Choosing New Thoughts

Lately, I’ve started playing with Castillo’s self-coaching model. In brief, she writes that circumstances produce thoughts, which lead to feelings, which cause us to perform actions, which produce results, which reinforce those thoughts in a positive feedback cycle. She suggests that the place we have the most power in this cycle lies with our ability to choose new thoughts.

Harris writes that it’s not possible to control our feelings, and that attempting to do so can leave us feeling disheartened, angry, or defeated. For example, if we want to feel more confidence, he writes that we need to behave confidently before we can start to feel those feelings.

Although Castillo agrees that we don’t control our feelings, she writes that changing our actions without first changing our thoughts creates tension between our internal and external experiences. Additionally, because our thoughts haven’t changed, they’ll continue to produce the same feelings which will drive us to perform our same original behaviours. So changing our actions here would always require us to expend energy to fight against what we want to do by default.

Harris also writes about a study that showed how using positive self-affirmations had a negative impact on people with low self-esteem. I suspect this is because these positive self-affirmations are meant to be repeated until they are believed, in similar spirit to “fake it till you make it.” This works well with Castillo’s model, as she writes that it’s important to choose thoughts you genuinely believe when choosing new thoughts (see example at end of this article).

Something I’ve been thinking about related to this is the idea that there aren’t specific thoughts that need to dominate our consciousness. True thoughts don’t need to dominate our consciousness, nor do the thoughts that generate our strongest feelings. We can always choose to focus on other thoughts (and sometimes it ultimately can be useful to do so).

Example: I find myself in circumstances where I’m being critiqued by somebody… …again. I think that they must really have it out for me because they’re always critiquing me more than I seem them critiquing other people. This thinking has me feeling angry, frustrated, defensive, and hostile.

So now to find an alternative thought that I genuinely believe that I can choose to think instead:

(I find myself in circumstances where I’m being critiqued by somebody… …again.) I think it’s possible that they can see something actually useful here that I’m not currently seeing. This thinking has me feeling open, curious, and interested.

  • Castillo, B. (2018). Self-Coaching 101: Use Your Mind–Don’t Let It Use You.
  • Harris, R. (2011). The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt. Trumpeter.

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