you might never see that path.
Back in Scottsdale, I finally gave in to
rational thinking - and my wife's pleas -
and drove over to the southwestern corner
of the intersection where I saw that the sports
bar was indeed in a "can't miss it"
location. I had no other choice, as I had
finally convinced myself that I wasn't going
to find it in the southeast corner.
Don't make my mistake. Examine your current
challenges to see if you have unwittingly
allowed your subconscious to mislead you.
Challenge yourself to let go of the subconscious
assumptions that stand between you and your
goals. Don't spend time driving around in
circles ignoring logic and your wife.
-- Mitch Arnold