Have you ever wished you could change yourself so that you didn’t think the thoughts you were thinking? Have you ever wanted not to feel sad or depressed or angry or hurt? Do you ever regret some action you took and wished you had thought before you did that?
The Thinking Model
Let’s think about what I call the Thinking Model. It’s the process of how our thoughts, feelings, and actions interact with and impact each other. Let’s examine what happens when we think a thought, when we feel a feeling, and when we carry out some action.
Some people assume that feelings just happen, that they just appear out of nowhere, that they just occur out of thin air, that we just wake up one day and feel sad, or frustrated, or happy, or excited. Some people think that sometimes the way we act happens because we just get a sudden urge to do something. But that’s not how it works in our thinking, feeling, and acting processes.
Here’s what happens in that process. An event takes place. A thought occurs. A feeling is generated. An action or behavior or reaction is chosen. The thought and the feeling occur almost instantaneously, with the feeling following the thought very quickly. Our thoughts generate our feelings, and our feelings generate our actions and behaviors.
The opposite is also true. The actions we take come from the feelings we feel, and the feelings we feel come from the thoughts we think. The thoughts we think are generated from something that happens, some event.
You might be saying to yourself something like, okay, that’s nice information, but how does that work in my life. Let’s say I happen to feel sad and down one day. That feeling is caused by some thought I am thinking. Some of those thoughts might be that I am inadequate, I’m a failure, or I just don’t have what it takes to succeed, and I’ll never get it. Those thoughts are generating those feelings. Then, what kind of action do I take? I probably will find myself curled up in the corner of the couch and unable to act.
Or, let’s say you have a new job at work. It’s something you’ve not done before and it is something that you’re not trained for. You begin to realize you’re feeling sad and down and dreading the day. That feeling is caused by some thought you are thinking. Some of those thoughts might be, again, that you will never be able to do this new job the right way, that you’ll never be able to do it well enough to please the boss, or that you just wish you could just do what you know how to do. So what kind of actions follow those thoughts and feelings? You will probably not do particularly well at the new task that was assigned to you and hate every minute while you’re trying to do it.
A New Process
Now, let’s say you realize this sounds familiar and these kinds of things happen to you and you want to change. Here’s how. You intentionally engage yourself in a new thinking process. When an event takes place and a thought occurs and a feeling is generated, now is the moment to change the thought so that a new feeling is generated and a different action or behavior is chosen. You stop to think about what you are thinking and adjust the thought to the truth, that you are not a failure, that you are successful, and that you have performed well at work. When you change your thought, you will generate a new and different feeling, one of a sense of confidence and assurance. Then your performance in the new action you take will be much different and much better.
You might be thinking to yourself that this sounds easier than it really is. You could be correct. Why? Because this process of changing your thoughts takes practice. So, if you’re aware that this takes practice, the thing to do is to start practicing today and see how changing your thoughts can impact your today and beyond.
As transformational leaders, we know that if you change your thought, you change your feeling, and you change your action. Then we get a new outcome. Our thoughts today determine our behavior tomorrow. We change our future by changing our thoughts.
Ford Taylor is a leadership strategist, keynote speaker, and the author of Relactional Leadership. As the Founder of Transformational Leadership, he is known as a man who can solve complex business issues, with straightforward practical solutions, while maintaining his focus on people.