How to Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind to Defeat Anxiety

How can you reprogram your subconscious mind? What are the benefits of letting your subconscious mind take over?

As you work diligently to achieve your goals, you may feel pressure and nerves. To combat this, How Champions Think by Bob Rotella says to calm yourself by letting your subconscious mind take over.

Here’s how to reprogram your subconscious mind so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Let Your Subconscious Mind Take Over

To prevent your emotions and thoughts from interfering with your performance, you must quiet your conscious mind, trust in your training, and reprogram your subconscious mind to take over. Rotella explains that your conscious mind hijacks your brain with unhelpful thoughts such as doubts or worries that break up your natural flow. When your subconscious mind is in control, you can focus on your task, stay in the present moment, and maintain your composure after victories and mistakes.

(Shortform note: By putting your subconscious mind in control, you might achieve what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow—a mental state of deep focus and enjoyment he discusses in Flow. In this state, you’re so focused on your task that everything else fades away, allowing you to forget about the pressure and your nerves and perform at your best. Csikszentmihalyi doesn’t define this as a state of subconsciousness but rather as a state of ordered consciousness, as opposed to a disordered consciousness in which you’re controlled by your doubts and worries, and which aligns with Rotella’s observations about the conscious mind.)

To activate your subconscious, detach yourself emotionally from the outcome of the event and focus on the present moment. Rotella suggests you approach the situation as if you were doing something you don’t care about. For example, if you’re performing at a piano recital, imagine that you’re only singing karaoke with your friends. When you remove the stakes, you can focus on applying your skills rather than worrying about how well you’re doing. You should only judge how well you did later, Rotella writes, as immediate judgment will only interfere with your current performance.

(Shortform note: In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes that many people struggle to focus on the present because they resist the present reality, especially if they’re facing obstacles or challenges. For instance, if you’re playing a competitive sport and your team is down by many points, you might resist the reality of your situation by thinking, “I can’t believe we’re doing so terribly right now.” This way of thinking only causes frustration and anger, which will only make things worse. Instead, Tolle suggests you focus on accepting the present as it is, without resistance or judgments of good or bad. Instead, try to think, “We’re down a few points, so we’ll need to play more aggressively.”)

Rotella advises that another way to tap into your subconscious is by smiling. Whether you’re facing down a business presentation, a sports match, or a college exam, smiling relaxes your brain and allows your subconscious mind to take over so that you fully trust your abilities and allow the quality of your training to shine through. In contrast, frowning engages your conscious mind, which makes you doubtful of yourself and your abilities.

(Shortform note: Smiling can improve your performance because your body language affects what emotions you feel. When you smile, you trigger your brain to release chemicals that make you happier. These chemicals also relax your nervous system and reduce stress. To get the most benefit from smiling, experts suggest trying to smile as genuinely as possible.)

How to Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind to Defeat Anxiety

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Bob Rotella's "How Champions Think" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full How Champions Think summary:

  • The secret to how some people can achieve extraordinary success
  • The shared mindset that sets champions apart from average people
  • How you can master skills, learn from challenges, and reach your goals

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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