Where in your life are you not showing up like you want to? Have you tried changing behaviors or doing something differently, to make change or reach a goal, yet you don’t get the results you want? Or maybe you do, but they don’t last long? In this episode, we talk about why we DO anything in life, and why our approach to changing something by taking action is often unsuccessful. (Hint: there’s a better way!)
Good morning! Or afternoon. Or evening. Or… middle of the night. Whenever it is and wherever you are, if you’re driving or on a run or working or cleaning or up in the night with a baby, if you’re on a train, or a plane, I just want to say thanks for being here and listening and hanging out with me. This is episode 6 of Beyond Happy, and I’m Becky Hoschek.
If you’re new around here, I’m a life coach and I’m here to help you create a better life by teaching you tools to help you manage your thoughts and emotions. You may think, huh? What’s that mean. Or why does that matter? Well, my experience as a coach to others, and a self-coach to myself, has shown me the power of thought work. Think of it as caring for your mental and emotional health, just like you do your physical health when you… join a gym or… change the way you eat… or get more sleep, for example. It’s a bit different approach than a lot of coaches take, and it’s so powerful. As a coach, I never tell my clients what to do, but rather help you better understand yourself and how your thoughts are creating your life experience. I wholeheartedly believe that when you apply these tools, it will change your life. Some of my clients see huge shifts, big results, in just one session of working with me. It seems so crazy to say out loud, but it’s true. I love this work and am thrilled to share some of it with you here.
If you haven’t listened to the few first episodes on circumstances, thoughts and feelings, it might be helpful for you to hit pause right here, go back and listen to those, since they really set some foundations for everything that I teach you here. Then you can dive back in to this episode, episode 6.
So, taking action. This sounded a little formal to me, so another way to word this episode is, “Why We Do The Things We Do. Or Don’t.”
What we know is that there is a lot happening in our lives that we can’t control. These happenings are circumstances. From the weather to what someone else said or did, to anything that happened in the past and so much more, these are circumstances. Beyond our control. What we learned back in episode 2 is that these circumstances are NEUTRAL. This can be tough to comprehend at first, because really, most people believe that they are victims of circumstance – that it’s what happens TO us, what other people say or do to us, what happens outside of our control that determines what our life is like. But this isn’t true, right? We don’t believe that around here. We know that circumstances are factual events, and they’re neutral. They aren’t positive or negative, they just are. What we make circumstances MEAN has everything to do with our thoughts. We have thoughts about EVERYTHING. And these thoughts create our feelings. Every feeling we ever experience is tied to a very specific thought. And the good news is that our thoughts are always OPTIONAL. Knowing this is like being given a superpower. In fact, this is exactly how I’ve started explaining thought work to our kids. This is where we can really take our power back and change our life experiences.
So, when we talk about taking action in our lives, or what we do or don’t do, it’s KEY that we talk about feelings. Why? Our feelings always create any action we take, or don’t take. When we KNOW that our thoughts are creating our feelings, we see how our thoughts create the emotional states that will drive our actions at home, at work, and really in every part of our life.
Let’s talk about some real life examples to illustrate this idea, of our feelings creating action, or feelings causing us to do, or not do something.
Let’s say you are miserable at work. Work being defined as, however you’re spending the average day. That might be at a place of business somewhere, that might be working from home. Your work might be volunteering or taking care of your kids. Regardless of what your work is, let’s say you’re miserable; you’re depressed at work. It’s also important for me to add that this way you’re feeling? It’s unintentional. It’s just what happens when your brain is unsupervised… unmanaged and doing it’s thing to protect you and keep you comfortable. So, if you’re depressed at work, you will (again, unintentionally) create different results than you would if you felt… let’s say, curious at work. You’ll create different results than you would if you felt passionate at work. Or if you felt productive at work. Of if you simply felt bored at work. There are an infinite number of ways that this example could play out, because there are so many ways we could feel. The difference is what happens when you create a feeling on purpose. Intentionally. Now, this is something we could devote to an entire episode, and maybe at some point we will. But for now, I just want to acknowledge that it’s possible to create a feeling on purpose. We do it by choosing intentional thoughts.
I’m guessing you can see that you’re going to show up at work very differently based on how you feel. If you’re miserable and depressed at work, what might that look like in terms of how you show up? Are you unfocused? Are you just wanting to get through the day and not really caring about doing a good job? Are you hard on yourself? Judging yourself? Counting the minutes til you can be done? Maybe feeling guilty that you’re not showing up like you want to? Might you be resentful? Feeling self-pity? Bitterness? Jealous of the people spending their days in other, better ways?
What happens in a scenario like this is we are quick to think we need to change the circumstance in order to feel differently. Or feel better. We think in that moment that it’s the circumstance – the work, the job – that’s making us feel miserable and depressed. But we know better, right? Because we know the circumstance is neutral. Our job is a factual thing – not positive or negative – and it has no power over us or our feelings. But our THOUGHTS about our job? They absolutely do.
And this is where you get your power back. This is where the shifts can happen. When you realize you don’t have to change your circumstances to be able to change your actions, to show up differently in life. You just have to change your thoughts. You become very intentional. Because we know that in the same exact circumstance, a different thought will change everything. That new thought will create a different feeling, and you get to decide. You get to choose a thought that will serve you well, that will create a feeling that allows you to show up, to act, like you want to. And those actions then create your results.
Let’s take a look at how you might show up differently if you felt differently about your work. Remember, your circumstance is the same – same you, same work. But instead of feeling miserable and depressed, you feel… hmm, let’s not make it radically different like on-top-of-the-world excited, because that’s probably not going to be believable right now. But let’s say you feel… grateful. Imagine yourself feeling grateful at work instead of miserable and depressed. How are you going to show up differently when you’re feeling grateful at work? At your daily contribution? What would that look like?
Maybe you’re more upbeat and able to see the value in your work. Maybe it means you’re more focused or commited. More present. Maybe you care more about doing a better job. There are so many ways this could translate. But ALL of them are your results. And ALL of them are because of what you feel at work. When we know our feelings are created by our thoughts, we can make the jump to see that everything we’re thinking causes feelings, and then those feelings are determining how we show up in life. There’s a direct connection between your thoughts and what you do, or don’t do. How you show up.
Actions Lead to Results
The majority of our thoughts happen so quickly, we don’t even notice. But they are always causing feelings and actions in our lives. Our alarm goes off in the morning, and we have a thought that creates a feeling that causes us to take action – get out of bed. Or keep sleeping. We have thoughts and feelings about what we choose to eat, about what we do as a driver on the road, how we react in parenting, in marriage, in other personal relationships. This series of circumstances triggering thoughts, thoughts causing feelings and feelings leading to what we do, or don’t, happens on repeat in our lives. But most of the time we don’t pay attention – many things our brain is taking care of for us happen so fluidly, it’s like autopilot. In a way, you could say that our brain is taking care of these things so that we can reserve our energy for the other things in life that need our attention. Just think, if we gave as much energy and attention to things like whether or not to hit the snooze button one morning as we did to major life decisions like moving, or getting married, starting a business or starting a family, or even how we want to contribute in this world, we’d be SO exhausted. What a blessing to have a brain that handles so much for us “behind the scenes”, right?
Where feelings and their impact on our actions is PIVOTAL in life is when we want something to CHANGE. When we want to show up differently in life. When we want to do, or not do something. We want a different result. Because actions – even INaction – will create our results.
It’s when we’re seeking change, of any kind really, that we’ll want to pay attention. Most of us wanting to make a change in life assume this is strictly behavioral. That we need to DO something differently. That different action is required. If the result we want is to weigh 50 lbs. less than we do currently, then we automatically start to think about what we need to DO to get there. If we desire to have more patience as a spouse or as a parent, we default to thinking about which of our behaviors need to change to get that result. If we’d like to double our income in a year, we instinctively think about what we need to DO to make this happen. We make action plans that lay out how we’ll get that result.
Are you wondering what the problem is? This is what we’re taught right? The way to getting a result or reaching a goal is to figure out what actions to need to take, and take them. It seems so straightforward, doesn’t it? I agree it does seem like a fine plan. Completely. Except, then you have to wonder, if this is a plan that works, why aren’t more of us getting those results? Why aren’t we successfully making those changes and getting where we want to be? Why do so many of us feel stuck? Why do many of us feel smart enough, and capable, to do the work required to make change, to lose the weight, to be a more patient person, to double the income, to write the book or clean the house, except we don’t make the change happen? Why do we lack the confidence or the follow-through – to actually GET the results we dream about?
Well, here’s the thing. When our efforts to make change, to create a new result, are focused on action only, on changing our behavior to get a different result, we’re focused on fixing something. On solving a problem. So our brain starts working to give us ways to solve this problem. It will give us all the possible things we could try to do to get this result. So if we know what we need to do, or need not to do, to make the change we want – to get the RESULT we want – why don’t we do it?
When we focus on behavioral change, we aren’t getting to the root of it. We aren’t getting to the CAUSE of what’s going on. If you remember, it’s our thoughts that create our life experience. It’s our thoughts that create our results in life. Because, just to recap, our thoughts create our feelings and then our feelings create the action we take. Or don’t. So if we’re doing the actions we think are necessary to reach a goal or create a result, but it isn’t happening, it’s a reminder that we need to take the time to look at the cause – our thoughts. If we’re trying to get a different result through only changing behavior, we’re only treating the symptom. We’re only attempting to treat a symptom without addressing the cause. And to treat the cause is always to dig deeper and look at the thought, or thoughts that are causing a feeling, and then leading to the action, or the behavior. It’s through these specific steps that we’ll always be able to see how a specific thought is creating our result. And, if it’s a result we don’t want? If it’s something we want to change? Then we can consider exploring other thoughts that will better serve us.
When there’s something we want to change in our life, the action, the behavior is the symptom of a cause. When I work with clients, they might come to me telling me they are overeating and want to stop. Or they might say they need my help because they yell at their kids and don’t want to anymore. For someone else it may be over-drinking or online shopping or working obsessively. There are so many types of these symptoms, but the thing is – ALL of them? All of them are symptoms of something else. Something they are thinking. So I ask them WHY. Why are you yelling at your kids? Why are you binge-watching Netflix and eating ALL the things, why are you working 100 hours a week? And the why starts to reveal the real cause. The thoughts and the feelings. And it’s there that we can start to make real change.
So remember, any action or behavior you’d like to change in our life is ALWAYS more than just something you need to DO differently. There is work to be done on the thought level – powerful work that will bring clarity, and will shed light on why this undesired behavior was, or wasn’t happening to begin with. When you work through this on the thought level, you’ll be able to create real, lasting change – you’ll be able to get the results because you’ll no longer just be treating a symptom, but you’ll be changing your brain by intentionally opting for the thoughts that will best serve you as you move toward creating that result.
The most fascinating thing to me is how powerful this is. How, when you invest the time in asking the WHY and really exploring it and understanding it, you’ll find that the symptom you were having, be it the overeating or the over-drinking or the obsessively working or the shopping or the yelling at your kids… starts to fade away.
It’s powerful proof that we can change our lives through changing our minds. Science has proven that we can literally rewire our brains. We can reconfigure thought patterns that are even a lifetime old. We can choose new thoughts, new things to believe about ourselves and our lives. We have the amazing opportunity to change our life experience and chart a new course once we realize this tremendous power we’ve been given. See, many of us are going through our days stuck in survival mode. We’re just trying to get by. But we were made for more. We were created to CREATE – and this includes using our free will and our God-given gifts and talents to create a life that only we can. Often, we are stuck going through the motions of an ordinary, maybe disappointing life – not because of our circumstances. But because of our thoughts. Our brain believes everything we tell it, and when we tell ourselves things that aren’t true, we get in our own way. We keep ourselves from experiencing a lot of GOOD things.
So, you might ask, if I want to create a different result in my life, and I know that my thoughts are creating my current result, because my thoughts are creating my feelings, my feelings are driving my action, and it’s that action, or lack of, that are creating my current result, HOW do I figure out what thought is responsible for this current result I’m getting?
And that’s a great question. It’s one we did explore somewhat in Episode 3, Thoughts. But exploring our OWN thinking is a really new concept to most of us. We’re usually in it, in the action of what’s going on in our brain. So what this requires is becoming an observer. We need to create a separation between ourselves and our thoughts. It’s very similar to the space that’s created in meditation, where you quiet your mental activity so that you can be more aware.
Now, full disclosure, I have done meditation before but it’s not a regular practice for me. I really have become an observer of my thoughts just as I go through my days. Kind of in the same way that my daily prayer is an ongoing conversation, the observing of my thoughts has also become an ongoing practice. When I began learning about this work, I started by noticing a feeling I was experiencing, and then noticing. Just noticing it. And to be honest, we are usually going to notice first the feelings that make us uncomfortable. So I’d first notice the uncomfortable emotion, let it be there, and then name it. Saying, “You’re feeling nervous”, for example. And then asking myself what I was thinking about that created that feeling. And when you just start to notice, and start to be aware, it becomes easier and easier. You’ll start to really get a sense of that codependence between thoughts and emotions. You start to see how inseparable they are and, because of that, how powerful thoughts are.
I love leaving you with something tangible whenever possible, so I think this is a good place to end. If diving into this practice of thought work is something you’d like to do, this is the perfect place to start. By following the steps I just outlined above and just noticing your feelings, acknowledging them and then asking yourself what thought might’ve caused that feeling. This is not the time to try to change anything. Rather, it’s an exploratory exercise that’s an important first step in learning how to manage your thoughts and emotions. You can think of it as brain training, or even a workout for your mind. Oh! And one last thing as you start to observe your feelings, and the corresponding thought that caused it. No judgment. This is a judgment free zone, and that carries into any self-work you do. Judgment won’t serve you well. Just take notice and observe as you start to pay attention.
That does it. Thank you so much for hanging out and listening to episode 6. I hope it’s been helpful. I hope you’ve learned something valuable today. If this episode has been helpful to YOU, I’m thinking it has to be to friends and family in your life, right? If someone comes to mind who you think would benefit from Beyond Happy, would you share it and tell them about it? I’d be SO grateful.
Before I go, I wanted to share an opportunity with you. I’m offering a complimentary coaching session to one of you, and I’m so excited to connect with one of you. To be considered, there are just two steps. First, you need to have listened to the first six episodes of Beyond Happy. This is because it’s important to me that you have a little familiarity with the approach I use in my coaching, and these first few episodes really lay the groundwork for that. Next, you need to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can just put COACH ME! In the subject line. In the content of the email, I’d like you to answer this question: In what area of your life are you not showing up like you want to?” This answer will serve as the basis for what we’ll be working on together, if you’re selected for the complimentary session. Now, one disclaimer – you cannot be related to me to apply. Trust me, it’s just better that way. So, quick recap:
Step 1. Make sure you’ve listened to Beyond Happy, episodes 1-6.
Step 2. Email email@example.com, putting COACH ME! In the subject.
Step 3. Answer the question, “In what area of your life are you not showing up like you want to?”
Step 4. Hit send.
I’ll be accepting these from now through February 28th. 2019. I guess I should clarify that if you’re listening at a future time.
Okay, that’s a wrap. Be well. Be kind to yourselves, and I’ll see you back here, next Tuesday. Talk soon!