Want to know how to change your life?
I want to share with you a simple tool that can change your life! Read on to learn how the Think-Feel-Act cycle can put on you the path to a more intentional and joyful life!
I want to tell you about a powerful tool to raise your self-awareness, help you work towards your goals, and improve the relationships in your life. That tool is called the Think-Feel-Act cycle. The premise of this tool is that when we have a thought, that thought triggers an emotion (a feeling in our body) which leads us to act. The thing is, most of us don’t notice the “think” part of this cycle and we only become aware when we notice the feeling, which seems to come on its own-without being invited by a thought.
Let’s break it down a little here and then look at some ways we can use this cycle to improve our lives! This cycle is automatic and is literally happening all day for all of us without us noticing. Here is a silly example: we see someone eating ice cream on a hot day, we have the thought: “that looks good”, which leads to the feeling: desire (I want an ice cream), which leads to the action: I go get an ice cream. That all happens so fast in our brains without us even noticing the process. We are all constantly making judgements (thoughts) about what we see around us. These thoughts create and influence our emotions (how we feel), which then motivates us to do something (act). Our actions then create our results or outcomes, which ultimately shape our lives. We are doing this all without knowing it is happening, and thus letting our thoughts control the show (and by show, what I really mean is our lives!).
So here’s the thing, all of those thoughts we are having, that are ultimately controlling the outcome of our lives, are just thoughts, not necessarily truths. I can prove this to you through this example: My sister and I both went to bed at 10:00 last night. I usually go to bed at 9:00 so my thought was: it’s late. My sister usually goes to bed at 11:00 so her thought was: it’s early. They are two different ways of thinking about the same thing (neither one more “right” than the other), just as there are a multitude of ways of thinking about any given circumstance. Therefore, the thought we have in response to something, is just one possible way we could think about that particular situation. Maybe now you are starting to see how we can change our lives, by becoming more aware of our thoughts.
Let’s now look at how we can use this cycle to make real changes in our life.
The first way you can use this cycle to improve your life, is in your reactions to circumstances. Here is an example: I have been watching Netflix with my husband and realize it is much later than I wanted to go to sleep. My first thought is “this is bad because now I’m going to be tired tomorrow”. That thought leads to the feeling of anxiety and panic about not sleeping and being tired tomorrow, which then leads to the action of me freaking out to my husband about my lack of sleep, which ultimately leads to the outcome of it being more difficult for me to fall asleep (and my husband being grumpy with me for freaking out). However, utilizing the Think-Feel-Act cycle, I can bring my awareness back to that initial thought, and choose one that feels better, and serves me better. In this case I can choose to think, “I really enjoyed the extra time I spent with my husband, because we haven’t seen each other much lately”. That thought leads to a feeling of love and gratitude, which leads to the action of lovingly saying goodnight to my husband and peacefully going to sleep. Can you see how that simple awareness of my thoughts, had the effect of dramatically changing that moment in my life. And the really cool thing is that the more often we are able to notice we are in the cycle and choose a better feeling thought, we start to rewire our brain to make it a habit to do so!
Another way you can use this cycle, is to help you achieve a particular goal or outcome. This is especially helpful if you have been trying to achieve something for a while and aren’t making the progress you want. Start by noticing the feelings you have around achieving your goal. For example if I want to start waking up at 6:00 to work out in the morning, but I haven’t been able to do it consistently, I start by noticing the thoughts I’m having around getting up at 6:00- “Ugh, I hate getting up early” and “I wish I didn’t have to get up early”. Next, I can notice how these thoughts make me feel- resentful, unhappy, and unmotivated. As I think about those feelings and what action I take from the place of feeling that way, I can clearly see that my thoughts are setting me up for failure! Of course I haven’t been able to get up early, because I feel awful about doing it! However, I can use the Think-Feel-Act cycle and set myself up for success by just changing my thoughts around getting up early. I reach for a thought that feels better, but still believable, such as: “I’m so proud of myself for getting up early to work out”. This thought now makes me feel good inside and excited to take care of myself, which is then way more likely to translate to me consistently taking the action to achieve my goal.
In what way will you use the Think-Feel-Act cycle to change your life?