Humans have marveled at the vastness of the cosmos for centuries. But the universe is more than “just” vast. It’s a dynamic, multifaceted system that’s constantly expanding and undergoing transformation – with no known bounds. In that sense, the mind is like the universe; it’s also a highly complex, evolving system with limitless potential. A key difference? Harnessing the wonder of the universe is beyond our capacity, but we humans are fully capable of leveraging the power of our minds to shape the experience of our reality and achieve our goals.
Let’s explore some of the science behind the power of the mind, along with actionable tips to help you use your mind to drive success in your personal and professional life.
What Are the Powers of the Mind?
The powers of the human mind are expansive and diverse. These powers enable us to think, learn, and adapt, and can be used to positively or negatively influence our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and even our health, thanks to phenomena such as the beneficial placebo effect and its adverse counterpart, the nocebo effect.
Some powerful capabilities of the mind include:
- Creativity: We generate novel ideas, solve problems, and discover innovative ways to adapt to challenges.
- Intuition: Humans are capable of rapid decisions and judgments based on the unconscious mind’s processing of cumulative knowledge and experience. Though sometimes dismissed as “mystical” or “magical,” intuition is a very real form of knowledge rooted in neuroscience.
- Memory: The mind stores and recalls vast amounts of information, including personal experiences, knowledge, and skills.
- Neuroplasticity: The brain changes in response to experiences, behaviors, and environmental changes. It continuously forms new neural connections and pathways, strengthens existing ones, and reorganizes others.
- Perception: Our minds interpret and make sense of the world around us, largely through sensory experiences such as sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.
- Willpower: This is our ability to exercise conscious control over our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Willpower allows us to make choices and take actions that align with our values and goals.
By understanding and tapping into these powers, you can deliberately shape your mindset. For example, using your willpower to create a mindset of abundance – i.e., a belief that available resources are more than enough to meet your business goals – can make it easier to broaden your perspective, see opportunities where others may see obstacles, and make beneficial decisions, even when resources truly are limited. Keep it up long-term and you might rewire your brain’s default mode of thinking, thanks to neuroplasticity.
The powers of the human mind are expansive and diverse. These powers enable us to think, learn, and adapt.
How to Activate Your Unconscious Mind
The conscious mind is the part that’s aware of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The unconscious mind, on the other hand, operates outside of our awareness, controlling many of our automatic behaviors and responses. It informs our intuition, mindset, and creative capacities, and so plays a key role in decision-making.
To tap into the power of your unconscious mind, try activities that put your mind in a state of relaxation and openness. These states are thought to play a role in creative thinking, self-reflection, generating new ideas, cultivating a positive mindset, and stimulating neuroplastic adaptations. Here are a few ways to activate your unconscious mind:
- Meditate: Meditation supports focused attention, deep thought, and memory, according to research, including this 2022 study in the scientific journal Nature. Meditation generally involves focusing attention on your breath or other sensations, while allowing your mind to wander and observing your thoughts without judgment.
- Go for a walk: Walking helps activate the unconscious mind by promoting relaxation and increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This can reduce stress and anxiety, allowing the mind to become more receptive to new ideas and insights. Like meditation, walking can enhance theta activity.
- Engage in creative activities: Creative expression through art, music, or writing, helps access your unconscious mind to generate new ideas and insights. Even non-creative journaling can help you tap into unconscious beliefs and thought patterns that might be holding you back.
- Daydream: Allow your mind to wander freely without any specific goal or task. This can also include reflecting on past experiences, or simply observing your thoughts and feelings. Daydreaming has even been found to boost our mood and enhance our problem-solving abilities.
- Practice non-sleep deep rest (NSDR): Also known as yoga nidra, NSDR is a guided 10-45 minute practice that can help you access a deep state of conscious awareness by teetering on the edge of sleep. This state induces delta brainwaves, which are associated with rejuvenation and contribute to neuroplasticity. Practicing NSDR after working on a new skill could help reinforce what you’ve learned.
Developing the Powers of the Mind
Developing the powers of the mind requires consistent effort and practice. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor that can pay dividends. In fact, a positive mindset has been shown to help business owners and entrepreneurs overcome challenges, navigate uncertainty, stay motivated, and make better decisions, as noted by positive psychology advocate Shawn Achor in a much-revisited Harvard Business Review article. This type of mindset can also contribute to a company culture of productivity, creativity, and engagement, all of which boosts business performance.
Of course, adopting a positive mindset may be much easier said than done. This is because our habitual neural pathways play a key role in our ability to achieve our goals. For example, a lifetime of procrastination can make it harder to complete tasks in a timely manner, simply because those neural pathways have been reinforced over time. In turn, this can hinder success and lead to missed opportunities, increased stress, and less productivity.
But if you use the powers of the mind to reinforce positive habits and thought patterns (such as persistence, optimism, and resilience), you can set yourself up to embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. Over time, the corresponding neural pathways may reroute, making it easier to get motivated, proactively dive into work, and ultimately break the cycle of procrastination.
Here are some ways to develop the powers of your mind and cultivate a success mindset:
- Use visualization techniques: Vividly imagine yourself achieving goals and visualize the steps you need to take to get there. This can help “program” your mind to work toward making them a reality.
- Say positive affirmations: Repeat positive statements to yourself to reinforce positive beliefs. For example, replace negative self-talk with empowering statements that reflect your desired outcomes and traits.
- Smile: Training your brain is hard. But our brains are already hard-wired to elevate our mood when we smile! Even a forced smile can actually make challenges easier. In fact, smiling can reduce our perceived level of effort and distract us from fatigue, even when we’re feeling stressed or unhappy.
- Embrace mistakes: View failures as opportunities for growth and learning. When we make an error, it signals to our brain that something needs to change in order for us to succeed. This results in a heightened level of focus and alertness, which presents an opportunity to do better.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness involves being present and aware of your thoughts, physical sensations, and surroundings. It can help you focus on the here and now without dwelling on the future or past, thereby reducing negative thought patterns. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, at any time – while walking, during meditation, while taking a break, before bed, etc.
Using Your Mindset to Drive Success
Remember, the unconscious mind is a powerful tool – not a magic bullet. To achieve success, you'll also need to take practical steps and consistent action toward your goals, including consciously tapping into your unconscious. Here are some tips to put that into practice:
- Set clear goals: To boost your chance of success, goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound – or SMART goals, for short.
- Take advantage of biological rhythms: Understanding your body’s natural cycles of alertness and energy level can help you adjust your routine to optimize productivity and increase chances of success. For example, the circadian rhythm dictates that we’re generally better suited to handle the most important, demanding tasks in the morning and minor tasks in the afternoon. Similarly, our ultradian cycles dictate how long we can sustain deep focus – typically no more than 90 minutes at a time, after which a break can replenish our energy levels, boost our focus, and improve concentration.
- Keep a journal: Track your energy levels, mood, and productivity throughout the day to identify patterns and trends. This can help pinpoint positive and negative thought patterns, as well as the times when you’re most focused or prone to distractions. A journal is also a great place to track goals and milestones, write affirmations, and engage in creative activities like doodling.
- Set cue-based intentions: “When X happens, I will do Y.” By associating intentions with specific cues, you set yourself up to act. First, set an intention, such as “I will get better at letting go of stressful work experiences.” Then, define a specific cue that will trigger the related act, such as “the moment I begin my afternoon walk, I will take a deep breath in, exhale physical tension, and let go of stress.”
The Bottom Line
As an entrepreneur, your mindset can make a significant difference to your success. By engaging in activities that activate your unconscious, you can get a better understanding of your mind, its thought patterns, and its creative impulses.
With willpower, you can break negative habits and reinforce positive behaviors. And by using the powers of your mind to cultivate a positive mindset, you’ll be better able to identify and pursue business opportunities, overcome obstacles, persist through challenges, and stay resilient in the face of uncertainty – all hallmarks of a successful business owner.
A version of this article was originally published on November 2, 2011.
Photo: Getty Images