Since we are almost always thinking, thoughts and questions are like planets in orbit in our personal universe. They dissapear from view, and then pop up on repeating basis, and some impulses like the occasional meteor storm. This happens whether or not those behaviors are getting us towards our goals or not.
In shifting behavior a useful technique for me is what I call a thought template, a recipe to begin approaching the world in a new way, like medicine taken in doses whenever needed, or until they are automatic. We see similar techniques like Mantras, Affirmation, with the key differences that:
- Thought templates require active participation. Like leading questions, to fill in the blanks, be honest with the answers. Being very specific to your own life as glittering generalities have no teeth.
- Rather than hand-me-downs, they are modelled after the statements and beliefs that people you want to emulate do/say. Like I frequently create them after listening to a mentor in the act of presenting.
- Rather than applying to a higher powers, these rely upon self taking responsibility.
- They can branch and have decisions, as in the end each emotional state is a strategy to be applied in some cases and avoided in others. Or can be applied in different intensities.
- They are reformulated over time, based on what works for you
A recent example is the axis of ‘taking for granted vrs appreciation/gratitude’.
What a thought template looks like for me is 1) a name and description, 2) a series of leading question, and commands. Such as
On wakeup BetterThanCaffiene:
- Smile big till it doesn’t hurt! Breathe 3 deep slow breaths.
- Today I am [really!!] looking forward to ________ because_____ which will ____ [projected benefits]
- [Timeframe] I’ve got some really amazing opportunities like ___________
- I’m [very] excited about_______
- I feel proud that [yesterday, last week] I ______[accomplished, had, avoided
- I really appreciate that _______
- I am [really] compassionate about _____.
Successfully running through a template, is a set of direction to get you into a target state, similar to that of an actor might use to get into a particular role, often via a trigger. You will know that it’s working when you can compare before and after running it and feeling the intended change.
In performing it, often each question is cycled through until the brain stops offering up more suggestions. e.g.
- Today I am looking forward to going in to the office because I haven’t seen Nick and Shelly
- Today I am really looking forward to getting the foam ordered for the reupholstery because that is the last piece required to complete and get us closer to the 2.0 anniversary party in May!.
- Today I am really looking forward to having fresh blueberries for breakfast…and ooh! hot showers…ooh and I can try that new soap.
Consider your emotional state like a table, serving as the foundation of achieving results in your life, and each leg of a table a piece of supporting evidence. The more details you provide the stronger the table can be. Also the intensity in which these are said/discovered counts, so generally I find typing/writing them out, or speaking them, makes it more ‘real’ than just saying them in my head. Often like in the above example, once kickstarted more and more perceptions pop up, connecting to other things. At the end of taking a dose, it should be easy to feel the shift.
Thought templates can be like movie scripts. In that they contain what your character needs to believe, rather than something you generally already believe and practice…else you wouldn’t like need this in the first place!
Note that generally striving for higher purpose will get you to your goals quicker, carrots work better than the stick. But include other devaluing techniques distracting from the important can be included. These are generally in the form of
‘well___it’s just a….”,
EXAMPLE: Well…Horton Hears a Who is just a movie, and it’ can wait until past prime time, opening night, with packed theaters, it would be cheaper on a matinee and for the same price I could also get a crepe…
Like a pain releiver, these can be triggered by other states, or just like weightlifting performed regularly because developing these states is a skill. For myself like playing a video game, I find that practicing regularly, things both get easier, and I unlock “new levels” in myself. Say developing compassion. Compassion is a great competitive state to feeling judgemental/negative be it directed at the world or self – it’s impossible to feel both at the same time. So when I notice I’m in the ‘dark side’ I open up a ThoughtTemplate I want and go through exercise. Just like lifting weights, within a week I was feeling intensities far greater than I had, to the point it was even noticeable by others.
Try it let me know if it works for you!