The Change Cocktail: 1 Part Focus plus 2 Parts Subconscious

17 Apr

Change, not chaos, is the natural state and more and more Americans are hiring coaches and executive trainers to take them to “the next level” in becoming all that they can be.  Self-improvement, change for the better, baby steps to a better life, etc. are all great things to do and when life hands us lemons, we know we can wince at the juice but it’s making lemonade that really changes lives.   Change can happen with behavior (overcoming bad habits), thought patterns (new ways of responding to life), or attitudes (and outlooks) — and despite the long term benefits, the ride is not always comfortable.

Change is like a Cocktail: 1 part focus plus 2 parts subconscious.

The 1st step once you’ve decided to change is to take action and focus on what behavior or attitude we want to change.  It typically takes 30 days of conscious, dedicated effort to change a habit (think smoking, exercise, negative thinking) and sometimes it takes several restarts before anything seems to happen. Once we feel like we’ve made progress and the change feels permanent, we often take it for granted — and lose sight of the fact that the change must become part of our psyche.  If change doesn’t take root in our heads it’s because we’ve only completed part of the cocktail and we need to mix in 2 parts subconscious.

Does this happen to you?  As soon as I feel that I’ve made some change in my life, something happens ( a thought, a reaction, an attitude) that jolts me into the reality that its not yet part of my psyche.  I find myself reacting in old ways when my guard is down. Any permanent change has to come with one part focus and two parts subconscious.  (Many coaching books today recommend acting the way you want to be until you truly feel it.  The conscious part is the acting, the unconscious part is having it take root in your subconscious until the new behavior becomes automatic.)

Let me illustrate with an example : One of the changes I’ve been making is to really  listen to my inner voice.  For far too long, I’d let others’ assertions overrule what my own inner voice would tell me. Years ago when my then spouse didn’t agree with my telling of an event (even where he wasn’t there), he was emphatic that my perception was wrong.  After years of this, it became easier to simply accept his version (and often find out later that I was right) than to fight. Eventually, I didn’t even hear my inner voice and I’d simply take his word as the reality (Hmmm… wasn’t this something like Stepford Wives.)

Robert Fludd's depiction of perception (1619).

Robert Fludd's depiction of perception (1619).

I’ve made conscious focused progress (that’s the 1st part) and think that the change is permanent until something happens like it did this week. A colleague from overseas asked me if I could book him a car for a stay he’s planning in the US. He sent me the itinerary and I sent him the reservation.  When he questioned why I booked the rental for two days longer than he would be in the US, my 1st response was the old way:  I apologized for “my error” even though I thought it was not.  When I checked the itinerary he sent, it was he who told me the wrong dates and had nothing to do with a wrong perception. It was then that I realized how ingrained was the old habit of acquiescing to another’s opinion over my own.  The 2 parts subconscious takes longer to change. Going forward, I need to watch for this automatic reaction and think before reacting.  I know now that I have a true voice that tells me the truth – as long as I listen to it.

I am learning that I am right at least 50% of the time (what a relief that it’s not the 5%   that my ex would attest) and that I have to affirm my ground in the face of adversity.  The change in my way of thinking brings great power and when the change takes root in my subconscious I know that I’ll again have the strength of my convictions.

At this halfway point in my life, I only need to look inward to know what is true in thinking and feeling.  After years of being told that I was crazy, this is a beautiful thing!

So bring on the change cocktail – and make mine 1 part focus and 2 parts subconscious — shaken (so to speak), but not stirred.  I wish successful changes on you – to become consciously and subconsciously the best that you can be.



Carol Dekkers, human being, software metrics and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at or or visit for details.

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