Getting the message to your subconscious


The other day I was working on a hard problem. I couldn’t solve it. I woke up the next morning knowing exactly what to do.

I hate it when that happens. I guess it’s great that some part of me figured it out, but I hate not being able to control how and when I figure things out. In this case it would have been handy to have a more time-sensitive answer. Where the hell was my subconscious when I really needed it?

But sometimes that’s the way things are. My subconscious is a better problem solver than I am, and it works on its own schedule and takes its sweet time telling me about all the stuff it understands deeply that I do not.

I’ll take it. I’d rather eventually have answers than never have them at all.

Here’s how I try to cooperate with my subconscious, during those times when I’m chewing on a problem I just can’t solve consciously.

  • Communicate your problems as clearly and simply as possible. Focus hard on them. Spend a lot of time attacking the problem from every possible angle. This helps drill the shape of the problem into the deeper parts of your mind.
  • Once you’ve focused on them for a while, stop. Think about something else. Your subconscious needs a chance to work things through. Watch a movie, or have dinner with your family. Read a good book. Think about anything other than the problem at hand.
  • Spend enough time in quiet reflection. Take a nap or a long shower. Or meditate. Or do some journaling. Anything with few distractions where your mind has a chance to wander. That’s the best chance for your subconscious to pass a message back up to your conscious mind.