At school I took A-Level maths.
I was far from the best at the subject, and rather than having a natural talent, I had to put in the hours to achieve good grades.
Often I would remain up late, wrestling with a particularly fiendish homework question set by my teacher, one where the answer just wasn’t obvious to me.
No matter how hard I stared at the puzzle, and how many times I attempted to solve it, I could not.
After giving up and heading to bed, I awoke the next day to attempt the problem once again.
Something had changed.
The problem was now not so challenging.
Reviewing my failed attempts from the previous night I would see fresh insight. Where once before where was nothing but the fog of confusion, now, as if my magic, the answer was now formulating in the swirling mist like an apparition.
That lightbulb moment
I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing.
A work problem seems insurmountable, until you leave your desk to perform some other activity, at which point the solution pops into your brain.
A creative project has stalled despite hours of seeking inspiration, yet the clear vision of a masterpiece springs into life whilst relaxing in the bath.
When writing these articles, my process follows a similar trajectory. I bash out the words, pouring my thoughts onto the screen with little regard for spelling or structure.
I just get down as much of what I want to say as possible.
After thirty minutes to an hour of this, the result is a mis-mash of paragraphs that are dis-jointed, with key points not flowing together.
And then I step away from the screen.
I go make breakfast. I read. I watch some TV. I do any menial task and avoid sitting and wondering how the hell this drivel can be fashioned into something useful for anyone who wants to improve their life.
That’s when the magic happens.
Returning to the screen minutes, hours, and even days later, there is clarity. What needs to be done, how things need to be arranged, points that need to be added all jump out, and a path to the finished article seems clear.
Harnessing the power of letting go
What is happening here?
And how can this magical power be harnessed to improve creativity, increase happiness and set us up for success?
The secret is knowing when to think, and when to let go.
Your brain is a laser guided missile. It locks on to anything you point it towards. Once fired, it guides and corrects itself automatically.
You don’t need to touch the controls, because the advanced circuitry and computing power on board auto-corrects mistakes, and figures out the best way to hit the objective.
Worrying about the circuitry going wrong or the missile exploding mid-air due to a mechanical failure makes no difference to the probability the missile will strike the target or go astray.
When you make a decision to do something, you’ve just programmed your mind’s heat seeking missile with a target and pressed the red launch button.
Worrying about whether you will succeed or fail is not helpful. You’ve committed to a objective, now let your mind figure out the best way to get you there.
Just as a missile’s technology is refined over the years, your brain advances through exposure to knowledge and experience. You can, and should, learn from previous firings. And you should also keep an eye on your missile from time to time by reminding yourself what objective you are working on.
But you must also trust your unconscious. It understands how to achieve an objective better than you.
It will guide you, popping up helpful suggestions, warnings and alerts when your input is required.
Hand off tasks to your subconscious
Worrying about how your life will turn out, or how a project is going to go, or how your speech will be received doesn’t serve you.
Instead I urge you to try something different.
Make a decision then let go.
Suppose you have decided you want a companion in your life, a romantic partner you can share your wisdom with, laugh with, and curl up in bed at the end of the night with.
Good for you.
Will continually beating yourself up day after day because you haven’t found that special someone yet help? Will worrying when you are going to meet them get you there any faster?
To achieve success, decide on an objective then let go.
You will find you naturally begin to take action towards the objective.
Even actions you once hated, such as taking less exercise, now seem somehow more appropriate and there’s less resistance to doing them than there once was.
One day you find yourself reading a blog like this, heading to the gym to drop your body fat levels, or at a social event surrounded by interesting people. And it feels right.
Random but useful things will start happening in your life that help you on your journey. Your auto-pilot is secretly guiding you towards success.
Rather than talking to a man or woman and thinking afterwards “He wasn’t interested in me because I was boring”, you start to think “He didn’t laugh much, but he did enjoy my story about the chicken”.
This is precisely how hypnosis works. In a relaxed state you visualise yourself as you want to be, thereby giving yourself a target to hit. You then go about your day to day life, with no need to think on the hypnosis session at all. Your brain is busy working out the correct strategy to reach the vision in the background.
There’s an old saying that goes “You will find your true partner when you stop looking for them”. I believe there is truth in this, for it mirrors the logic above.
Actively looking for someone actively programs your mind with an objective. Then you give up. But in truth you haven’t stopped looking for someone, you have simply diverted the effort from your conscious mind to your unconscious auto-pilot, who is now running the code for you in the background to make it happen.
There’s real power in letting go.
Make a decision, think hard on the implications, struggle to find a solution, then let go. Free your mind of the burden and go do something else. Leave your more powerful and resourceful unconscious to guide you towards success.