Core Thought-Action Model

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It has been said by some that an average adult in the U.S. makes over 10,000 decisions a day. I’ve even heard estimates as high as 35,000 decisions. Research has actually shown that adults will make just over 226 decisions a day about food alone.1 The exact number of total decisions is not clear, but it’s safe to say that we make a lot of decisions everyday (although if you are aware of research that makes it more clear, please leave a comment).

I’m fascinated by this topic because it astounds me. There is so much going on behind the curtain of our mind that it’s hard to keep up with. Having well-defined that you actively use is one way to help you make better subconscious decisions, but about the conscious ones?

More than how my food decisions are driven by more core values, I am now consumed with choice of thought.  Here are two important concepts I have learned while examining my own thoughts:

  1. Since I cannot control the external world around me, including any person within it, my thoughts are, indeed, the only thing I can control.
  2. There is a “secret” pattern flow to be aware of when changing behavior, achieving success, and being fulfilled.

Core Thought –> Core Emotion –> Core Action

While our thoughts drive our emotions, it is our emotions that drive our actions. The key is to understand and examine our core thought at any given time so that it becomes a choice rather than an “external fact.”  By being aware, or conscious, of the core thought inherently makes you able to choose whether to accept that thought or choose another one that is more beneficial to you.

This formula is applicable in so many scenarios.  Are you dealing with a challenge that you can’t seem to figure out?  Are you dealing with someone at work that is pushing your buttons?  Do you want to start a business (or write a book, or find a life partner, or change careers, or lose weight, or…)?

When reflecting on your challenge, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  1. What is the underlying thought that keeps replaying in my mind, over and over again when I think about this challenge?
  2. When I have this thought, what feelings am I experiencing?
  3. When I feel this way, what actions do I typically take?

Let’s use the example of changing careers.  It’s not uncommon for someone to be unhappy in their job and want to find a new path.  Often times I will hear something like, “I am so unsatisfied and want to make a change.  But I have bills to pay at home and can’t risk any missed income or a lower salary.  Plus I’ve been in this job for so long that I don’t think I have enough experience to do this other thing I want to do.”

What is the core thought that they are replaying in their mind?

Core Thought(s):  “I don’t have what it takes to make this change happen.  I’m not valuable enough to another company to pay me what I want, and can’t imagine finding a good opportunity.”

Now, if you had this core thought, how would you be feeling?  Here’s how I would feel:

Core Emotion(s):  Helpless, frustrated, dejected.

If you were feeling this way right now, what are some typical ways you might behave?  Here’s what I would do:

Core Action(s):  Take no action, accept my current state of dissatisfaction, complain about my situation.

Now, here’s the power of this formula.  Let’s do a “thought pattern interrupt.”  If you could, what thought would you like to have when thinking about this challenge?  Here’s how I would like to think:

Core Thought(s):  I deliver value to my employer and clients.  I am competent and hardworking.  I deserve to find a career that is both satisfying and rewarding to me, and valuable to my employer.

If you had this core thought, how would you be feeling?  Here’s how I would feel:

Core Emotion(s):  Empowered, hopeful, confident.

If you were feeling this way right now, what are some typical ways you might behave?  Here’s what I would do:

Core Action(s):  Analyze my situation, prepare my personal situation for change, reach out to others for help and connections, do some research, and confidently display my value to others.

By catching the process in the beginning at the core thought, you can completely interrupt the negative cycle and choose new ways to think, feel, and act.

This is the basis for change, for growth, and for fulfillment.  Examine your thoughts…you may be surprised at what you find.

—————-

1Wansink, Brian and Jeffrey Sobal (2007), “Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook,” Environment and Behavior 39:1, 106-123.

Thought Monitoring

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It is often said in business that what gets measured gets done, and if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.

I have found the same to be true personally.  Setting a goal for myself requires some baseline, some way to measure progress, and some target to strive for.  For example, a health related goal demands this information.  Let’s say you have a simple goal of losing 5 lbs.  You’ll first need to know what you currently weigh, you’ll want to experiment with new ways of eating or exercising, and then you’ll want to continue to weigh yourself until the 5 lbs is lost.

For outwardly facing, tangible, materialistic goals, this approach seems fairly well accepted.  However, for the inner journey of self-discovery and growth, many people abandon this methodology and leave their development to chance.  In my experience, inner growth requires the same level of measuring, testing, and measuring again.

Why is this very simple and time-tested approach so important?  I must say this 3 times/week to clients, family, and friends:  with awareness comes choice.

When you have the ability to measure where you currently are, you now have information that gives you the opportunity to make a choice.  What’s the choice?  It’s simple:  stay the same, or change.

Going back to my weight goal, let’s think about it more broadly.  Many people want a consistent goal, not just a situational goal.  Every once in a while, you may want to strive for a new level (lose 5 lbs), but I think most of us just want to maintain our ideal weight consistently (I want to be under 185 lbs all the time).  This kind of goal requires frequent monitoring so that you have the information necessary to make adjustments if needed.  And once you have information that indicates you have exceeded that weight, you now have a choice to make:  do nothing or do something.

As I also say a lot, a bell cannot be un-rung.  What has been heard cannot be unheard.  What has been seen cannot be unseen.  You are forced to make a decision.  Taking no action is definitely a decision, by the way.

When we think about the inner goals we have such as to be happier, to have more balanced, or to have more meaning in our lives, it requires the same level of measuring as any outer goal would.

This brings me to thought monitoring.  While it always amazes me when I speak with clients (or friends) that have no awareness around their thought stream (all of the daily chatter going on in your mind), I have to remind myself that it took me 33 years to even open my eyes to the concept, and yet another 2 years of deliberate focus to get to a place of barely scratching the surface of understanding.

Try this little exercise in what is known as mindfulness meditation or mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR).  Find a quiet, dimly lit, comfortable place to sit.  Sit upright, feet on the floor, hands in your lap and take 5 deep breaths, slowly, and hold the inhale for 3 seconds each time.  Take your time with this, close your eyes and then begin breathing normally.  Try to focus only on your inhale and exhale, noticing the nuance of how you breathe.  Stay with your breath for as long as possible.  When a random, stray, or otherwise invited thought enters your mind, stop. 

How long did you last?  If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t make it past 10 seconds.  Congratulations, you’re normal!

But what this tells us is that these thoughts are flashing through our mind, without awareness or intention, all day, every day, 24-7.  If we are not directing those thoughts, then we are at the whim of whatever subconscious messages our mind is fabricating. 

Why not just trust our mind and our subconscious thinking?  Well, unfortunately that part of our mind is not the logical, educated philosopher that we might be hoping for.  Instead it is akin to a 4-year old on Halloween all hopped up on sugar.  If left unchecked, our mind will run rampant and oftentimes unintentionally sabotage our dreams.  Other experts in the fields of psychology and meditation have called this our “monkey mind,” and one author went so far as to say that our mind is like a “mad, drunk, jumping monkey that has just been bit by a scorpion.”

Hopefully that visual paints a picture of the severity of the issue.  But what can you do about it?

Digital ticker-tape banner in Times Square

Digital ticker-tape banner in Times Square

Try this similar MBSR technique.  Same instructions as before but instead of focusing on the breath, I want you to focus on the thoughts running through you mind.  I do not want you to judge them, debate them, or otherwise analyze them.  I simple want you to recognize and acknowledge them.  Because your thoughts will come fast and furious at first, think of it like watching that digital ticker-tape display banner that scrolls rapidly in Times Square  (or tune into C-NBC and take a look at the bottom of the TV screen).  Say the thoughts out loud (or internally to yourself) as they come and the release them.  In fact, you’ll have to release them because the next one will be coming.  That’s the point.  Do this for as long as feels comfortable, but remember to not dwell on a thought and go down a rabbit hole with that thought.  If you find yourself entertaining a particular thought, just acknowledge that as another thought and move on.

After some patience and some practice, you may begin to notice your thoughts slowing down.  They won’t come as rapidly.  You may even get to a place where you can actually be singularly present with your breath for much more than 10 seconds. 

What’s the next step?  Replacing your unintentional thought stream with intentional thoughts that allow you to choose your own path.  This is an empowering and inspirational place to operate from.  Stay tuned for more…

 

Choice of Thought

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-by Matt Leedham

It has been said by some that an average adult in the U.S. makes over 10,000 decisions a day. I’ve even heard estimates as high as 35,000 decisions. Research has actually shown that adults will make just over 226 decisions a day about food alone.The exact number of total decisions is not clear, but it’s safe to say that we make a lot of decisions everyday (although if you are aware of research that makes it more clear, please leave a comment).

I’m fascinated by this topic because it astounds me.There is so much going on behind the scenes that it’s hard to keep up with.One way to “own your own experience” is to be clear on your personal core values and trust that the decisions you make, including the subconscious ones, will be at the very least driven by your values.I wrote about this here (amazingly, almost a year ago).

More than how my food decisions are driven by more core values, I am now consumed with choice of thought.This has become my primary focus lately as I have learned two things this past year:

  1. Since I cannot control the external world around me, including any person within it, my thoughts are, indeed, the only thing I can control.
  2. There is a “secret” formula to changing behavior, achieving success, and being fulfilled.

“Secrets?” you may ask.Don’t you just LOVE secrets?!

 

As I work with clients, this formula is always a discussion topic in the beginning, and is often the focal point of our work.

 

The point is that while our thoughts drive our emotions, it is our emotions that drive our actions.The key for all of us is to understand and examine our core thought at any given time so that it becomes a choice rather than an “external fact.”By being aware, or conscious, of the core thought inherently makes you able to choose whether to accept that thought or choose another one that is more beneficial to you.

This formula is applicable is so many scenarios.Are you dealing with a challenge that you can’t seem to figure out?Are you dealing with someone at work that is pushing your buttons?Do you want to start a business (or write a book, or find a life partner, or change careers, or lose weight, or…)?

When reflecting on your challenge, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  1. What is the thought that keeps replaying in my mind, over and over again?
  2. When I have this thought, what feelings am I experiencing?
  3. When I feel this way, what actions to I typically take?

Let’s use the example of changing careers.It’s not uncommon for someone to be unhappy in their job and want to find a new path.Often times I will hear something like, “I am so unsatisfied and want to make a change.But I have bills to pay at home and can’t risk any missed income or a lower salary.Plus I’ve been in this job for so long that I don’t think I have enough experience to do this other thing I want to do.”

What is the core thought that they are replaying in their mind?

Core Thought(s):“I don’t have what it takes to make this change happen.I’m not good enough to figure this out, so I’m not going to try.”

Now, if you had this core thought, how would you be feeling?Here’s how I would feel:

Core Emotion(s):Helpless, frustrated, dejected.

Now, if you were feeling this way right now, what are some typical ways you might behave?Here’s what I would do:

Core Action(s):Take no action, accept my current state of dissatisfaction, complain about my situation.

Now, here’s the power of this formula.Let’s do a “thought pattern interrupt.”If you could, what thought would you like to have when thinking about this challenge?Here’s how I would like to think:

Core Thought(s):I deliver value to my employer and clients.I am competent and hardworking.I deserve to find a career that is both satisfying and rewarding to me, and valuable to my employer.

Now, if you had this core thought, how would you be feeling?Here’s how I would feel:

Core Emotion(s):Empowered, hopeful, confident.

Now, if you were feeling this way right now, what are some typical ways you might behave?Here’s what I would do:

Core Action(s):Analyze my situation, prepare my personal situation for change, reach out to others for help and connections, do some research, and confidently display my value to others.

You see, by catching the process in the beginning at the core thought, you can completely interrupt the negative cycle and choose new ways to think, feel, and act.

This is the basis for change, for growth, and for fulfillment.Examine your thoughts…you may be surprise at what you find.

—————-

1Wansink, Brian and Jeffrey Sobal (2007), “Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook,” Environment and Behavior 39:1, 106-123.