Secrets of Science: Understanding Your Mind

Written by Martin Lucas

This is the first in our series regarding scientific secrets. First of all, we will talk about Irrational Mathematics and how the brain works.

Let’s begin with you, an individual. We are all irrational thinkers. ’But I am not irrational!’, I hear you shout. Before you overthink that point, irrational thinking is not ‘irrational’ in the way Wikipedia suggests:

‘not logical or reasonable’

Being irrational in that context is when we are annoyed or upset and we become overly emotional about something that matters ohhhh so much to us, usually accompanied by an unintended loss of our grasp of the bigger picture. Our focus is irrational thinking, which is a completely different concept around how every human thinks. Let’s start by examining how the conscious mind works.

The Conscious Mind

We are all emotional creatures by nature and I am a huge fan of Emotional Intelligence (EQ, as I call it). There are some wonderful thought leaders on this subject like Travis Bradberry, coauthor of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind, also a best-seller. You will hear more about this as we go. Here is how I define EQ:

EQ is one of our core human intelligences. Part of the reason it was an under-taught and a misunderstood part of our lives is the inclusion of the word ‘emotion’, a term considered to have a sexist bias (and no matter what we think about today’s equal word, it still does). Emotion is mainly considered a female trait. What’s awesome is that emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly in demand in the world and as such, we are seeing more women rise to the top. This will continue to be magnified; it is much needed and as the thought leader Dan Pink points out in his book ‘A Whole New Mind’, we are going to see a huge rise in the need for EQ-led thinkers, and jobs will follow this trend too. Technology is the main causation for this change; we’ll cover that in more depth in Segment 2.

In brief, you can think of EQ as our emotions—how we feel and how we react to different scenarios. The basis of EQ goes much deeper into how we behave and act; it literally drives our behaviours; it is the subconscious part of our mind. Here is how it works. Our brains operate on three levels when it comes to the drivers for how we think, feel and act:

Level 1: The conscious mind

What you say, what you focus on, the tasks in front of you, our ability to not get run over every day, what we are aware of in the world.

We are conscious, we see, we hear, we do, we speak, we think, we are safe, we survive.

Most of the time we operate in this part of the mind; it’s only when something is presented to us which is really positive or negative that we switch on to ask the subconscious mind what to do.

Level 2: The subconscious mind

This is where your emotions and feelings sit. Your conscious mind takes in the information and for most of the day operates without shouting for help from the subconscious. The subconscious is where your feelings live. You are preprogrammed by now; as an adult, your brain knows how you feel about certain things - that is your subconscious.

We feel, we like, we dislike, we strongly prefer this, we strongly dislike this, we know what we want and of course we really know what we do not want.

There are of course a strong range of emotions and this is where we have a link to the unconscious mind - the boss of the show.

Level 3 - The unconscious mind

The brain is an extremely powerful computer, one we are really just beginning to understand as Neuroscience prises open the door. What we do know is that the unconscious mind is what stops us from falling over or never being able to leave the house as we can’t eat or dress ourselves. This is where our habits sit. I love to use the analogy of tying your shoes - when was the last time you had to think about it? When you were little you learnt left over right over middle and repeat; it took you a few goes and then bingo, you had it nailed! Once a habit is formed, you stop consciously thinking about it and it disappears as a routine into the unconscious mind. Let’s pause on that point; what happens today if you mess up tying your shoes?

You send a feeling to your subconscious mind; it judges this feeling and needs help.

Your subconscious mind reaches into the unconscious mind and shouts, ‘Yo, need help, forgotten how to tie a lace!’

The unconscious mind searches for the habit of tying laces and engages and sends the solution (aka the thought aka the brain pattern) and, voila!, your shoes are tied.

You feel a little silly and, if like me, you would then smile and shake your head and go about your day. 99% of this occurs quicker than the blink of an eye. The other 1% is simply when it’s a more emotive situation like anger or frustration towards or against us. Our feelings judge what we are told to judge; most of the time we are level-headed and feel fine; it’s only when something troubles us that we have to judge it. That is what your subconscious mind does; it will either tell you how to act or - in the shoes case - ask for the knowledge that already exists in your unconscious mind that you don’t have to bother with very often as you know it automatically - the day-to-day stuff like dressing, eating, walking and speaking. Your mind is irrational because that is how we all think: with emotions and feelings as the individuals we are. It’s not a bad thing or a good thing; it’s just how humans are as a species. If you can understand how the mind works, you know that people think in feelings and imagination. Crack that and you can begin to think about how treating people like the unique person they are will help you win more. That is Irrational Mathematics; it’s personalised experiences which adapt for each person you come in contact with - platforms - ecommerce - sales - marketing - social media - emails - and of course human to human conversation!

I will be writing lots about irrational mathematics as a subject matter. It represents a huge opportunity in the world simply because we don't account for each person being different in our platforms, in our sales, in our marketing, in our service, in our engagement. It is a fantastically fun discovery which I will share with you piece by piece. Subscribe to keep up to date with the secrets of science :).