Spring-Cleaning Urges

by sbhill on May 15, 2011

Finally spring arrived here in Michigan, and during our family stroll through our neighborhood after lunch yesterday, we noticed that about one third of our neighbors had their garage doors open and their driveways piled up with stuff from them. “The sun brings it to the light” we say in Germany, and in spring most of us have this strong urge to clean up and clear out, creating a fresh canvas to start the new season. What about you? Do you have any “Spring Cleaning Urges”?

My strongest urge to clean and wash doesn’t involve our garage but rather my own brain. Or to be more specific, my subconscious mind. Why and how? Read the article below, the first in a series of “change-tips” inspired by my passion for our amazing brain and the research surrounding it.

Why “Brainwashing” Is the Best Spring-Cleaning Action You Can Take

A lot of people wash their hair every day, clean their bathroom once a week and their garage once a year. Have you ever heard of someone “washing their brain”? And I don’t mean some horrible, cruel method used by spies in thrillers. Seriously, I mean how often do you consider how much old junk you might have piled up from your past in your own mind?

Most people—including myself—always have areas in our lives we would like to change for the better: make our jobs more fulfilling, spend more relaxed time with family and friends, make more money in order to contribute to good causes… the list for potential improvement is endless. A few people always seem able to pull off the change they want, but most get stuck on the way from A to B and give up. To make it worse, well-meaning friends say, “You’ll get there one day. Where there is a will, there is a way.”

I hate this saying for two reasons:

  1. It is unintentionally cruel, causing the person hearing it to feel inferior by implying that the only thing missing for their success is the discipline to change what they want to change. Feeling bad neither helps nor motivates them.
  2. Recent neuroscience has proven that this saying is wrong! Willpower is a resource that gets depleted over time through lack of sleep, poor nourishment, stress or just because of time passing. You can observe that easily with people who are on a weight-loss diet to improve their health. They are able to stick to the diet the whole day, but when they feel tired after a long day of work, they binge late in the evening! Is it just a lack of willpower running its course here? No!

We all have something way more powerful in our brain then just willpower: Our subconscious mind. And if this force is not with us, it works against us. It’s like you are trying to drive your “car of change” in your desired direction, but one foot is on the gas and the other on the brakes. This makes driving quite difficult and slow, doesn’t it? You would sometimes even crash with your car stopping and jumping awkwardly.

In the next issue of my newsletter, expect more details about how our subconscious mind kills or supports our attempts to change. I’ll reveal how to access it and really “wash” it in the one after that.

Please send me your comments and questions, and I’ll try to address them in one of these posts or in my newsletter.

For now: Happy Spring Cleaning!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Liesl Bohan June 8, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Thanks for sharing this, Sylvia! It’s interesting to hear that willpower is sometimes a “non-renewable” resource. I look forward to learning how to get my subconscious mind to cooperate when I’m attempting a significant change.

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