I’m Heather Anderson, and this is Episode 12: Change Starts With Your Thoughts.
Hello friends! I am so excited that you tuned in today; this is going to be a great episode. We are going to talk about how changing your thinking can change your life.
But first, I wanted to let you know that I love the feedback I am getting from you, thank you. When a mom said she listened to the What’s Your Parenting Style episode and she said she really wanted to start implementing some of the things I’ve been teaching so that she could feel like her kids weren’t always walking all over her, but she just didn’t know where to begin. So I wanted to remind you all: Just schedule a 30-minute session with me. I will help you out. That’s what I’m here for. So take advantage of it. I’ll also talk to you about your options to keep working with me if you should choose. Not only do I offer one-on-one coaching, but I’m going to be opening up a group coaching option here soon which is going to be really great. I’m so excited about it. It’s going to be awesome.
Alright so today we are going to talk about change starts in your thoughts. It’s my favorite stuff to talk about. It’s so powerful… how if you change your thinking you can change everything. I’m serious. Okay just stay with me till the end and you’ll see how the things I want to teach you today can help you so much.
But first we need to have some awareness of our brains. Our brains are amazing. It’s true. That soft squishy blob between your ears is pretty amazing. It is constantly working to keep us alive. It is adaptable; it changes constantly; it integrates all of its structures to compete and cooperate; and it is so sophisticated–so highly complex. Our brains perform so many different functions, but it’s most important job is to make sure that we don’t die. So it’s always on the lookout for anything negative that it needs to protect us from. Not only danger as we think of it, but that also means anything that might hurt us, or embarrass us, humiliate us, or make us feel uncomfortable feelings even.
This is definitely useful, but it can also cause a lot of problems if we aren’t paying attention to our brain and if we don’t try to rein it in. Because our brains are wired this way, we are naturally prone to negative thinking. We need to be able to learn how to essentially supervise our brain. The feelings that we feel aren’t just randomly showing up without our having any control over it, although it feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it? We might think:
“I just woke up in a bad mood.”
“I’m so frustrated with my kids today.”
“I am completely overwhelmed with everything I have to do.”
But it’s actually your thoughts–the things you are thinking–that are determining how you feel.
You actually have all the power to decide what you want to focus on and how you want to direct your brain. ou can direct your brain to focus on more of what it likes and what is good than on all the negative thoughts that it is naturally prone to thinking and you will feel happier if you want to.
There is a woman named Brooke Castillo, who has been in the life coaching business for quite a long time and she took a lot of the positive thinking ideas that were out there, and there are a ton of self-help books written, like The Power of Positive Thinking and Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, and she took all of that and saved us all a lot of time so we don’t have to go read all the self-help books. And she came up with a model that is realistic and usable, and she claims that this model can solve any problem and I actually agree with that idea because 90% of what happens to us in our life is actually happening between our ears. It’s what we’re thinking.
I’m not saying that this model can take away all of the bad and unfortunate things that are happening in our lives, but what I’m going to teach you today will help you know that you have the power to show up differently. And when you’re ready to get different results, even though there is a ton happening to you that’s out of your control, when you’re ready to get different results in your life you really do have the power to change things for yourself.
This model can just help you cope with life better. And when you’re thinking a thought and feeling a feeling that you don’t like to feel and that is not serving you well, you have the power to change it. It really does help in the coping of this crazy thing we call life. And that is what makes this model–this tool I’m going to teach you–so amazing. So instead of calling it “how to solve any problem,” I’m going to call it “change starts with your thoughts.” So, thank you to Brooke Castillo for bringing this all into a format that makes sense.
Alright this is a five-part model and if you have a piece of paper handy I want you to write down on the side of it, vertically: C-T-F-A-R. It’s called the CTFAR model. This premise of this model is that all of our pain and suffering, which we think is caused by our circumstances (like other people or the things were going through and the things that happened to us in life), is really not caused by those things, but it is caused by our thinking. Our thinking is the reason we feel negative emotion.
So the C stands for Circumstances. This is something that you have no control over. It is factual, which means it can be proven in a court of law. Basically, everyone would agree with it. So it’s not an opinion or an interpretation, it’s always neutral. It’s one sentence with no feelings attached, like “My child pee-d on the floor,” or “my son got an F in math,” or a lady at the grocery store just asked you if you were pregnant when you’re not.
And the interesting thing is, this also includes our past. It’s important you know that. This has no control over us; the past has no control over us. Even the past of something you said yesterday–it doesn’t even have any power over us until we have a thought about it. Byron Katie once said, “You can argue with the past, but you will lose 100% of the time.” So the past is a circumstance. For example, what you said to your 15-year-old last night is a circumstance; your third grader lying to you about already having their homework done is a circumstance; what your husband said to you when he got home from work yesterday is a circumstance. These are neutral. They are neutral until we have a thought about them.
So that brings me to the T line. T is for “thoughts.” It’s your thinking. These are the sentences that go through our mind. We have about 60,000 sentences go through our mind a day. These thoughts are the meaning that you are giving to your circumstances, what you are making that circumstance mean to you.
We all have different thoughts so we make things mean different things, which makes us all unique, which is so great. Many of our thoughts are helpful, but some of our thoughts we have are harmful and cause us unnecessary pain and suffering. If these sentences in our mind have any subjective or descriptive words attached to them, we need to understand that those are thoughts not facts, not circumstances. We have to understand the difference between circumstances and thoughts; that’s one of the key components of making this model work for you. If you just say, “this is what happened to me yesterday,” that is a circumstance; but if you say, “the most wonderful thing happened to me yesterday,” that is a thought you’re having about that circumstance.
So when you choose to have a thought about something, that’s when you’re going to determine how you feel. And that’s the next line… F is for feelings. These are the vibrations that go through our body and that we feel in different places of our body. Maybe our chest is tight; or we feel like we just had a punch in the gut; or our temperature starts to rise; or we feel our face flush.
These feelings are caused by our thoughts. All of our feelings come from our thinking. We tend to think that our feelings are coming from our circumstances, but they’re not. For example, my son broke his leg so now I’m feeling worried. It’s actually not the fact that he broke his leg that is making me feel worried, it’s the thinking about him breaking his leg that is causing me to feel worry. It’s what I’m making it mean. Maybe I’m making it mean that he’s going to have trouble with that leg for the rest of his life and it’s going to maybe be a little bit weaker than the other leg, or maybe I’m making it mean that “oh goodness, I have so much to do and now I have to run him to all these doctors’ appointments.” And it’s thoughts like that are causing me to be worried, and that’s okay. The awareness is what we need to have here. And when you’re figuring how you feel, try to just use one word: happy, sad, mad, anxious, loving, caring. Let’s keep that feelings descriptor to one word.
And please know I’m not trying to say feelings are bad. In fact, having feelings and really understanding our feelings is so good. We spend so much time running and hiding from emotion; and the truth is, it’s sometimes pretty painful, yes, but it’s not going to kill us. So we need to let our brains know that, “I’ve got this, I’m all right,” and then let ourselves feel those feelings. Let ourselves feel those vibrations that are going through our bodies and try to identify where we are feeling those feelings. Let them cycle through our body and not be afraid of it, but know that it’s coming from our thoughts.
Your feelings will drive certain actions. So that’s the next line is Actions. All of our action, or inaction, or reaction comes from our feelings. Think about it: what might you do when you’re feeling caring? Or what might you do when you’re feeling angry? Those actions are going to be very different based on what you are feeling. And what’s interesting is some people think they can just push down their anger or push down their resentment and hide that feeling and therefore have no negative action that goes with the feeling that they’re pushing down. But I promise you, it shows through in your tone, in your body language, in your energy. Your spouse might be noticing it when he’s asking you if you’re okay, and you’re just trying to power through and not pay any attention to that feeling, thinking it won’t affect your actions. But it always does. We are so much more effective when we are coming from positive thoughts and emotion and empowerment.
I’m not saying that you need to always be happy. No. I’m saying that if you’re feeling frustrated or resentful maybe of your spouse… first do some of this thought work behind it and create a model for yourself to really figure it out; that’s definitely needed. And then you are coming from a place of empowerment, not victimized. And you are able to productively share with him the things that need to get resolved.
Okay, so your actions will always determine your results. That’s the R line. What you do will create what the results will be.
So now that you have all the components to the model, I want to give you an example of this model in action in my own life. My husband, Clark (I call him Superman), goes out of town with one of his brothers about once a year, and this particular brother doesn’t like when Clark is on his phone. So Clark wants to be respectful of his brother and doesn’t text me a whole lot when he’s with this brother. So they were going to Mexico, and Clark is always really good about checking in with me when he goes out of town. Anyway, he had been traveling all day and it’s after midnight and I hadn’t heard from him. Some things had happened that day that I really wanted to talk to him about really quick and I just was kind of struggling myself. (It didn’t help that it was after midnight, nothing ever goes well in my brain after midnight), but I was just really looking forward to hearing from him and I just hadn’t.
So that’s the circumstance: that he hadn’t called me yet or texted me and let me know that he was there and safe. So my thoughts, especially after midnight, were “I can’t believe that he wouldn’t text me! He always texts me. Wow, he really does care way more about his brother than he cares about me. And I really need to talk to him, and I can’t even believe that he’s not even going to give me two seconds of his time to just reach out and let me know he’s thinking about me.” And those thoughts that I had about him not reaching out made me feel very hurt and upset. Oh! I’m only allowed to choose one feeling, so we’re going to go with hurt. So that hurt feeling drove me to my action which was I started writing him a not really nice text about how I can’t believe he wouldn’t even reach out and he’s acting like he cares more about his brother than he cares about me and whatever else I was putting in this text with my past-midnight-brain. And I caught myself mid-text. So instead of going straight through with the action into the result–that I’m sure was going to make him feel bad and him not have a really great vacation which he deserved–I stopped right there and said, “Okay I need to do a model. This is ridiculous. All I want to do, really, is go to sleep, so I need to get my feelings to a place of being neutral, because right now I’m so upset I’ve got all these vibrations going through my body; my heart is beating fast, I have like a pit in my stomach, and whatever else anger does to me, (this was a while ago I can’t remember), but I was really feeling it and my brain was going crazy, and I just was unable to sleep. And sleep was the ultimate goal for me right then. So I took out a piece of paper and I worked through the model. I put the circumstance; I put my thoughts; I put my feeling; and I said, “Okay Heather, what is a different thought you could have about all of this so that you can just get to a feeling of neutral, so you can just go to sleep?” And I thought, “You know, I didn’t know his plane schedule really, his travel schedule, and I think he did say something about having a redeye flight or something. He very well could still be in an airplane right now.” And then I also thought, “He could be at the hotel and maybe the Wi-Fi isn’t working for them yet.” And all of a sudden, I really just felt all of the vibrations that were keeping me awake go out of my body and I felt totally calm. I felt my brain calming down and I really came to a place of neutral. But it’s funny before that thought, I thought, “Oh my goodness, what if he’s not safe?” And then that brought on all of these other crazy emotions too, so I didn’t like that either, so I finally landed on this thought and this is the thought that brought me the most peace. And I was able to go to sleep. So the action was actually that I ended up writing him a little text saying, “I’m going to go to bed now I hope you’re okay. Let me know when you land. I love you.” And then I was able to go to sleep, was the result. And actually he was stuck in the air, so I’m glad I didn’t go with my first thoughts. And he did let me know when he landed and reached out to me the next morning and talked to me for a few minutes.
And so with that little story, I just wanted you to know that this model really can work for you. It was my thoughts that were causing me so much unnecessary suffering. If you sit down and really work through your thoughts and your feelings about things, it is truly so helpful.
Once you discover what you’re thinking is, you’re going to want to fix everything right away, probably, but the only thing you really have direct control over is the thought line. So put your focus and attention on that thought line.
And when you’re testing out new thoughts, make sure they’re thoughts that you really can believe. Your brain is smart, so this won’t work if you’re stretching too far and trying to make your brain believe something it really just can’t.
And don’t do all of this too quickly. First, just be aware. Awareness is the main thing that we’re after here. Notice what things trigger that thought that might keep coming into your mind, and notice when it starts to show up. You can try to figure out why you’re choosing that thought (because you are choosing it), and at first this might feel a little overwhelming, so just take it slow. Just be curious about yourself, and be very very compassionate as you get to know your brain better.
And the point of this isn’t to eliminate all your problems; the point is to recognize that you’re the one responsible for creating your problems. I know that sounds harsh, but when you understand this you get your power back. Then you can decide how you want to solve your problems.
So I challenge you to try this out: write circumstances, thoughts, feelings, actions, and results down the side of your paper and see what you can identify to start being aware of your thoughts and how they might be impacting your life. Pay attention to your brain.
This is something you can totally do on your own, but if you would like some help with it I would love to talk to you about it. Just sign up for a session and we can go through it together.
Just remember our thinking causes our feelings which drives our actions and gives us our results. So if we change our thoughts we start to transform our life.