We have all known people who did things that sabotaged what they said they were trying to accomplish. Perhaps their behavior was obvious to us, but they hid it from themselves. A specific example comes to mind: I met a dear friend for coffee who explained between bites of a large chocolate croissant how she simply couldn’t understand why the weight wasn’t coming off because she was going to great lengths to eat low-fat, healthy food. As I held my tongue, I remembered that every time we met for coffee, there was the pattern of indulging in a generous pastry. Somehow my friend was not seeing this obvious-to-me connection.

We all do it. Each of us has unconscious patterns of behavior we hide from ourselves. Some use their illness as a way to gain attention and sympathy. Some bark at people who ask questions to hide their insecurities. Some deny themselves pleasure as a form of bizarre punishment for a long-forgotten error. When we recognize these behaviors, we can make another, more supportive choice. Often, however, we are oblivious to what we are doing; we get into a routine and don’t challenge ourselves to look beneath the surface of our thoughts. The heck of it is that those very hidden or unconscious beliefs are often the last barrier to our desired outcome. This is why many clients come into our relationship saying, “I seem to have hit a wall or a glass ceiling, and I can’t figure it out because I’ve been successful up to now.” They have gone as far as they can go without dealing with the unconscious barrier in their own minds.

I believe this is why the self-help industry has been booming for so long. We buy yet another book to try to solve the puzzle of our own self-imposed limits to success. There are all kinds of tools in the world that will help us detangle the clump of tangled beliefs we hold—provided we have the courage to look at what we may have been hiding from ourselves for much of our lives.

There are endless ways to access our unconscious, limiting beliefs. Our intuition is forever giving us clues when we tune into it. I realized recently that I am immersed in this endeavor to help bring the unconscious into the light, where we can deal with it, in multiple ways: I’m currently reading Sunni Brown’s book, The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently, which posits that some of our best ideas and breakthroughs come from doodling, which engages multiple parts of the brain simultaneously and gives access to unconscious beliefs. My partner company, Strengths Strategy, helps people become consciously aware of their strengths and the strengths of their teams so they can leverage all that heretofore hidden talent. When people focus on what they and their team members do brilliantly, they are playing a much higher-level game.

“Fears lose their power the moment they are named.” DeAnna Murphy, Founder of Strengths Strategy

I’m currently in an enneagram class, which uses NLP and hypnosis to help counselors and coaches with tools to help their clients get free from the lifelong unconscious drivers of destructive behavior and beliefs. Fellow class members and I share regularly those things that bubble to the surface with these new learnings.

The church I’m part of is United Centers for Spiritual Living, whose motto is “Change your thinking, change your life”. Every message and class is designed to help dissolve unhelpful thoughts and bogus beliefs and replace them with more life-affirming, uplifting, empowering beliefs and thoughts.

I am fully, completely committed to understanding how our hidden agendas are the driving force behind those habits and beliefs that hinder us but are tough to identify alone. My own recent breakthrough awareness is that this desire to be free and operating at my full potential is the golden thread that has been present throughout my life. It is my raison d’etre, my deep why of being in this work. I find us each fascinating and worthy of the excavation that is sometimes necessary to free us from ourselves. Every person’s story is unique, yet we have so many common fears, uncertainties, and doubts.

The truth is that we never finish with revealing the unconscious. We are dynamic, evolving beings with complex webs of relationships. Yet all of us have the capacity to see differently, to reframe or release the things that get in our way. Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person on the planet to get to be witness to that transformation—and to assist in it.

The next time you find it challenging to move forward and you aren’t sure what is stopping you, try this: write a note to your unconscious self and ask what is getting in the way, and why it is stopping you from moving forward. Then go about your business for a few hours. When you have some quiet time, sit down and allow the unconscious to answer those questions on the page—write without editing, and you may be surprised at the answer you see. Sometimes, that part of us that prevents forward motion is the fearful child part of us who is really trying to protect us from something “scary.” When we can see that, it is much easier to deconstruct and move ahead.

If you are a manager that would like to learn how to create a strengths culture and coach your teams, look here for our coach certification. The next course begins May 10: www.strengthsstrategy.com

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