Most books about the unconscious make using it complicated.  But I think it’s very simple:


Stage 1 – Conscious Thought

Stage 2 – Input to Unconscious

Stage 3 – Output from Unconscious


Stage 1 – Conscious Thought

What precisely do you want to achieve?

Let us say, for example, that you want to find creative solutions to a problem or issue involving your work, career, or personal life.  Here are my rules:

  • Select only one issue at a time.
  • You must really care about getting the answer.
  • Chances are it’s a “how to” issue – for example, how to reconcile the conflicting issues of work and family; or how to come up with the words of a song you’re writing; or how to invent a great new product; or how to avoid conflict at work or home.
  • You should be seeking a solution that’s good not just for you but also for everyone else involved.

But if you are trying to set important goals for your next 5-10 years, for example, the rules are a bit different:

  • You must ardently want to attain the goal. It must excite you.
  • You must be able to persuade yourself that you can reach the goal, however unlikely it might seem (if they knew) to other people. If you don’t believe it’s possible, even very likely, then your unconscious won’t glide into action.
  • Your goal must be precise and specific. Ideally it should involve a number or numbers.  There must be no ambiguity about whether or not, at any particular point in time, the goal has or has not been achieved.
  • You must set a deadline for attaining the goal. If you come close but don’t reach it in time, you may apply to your unconscious mind for an extension – but you must seriously aim to reach it in your original timeframe.
  • You must believe that reaching the goal will make you fulfilled and happy.
  • Visualize yourself getting there, and imagine the joy you will feel. Use all your sense to think what it will be like – what does your life look like; what sights and smells are associated with it; who will you be celebrating achieving the goal with, and how are you celebrating; what is your new daily life like; and how does reaching the goal benefit other people (and who are they)?
  • You must know that reaching the target is absolutely made for you and you alone – the goal is your destiny; and your destiny is the goal.


Stage 2 – Input to the Unconscious

Here are three effortless ways to send messages to your unconscious:

1       Relax and Daydream

  • Sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet, private spot, ideally outdoors
  • Relax
  • Put all thoughts out of your head – except the message you are about to transmit
  • Send the message to your unconscious – say it aloud if you can without being heard and without embarrassment

2       Daydream during ‘Automatic Exercise’

  • Get into a routine form of exercise with which you’re familiar and can do without thinking about it – preferably something you do very often
  • The exercise must be relatively mild and something you can do easily, alone, and with no stress or strain. You are not trying to run a four-minute mile, or thinking about how to gear up your pulse.  I find cycling or walking at a moderate pace work well.  You should know the ropes or route without having to think about them
  • Let your mind go blank. Daydream
  • Before you start the exercise, think of the message to the unconscious. Ideally say it aloud.  Repeat it another two times.  If you remember, repeat the message during the exercise
  • At the end of the exercise, repeat the message to the unconscious again – aloud if you can.

 3      Before Sleep

  • Listen to some peaceful or trance-like music for some minutes, while sitting up in bed, perhaps reading something pleasant and uplifting at the time (not a thriller or anything else violent or eventful), or just musing about the good things that happened to you today
  • In the minute or two before you go to sleep, while you are winding down or drowsy, say the message – out loud if nobody is around
  • Look forward to a good sleep and happy dreams
  • Repeat the message as the last thing you say or think before falling asleep.


Stage 3 – Output from the Unconscious

Your unconscious will try to send you its reply or message.  You will receive it, unless you block it out with vigorous activity or a restless mind.  To help the unconscious get through to you, relax and daydream at times during the day, or follow the other suggestions in Stage 2.

The answer comes to me quite frequently during exercise, or while I am doing something else that requires no thought.  Or it often comes at night or during the early morning, in that delicious period of light sleep or semi-slumber before you wake up fully.  To capture any insight before you fall asleep again and forget it, have a notebook and pen on your bedside table.



Once you make a habit of using your unconscious, expect all kinds of good things to start happening to you – and they will.  Remember that your hidden friend is on your side, and is incredibly powerful.  As people who let their friends help them know, they become one of the greatest delights of life, constantly surprising us by their power and goodwill.

Once the benevolence and might of the unconscious manifests itself to you, help your family and friends to get the same benefits.  Never will such little effort reap such fantastic returns.

This post is partly based on “Your Hidden Friend”, a new chapter in the third edition of The 80/20 Principle, just published in the UK and outside North America.  The US edition will be published by Random House later this year.





Image credit – Pixabay

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  1. Great process.

    I find that taking a short nap in the afternoon is the fastest way to tap into my subconscious. The moments after waking are usually filled with answers I never would have developed otherwise.

  2. Great blog Richard. I’m terrible at doing things like this, but I’m going to give it a go. I’d be really interested to see a specific example of this process having worked in your life if you don’t mind sharing?

  3. Richard, what struck me about your goal-setting formula (Stage 1) is that you do not list a “detailed plan,” as is universally recommended. Since I’m sure this was intentional, what was your reasoning? Was it that the mere “intention” to achieve a goal will automatically lead you to the right actions at the right time?

  4. Eric Freund says:

    Thanks for posting this, Richard. I really need to get back to my meditation on a more regular schedule, plus add some more structure to it a la your methodology.

    All of my major successes in life, both personal and business, have some through that practice. I call it talking with God, but it’s essentially the same concept as what you are doing. Like I said though, I need to add more structure to it, especially for the longer-term goals.

    And I really have to keep working on the daily discipline. I started up with it again about two months ago, after only meditating sporadically over the last 14 years. This, after coming off of almost three decades of daily practice–which is when all of my major successes occurred, except one.

    Call me crazy. I now know why I fell out of practice, but that’s a story for another day.

    Until then,


  5. Thanks Richard. Made me smile that you used the song lyrics example – my other half and I are both musicians and songwriters, and your writing and ideas have been a big help with our careers. Definitely agree that the best moments of insight or inspiration always seem to appear magically from the unconscious – needless to say, having a more systematic way to use that would be very exciting. So thanks again… and hope that your arm recovers soon!

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