Funny things happen when I snap my fingers. On a stage in Syracuse, a grown man fell instantly and deeply into a state of total relaxation and collapsed onto the floor. At a training event in Philadelphia, a woman became convinced she was communicating with extraterrestrials and started shouting in beeps and whistles. During a conference in Cleveland, an executive forgot his own name.
Each of these occurrences was a result of the power of hypnosis. In my motivational speeches, I like to show audiences what's possible when they tap into their subconscious minds. The results are as dramatic as they are hilarious. More importantly, they hint at possibilities most adults don't often stop to consider.
Inevitably, there are a lot of questions afterward. Some of the most common include, "Is there a way you could hypnotize me to stay focused during a long day at work when I’d rather be somewhere else?" and, "Could you help me feel more alert when I’m tired and distracted?" The short answer is that I can’t do that without being in the room, but there are still a few things you can do all by yourself to stay focused and work toward the goals that really matter to you most. Here's how.
Audience members who watch me perform hypnosis onstage tend to assume something amazing or almost mystical is happening. It's not. I’m actually just taking advantage of a trance state humans fall into quite easily and naturally every day.
You can approximate that mental state with a simple exercise you can do on your own, and it doesn't require self-hypnosis. Start by taking a deep breath, placing your hands flat on a chair or desk, and concentrating tightly on an image. That image can be anything, but it's probably most useful to you if you pick something that represents a goal you have—maybe it's a finished report, a completed sale, or a successful presentation.
Whatever a breakthrough would look like for you, hold on to it so completely in your imagination that you actually feel like you’re experiencing it. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells that might be around you. Think of the emotions you would be feeling. Concentrate on inhabiting this imagined experience—and stay in this state for awhile. It will force your mind to start making subconscious associations, helping you to move from where you are in your day to the point you need to reach in the future.
Note that at this point you may not actually feel "hypnotized." In fact, if you’re doing it correctly, you’ll simply feel relaxed yet focused. Believe it or not, that’s sufficient to change your subconscious patterns. You simply push your conscious thoughts to the side and leave room to create new connections in your mind.
A similar thing can happen when you’re meditating or practicing some other type of mindfulness exercise. The difference here is that we’re using this state, which is associated with slower brain wave patterns, to change thinking and behavior rather than simply to unwind. By breathing deeply, clearing your mind of extraneous thoughts, and zeroing in on your most emotionally charged goals, you can give yourself more mental firepower for achieving them.
Did you know that fewer than 10% of us ever reach our New Year’s resolutions? Or that sales performance and income in most industries follow a bell curve, with a few high achievers at the top and the majority trying to catch them?
It’s easy to dismiss their success as luck, talent, or circumstances, and that's surely part of it. But years of practice with hypnosis have shown me that it's possible to get ahead of the curve. We just need a mental game plan that alters the way we view ourselves first. The actual changes in behavior come second.
Our subconscious minds thrive on very exact suggestions. As a hypnotist, I once told a volunteer to "take a seat." When I heard the audience laughing, I turned back to discover my subject had lifted his chair off the ground. He wasn’t being intentionally funny; it was just that his inner mind took the instruction in the most literal way possible.
This matters to you because you have to give your deeper mind a very tight set of instructions to follow. As you visualize yourself reaching a goal, make sure you know exactly what that goal is. Don’t just imagine a finished report—picture a five-page document that’s perfectly formatted and proofread. Instead of picturing yourself with a new client, think about what it would be like to sign the final papers and shake hands at the end.
This can take practice, but honing your imagination this way can come in handy. Failing to, on the other hand, can undercut your efforts; if you leave your subconscious mind too much wiggle room, it might respond in a way you don’t expect. But don't underestimate its potential. Your subconscious is ready to do some serious work if you’ll only point it in the right direction.
Jack Hirsh is a motivational hypnotist, speaker, and the author of Planting the Seeds of Change: Growing Health, Wealth, and Happiness From the Inside Out.