Today’s discussion starts with one of the great fundamental questions: why do you do the things you do?
For many years, even during my days in counseling and therapy, I’ve taught something called “the What, the Why, and the Who.” In my experience, most people judge themselves (and others) by what they do. How accomplished are they in their chosen careers? What wrong has another person done in the past, maybe to them? Have they been able to resist their worst impulses lately? It’s these sorts of questions that govern most people’s sense of self-worth and how they see others.
But as we’ve been discussing for the past few weeks, it is the state we’re living in—the intention of our heart—that determines what sort of life we’ll have. And this can be difficult to understand even within ourselves. It’s hard enough to know your own heart, let alone anyone else’s.
So actions are not the heart of the matter. What matters is why you do the things you do. Most people have it backward! They think that what they do determines who they are when really it’s who they are that will decide much of what they do from day to day.
The unconscious mind is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind. We’ve talked before about the study published in the Atlantic, which found that any conscious decision is preceded by an electrical spike from the unconscious mind, mandating what the decision will be—which even suggested to the researchers that free will may be an illusion! I don’t believe that, but I do believe that when a conscious intent clashes with an unconscious belief, the unconscious belief always wins. So the next question becomes: how do you change a belief?
Well, you can’t do it through willpower, because to a large extent, belief is where willpower comes from. It’s like trying to shift something while you’re standing on it. But it’s possible to get your unconscious mind to work for you instead of against you by really committing to live in love in the present moment.
So what does that take? Well, there are a couple of steps to that. Firstly, there's all the things that have to come together in order to have real love. We’ve talked about this a lot over the last few weeks: grace, justice, time, pain, belief, and choice. If any of these things are not present, you can’t have real, unconditional love. You’ll immediately notice that some (if not all) of these are things we typically try to avoid. Time and pain, in particular, we tend to see as enemies. But I think that for love to be meaningful, there has to be resistance for it to overcome. It has to be sacrificial, to some extent, otherwise, it could just be a thing of convenience—what I call “business-deal love.”
I believe, through my own experiences and those of countless others in my work, that truly committing to love in the present moment changes something deep in the unconscious mind. Another way to think of this is living in a state of grace. I think that the unconscious recognizes this as the only thing more important than survival, and it’s by getting this right that we can make it work for us.
Now, when I talk about a “state of grace,” I should clarify that I don’t necessarily mean that you aren’t saved without this. First of all, I don’t believe that’s ever for me to say. But in addition, I’m really talking more about what’s necessary to receive the blessings that God promises for our lives. As I see it, this requires a resolve to do four things: being right with Jesus, having intentions only for good, doing your absolute best, and helping everyone you can. Naturally, you’ll never do any of these perfectly, but just as beliefs shape actions, intentions can shape beliefs over time.
You see, even though it’s true that beliefs shape our actions, they aren’t immune to being shaped themselves. I think the key here is that even if a conscious belief can’t overpower an unconscious one, it can allow us to choose between two unconscious beliefs.
I’ve talked before about two inherent instincts we all have: a fear of death (our survival instinct) and a belief in love. The unconscious belief that will give us our best possible life already exists within each of us, and over time our conscious intention can strengthen it.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!