11/26/2012 07:17 am ET Updated Jan 26, 2013

Driving Your Basic Equipment

Remember when you learned to drive a car? Didn't you need to know some basics about the car's equipment? Maybe you didn't need to know specifically how the fuel injectors interact with the fuel pump. But you at least had to understand that the gas pedal gets you moving, the brake makes you stop, and the steering wheel turns the vehicle. Without this basic knowledge of what part of the equipment to use in which situation, roaring up to a traffic light could get pretty hairy!

"Let's see. The light is red. Which pedal should I push?"

But once you know what's what in a car, you can practice using that equipment as it's supposed to be used. Over time, you become more proficient, more coordinated, until you can drive the car with relatively little attention.

It occurred to me a couple years back that many of us don't have a handle on our own intrinsic mental/emotional equipment, the vehicle that drives our lives. We may vaguely know that we've got a conscious mind and an unconscious mind -- and many of us realize that there is a higher self or Self in the mix. But we don't really have a clear understanding of what these parts of our equipment do, how they interact, and how to use them. Most personal growth focuses on gaining new tools or skills: meditation, NLP, hypnosis, tapping, goal setting, prayer -- whatever. But there's been very little emphasis on understanding the functions of the basic equipment and how it works with those skills.

It's like learning to drive a stick shift. You can get really good at coordinating pressure on the clutch pedal while shifting the stick -- but if you don't know how that affects the vehicle, what good does that do you? And if you don't know the situations that call for downshifting versus going into higher gears, you'll be ineffective if not downright dangerous on the road!

Seeing this confusion about our basic equipment prompted me to write my most recent book, Find Your Purpose, Master Your Path, as well as the next one coming out soon. In these books, I get into nitty-gritty detail about our basic equipment -- which works the same in everyone, by the way -- from both the modern psychology and Huna perspectives. I can't give you everything from the books here, but I have an analogy that might help:

One of my favorite ways to explain our three minds -- conscious, unconscious, Self -- and how they work together is an orchestra: Conscious mind is the conductor, the unconscious is the musicians, and Self is the music itself. Discussion of Self is more intricate, open to interpretation, and based on personal belief. So we'll just focus on conscious and unconscious mind here.

As the conductor of the orchestra, the conscious mind sets the direction, tells the musicians specifically what she wants from them and when. She has a clear sense of the sound she wants to hear. She listens and feels the results coming from the musicians, and makes course corrections as necessary.

If the conductor is smart, she never tries to get the oboe to sound like a flute. She doesn't give the bass drum a vague, sloppy signal about when to strike the beat, but she is clear and direct. She doesn't try to tell the orchestra how not to play a piece -- what she doesn't want -- but constantly encourages it to play what she does want. And she doesn't try to make the music all by herself. She draws on the power of the orchestra to create the sound she wants.

The unconscious mind, the musicians, follows her lead. They are powerful in themselves and have skill and energy to play music. But without a conductor, they can be all over the place. If a conductor is uncertain, the musicians have trouble knowing what she wants and might revert to what she seemed to want previously -- especially if the conductor was adamant about a certain way of playing in the past. But when the conductor gives clear, unambiguous direction, she can unleash the amazing talent, creativity, and energy of the musicians who are more than eager to produce the result she has in mind. In rehearsal, musicians may give suggestions: "In the past, this is how we did it." But it's up to the conductor to make the final call.

So, back to your own intrinsic equipment: Your conscious mind sets the goal, the result desired. But it's the unconscious mind that has the power, energy, and skill to get it accomplished. Though the unconscious mind may offer suggestions -- "Hey! I think we should go this way" -- it's up to the conscious mind to determine whether these suggestions fit present circumstances and desires. It's a collaborative process with conscious mind providing direction.

Make sense? If you keep this analogy in mind as you apply your skills, you'll find that your process will be much smoother and effective in achieving your desires.


-- Dr. Matt

Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. Dr. Matt has also immersed himself in Huna, the ancient practices of the Hawaiian islands of forgiveness and meditation for mental health and well-being, and he carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna. In his most recent book, Find Your Purpose, Master Your Path, Dr. Matt melds the ancient wisdom of Huna with modern psychology to assist us in leading conscious, purpose-driven lives. He contributes regularly to The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. For more information and to receive his NLP Fast-Track Video eCourse for free, visit

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