And…Action! (Which is Driven by Feelings)

This is the 5th in a series introducing the concepts of the Model (see photo below) that I use when coaching clients. So far you’ve learned how to separate your circumstances from your thoughts about them. You’ve learned that circumstances are neutral, and that our thoughts create our feelings. Yesterday, learned how to process your feelings, which is important, because they are what drives our actions! Today, I’ll show you how.

We’re at an exciting place in this series, because it’s where all the pieces of the model I use for coaching (even the line we haven’t spent time on yet) all come together! 

Our feelings drive our actions (which might  be inaction or reaction).

Why is this important? Because if you want to “show up” differently in your life, you’re going to need to access the feeling that drove your behavior. Let me show you with a (rather embarrassing) personal example. Before learning these coaching tools, I often found myself in a frustrating cycle with my husband. It went like this: I’d get home from work and start chatting to him about my day. He’d say something like “uh-huh” (if anything!) and leave the room.

I would think “He’s mad. Our whole night’s going to be ruined.” Feeling anxious, I would ask him repeatedly “Are you mad at me?” And every time he’d say no, I’d insist, “I can tell you are. What did I do?” (I know! Annoying, right?) This would go on until I was angry with him, as well as with myself. (Who wants to act that needy?) Inevitably, the night would be ruined. I truly believed his behavior made me anxious. But we know that’s not how the model works. Circumstances don’t cause our feelings; our thoughts about the circumstance do!

Here’s what that looks like in a model:   Circumstance: My husband said “uh-huh” in response to me, and left the room. Thought: “He’s mad. Our night’s going to be ruined.” Feeling: Anxious Action:  Repeatedly ask if he’s mad and why, don’t believe his answer, accuse him of not being honest and open with me. Result: I cause an argument & tension, am angry with him and myself. (Notice the connection to the Thought line above…. I thought he’s mad and I ended up angry!)   My brain uses this result as proof of what it already believed to be true (my original thought) that he’s angry and the night would be ruined. Most likely, you already know this information on a cognitive level.    You’ve probably seen this play out for yourself many times, and may have heard the model referred to as a “self fulfilling prophecy” (meaning your thoughts and actions create the very thing you don’t want). Neuroscience states:  “what you focus on grows” and “what you think about,  you bring about”.  Science explains that “what fires together wires together”.  This is speaking specifically to what happens to the neurons in the brain when we continue to think the same thoughts (and therefore feel the same feelings, and behave the same way repeatedly).   Intentional Models The above model is what I call an “Unintentional Model”, which means it’s how an event played out due to lack of  awareness of my thoughts in the moment.  Now let’s look at an Intentional Model- how differently that evening could have turned out, had I known then what I know now. Circumstance: My husband said “uh-huh” in response to me, and left the room. Thought: “That’s not like him; something’s up.” Feeling: Curious Action:  Give him space.  When we’re together again ask if he heard me before and say “You seem distracted.  Is everything okay?”  Believe him and give space till he feels like talking.
Result: I provide a space that feels open to talking when/if he wants. I recognize that something’s off without making it mean something about ME or US. My brain uses this result as proof of what it already believed to be true (my original thought)   Application There’s actually countless layers to the model and how it can be applied to help you regulate your thoughts, feelings, and actions.  (And of course there’s a huge difference between reading about it and applying it!)  But I’d recommend starting here.  When you recognize that you’re having a strong emotional reaction to something, practice filling all the lines of the model.  

  1. Circumstance: Identify the circumstance in a neutral and factual way.
  2. Thought: Separate your thought from the circumstance.  (The circumstance happened. Ask yourself “So what?”)
  3. Feeling: Don’t rush this one!  Allow yourself to feel the physiological sensation in your body. Identify the feeling (one word) and get familiar with what it actually feels like. Be able to describe it.
  4. Action: Ask yourself, “How am I likely to “show up” or act if I take action while feeling this way?” (Are you happy with your answer?)
  5. Result: Ask yourself, “If keep thinking (X) and feeling (Y), and act (Z), what’s the likely result?

  Here’s a catch!  Try not to think of the “result” for anyone other than yourself.  In my example above, my husband’s response to my action is not in my control.  So when looking at the result I want, it needs to be about me (since that’s the only person I can control).    Remember, the point of this work is not to “be okay with everything” or to just “think positive thoughts”!  We’re learning the basics here, but I promise we’ll get there!

In the meantime, if you want help applying this to your own circumstance, or are wrestling with any of the concepts taught so far, I’d love to chat with you!

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