Don’t Believe Everything You Think: How To Reframe Your Thoughts With The Self-Coaching Model

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don't believe everything you think

“I am not worthy of that promotion.” 

“I just don’t have enough experience.” 

“No one listens to me.”

“ My colleagues don’t like me.”

“It’s impossible to make money doing what you love.”

To some of you, those thoughts might be familiar. I know they’ve popped up in my head a few times…

But that’s just it: they are THOUGHTS not FACTS.

Once you understand that thoughts are merely your (often limited) interpretation of the world, you can start reframing them so that they work for you, not against you.

You are in the driver seat. You just didn’t know it yet!

There are a lot of coaching frameworks out there and working with a coach is worth exploring to tackle negative thoughts and limiting beliefs.

One of the most powerful tools I have come across is the Self-Coaching Model developed by Brooke Castillo. It is powerful because it is simple to understand and implement. 

In this post, I will walk you through the model and show you how you can use it so that you don’t believe everything you think and start reframing your thoughts.

Side note: although it is a self-coaching model, I highly recommend working with a coach to reframe your thoughts if you can. A coach will take the role of the observer and help you understand thought patterns you might not be able to identify yourself.

RELATED: Here’s How To Deal With Difficult Bosses Effectively

The Self-Coaching Model

The Self-Coaching Model is a tool developed by Brooke Castillo to understand yourself better and make lasting changes to your life. 

I’ve discovered it a while ago and have been experimenting with it, in particular with limiting beliefs in my professional life. 

And it works!

The basic concept of the model is that our lives are made up of circumstances that trigger thoughts, and it is those thoughts that cause us to feel and act a certain way and create results that immediately feed back into our thought pattern.

Here’s a graphical representation of how it works:

Let’s go through each element in more detail.

Circumstances

Circumstances are facts that everyone can agree upon. They are completely neutral, neither good nor bad. They can be proven in a court of law.

Everything is a circumstance until you start thinking about it.

Take the example of a summer house in the country. How does that sound to you? Some will think about it positively, seeing a country house as a personal haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Others will see it as a negative, worrying about all the maintenance required and weekends spent mowing the lawn. Nevertheless, the summer house is completely neutral. Your thoughts are what makes it good or bad. 

RELATED: 9 Practical Tips to Focus on The Good In 2021

Thoughts

Thoughts are your interpretation of a circumstance, your inner voice, your personal bias.

If something has a negative or positive connotation, it is a thought. Because remember: circumstances are completely neutral.

We don’t usually dissociate thoughts from circumstances simply because we do a lot of thinking – studies range from 6,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. I don’t know which is right but, regardless, it’s a lot! And it’s hard to take a step back and observe. It takes intention and mindfulness.

To add to that, we have a negativity bias. 80% of our thoughts on average are negative, a vicious cycle that can make us see the glass as half-empty if we don’t take control.

For example, if you are driving and someone makes a sudden turn without indicating, forcing you to hit the break, you might think: “this person doesn’t know how to drive and is disrespectful” and get upset. The fact that the driver did not indicate is merely a circumstance, however. You can choose to ignore it.

Feelings

Feelings and thoughts are also often confused. Feelings are an emotional response triggered by a thought. 

Where a thought is usually a sentence, for example, “this person doesn’t know how to drive”, you can describe a feeling with one word, for example, “upset” or “angry”.

Understanding that your thoughts cause your feelings is the first step to learn how to feel better without changing your circumstances. In other words, don’t believe everything you think!

Actions

Your action is what you do (or don’t do) based on the feeling(s) you have. 

In the example above, your action might be to beep the horn, yell profanities at the other driver or wave your hand (maybe all three!). 

We often focus on what we do or don’t do, feeling guilty for our actions or inactions. Do you procrastinate? Watch too much Netflix? Eat snacks in the afternoon? But understanding the thoughts and feelings that lead you to act a certain way is what puts you back in the driver seat.

Results

Results are the consequences of your actions or inactions. They are new circumstances that will trigger new thoughts, feelings and actions – thus potentially reinforcing a pattern.

In our example above, having beeped at the driver could have made him stop and get out of the car, red-eyed and waving his hands at you. New circumstance. What do you think about that? How does that make you feel? What do you do? 

When working on ourselves, on our goals, we tend to emphasize the results we want and what it takes to get there (the actions). This model goes a step further by helping you understand the drivers behind your behaviour and how to control them.

How To Use The Model

don't believe everything you think

I did warn you: it’s a simple model to get your head around, but it will make you “think” twice (pun intended). 

All well and good, but how do you use it in practice to reframe your thoughts?

In reality, you go through this chain of events, from circumstance to action, in the blink of an eye. It seems difficult at first to take a step back and make changes. But here’s how to get started.

Start With Awareness

The premise of the model is that by being aware, and then choosing to change your thought, you influence the result.

So, first, you need to bring awareness to what you are trying to change. Is it a thought you have? The way you feel about something? How you react to it? Or is it the results you see?

Write down the acronym CTFAR on a blank piece of paper and start by filling in the relevant item – thought, feeling, action or result – that you have brought awareness to.

Then work through the other items to discover the underlying thought.

In the example of the driver above, we can bring awareness to our reaction – beeping the horn. 

C – 

T – 

F – 

A – Beeping the horn

R – 

Then fill in the rest. Work out what feeling causes the reaction, what thought causes the feeling, what circumstance causes the thought, what the result of your action is or could be:

C – The driver turns without indicating

T – This driver is disrespectful

F – Anger

A – Beeping the horn

R – The driver stops and gets out of the car

Now that you understand the chain of events, and in particular, the thought that triggers them, you can decide what you want your new thought to be and incrementally change it.

Build Alternative Thoughts

Building new thoughts sounds a bit leftfield – after all, most of us assume we don’t control our thoughts.

But by understanding your thought process through the Self-Coaching Model, you can make incremental changes.

Building alternative thoughts is a bit like practising affirmations. You need to proactively decide what you want your new thought to be, and then repeat it until you believe it. And that’s all.

The secret, however, is to be realistic. 

You will not trick your brain if you don’t believe it yourself. Don’t go too far or your subconscious will automatically discard the thought.

In the example above, if you choose to think “I ignore other drivers” your survival instinct will take over, making sure you don’t! You could, however, change your thought to be “I am a careful and skilled driver and can cope with sudden changes”. 

Notice how you leave out what the other driver’s behaviour means to you? It’s not within your control, so you might as well avoid taking it personally.

Here’s what your new process can look like:

C – The driver turns without indicating

T – I am a careful and skilled driver and can cope with sudden changes on the road

F – Focused, in control

A – Slowing the car down and moving on

R – I continue to have a good day

Sounds good, doesn’t it? So why don’t we all do that? Read on…

Fight The Resistance

By building alternative thoughts, we are attempting to create new pathways in our brains. And repetition is what helps those new thoughts stick.

The problem is that, in the process, we face cognitive dissonance, the discomfort experienced when two thoughts are incompatible with each other.

As a result, our brain favours what is familiar – our original thought – and works very hard to override the new thought.

Imagine a walk in the woods, where you can choose between a clear, bright, established path and a dark, narrow and almost non-existent path full of brambles…

That’s the resistance kicking in. And when most people give up and revert to old thought patterns.

Don’t. Fight it. Be committed to making the change. Continue repeating the new thought. 

You will see a change if you stick to it. 

Slow and steady win the race!

Understand Others

Using the Self-Coaching Model is also a great way to understand others. Especially in difficult situations.

I’ve recently had a very negative conversation with a colleague who’d just started in a new role. They were overly critical of everything my team was doing and it took a lot of effort not to engage.

Now, think about it from the perspective of the Self-Coaching Model.

The action from this person is to lash out and criticise. They have recently started in their role, and in most senior roles, there is an expectation to make changes within the first 90 days. What is driving my colleague is fear, or anxiety, to not deliver any significant changes in that period. They might be thinking others will see them as not being good enough for the role.

Understanding this completely changed my mindset. Instead of reacting, I chose to support them and identify areas that could be improved upon – with the help of my team.

Result: we’ve done huge progress in those areas and our working relationship has completely changed for the best.

A Few Examples In The Workplace 

don't believe everything you think

Here are a few examples of how the Self-Coaching Model can help you achieve different results in the workplace.

I Don’t Have Anything To Say In Meetings

Unintentional

C – I have been invited to a meeting

>>> T – I never have anything to say in meetings

F – Anxiety

A – I worry about what to say throughout the meeting

R – I haven’t learnt anything from this meeting

Intentional

C – I have been invited to a meeting

>>> T – I am a good listener and will only contribute if I have something to say

F – Confidence

A – I take notes and reflect on the points made. I might even share my thoughts

R  – I have learnt a lot from this meeting and I can share my knowledge with the rest of the team

RELATED: Anxious? Make Your Next Meeting A Success (8 Tips)

This Email Is Making Me Angry

Unintentional

C – I have received an email from a colleague about my work

T – They are belittling my work

>>> F – Anger

A – I fight back, sending an angry email and keeping everyone on copy

R – The conflict escalates and I appear unprofessional

Intentional

C – I have received an email from a colleague about my work

>>> T – They are providing feedback on my work

F – Interest, curiosity

A –  I take a step back and use the feedback to improve my work before emailing back thanking them for their contribution

R – My work improves and I raise my profile

I Have Too Much To Do

Unintentional

C – My to-do list is full

>>> T – I have way too much to do

F – Overwhelm

A – I procrastinate

R – I’m not getting anything done

Intentional

C-  My to-do list is full

>>> T – I need to break this down and delegate where I can

F – Motivation

A – I come up with a plan

R – I’m getting things done

My Boss Doesn’t Respect Me

Unintentional

C- My boss has criticised my work in front of others

>>> T – My boss doesn’t respect me

F- Shame

A – I lash out to my colleagues when my boss is not around

R- The atmosphere at work is negative

Intentional

C – My boss has criticised my work in front of others

>>> T – Those are good points but I’m not comfortable with the delivery

F – Determination

A – I talk to my boss in private asking for them to avoid criticising in public

R – My boss apologises and our relationship flourishes

READ NEXT: Why Spreading Happiness At Work Matters (+ 21 Ways)

In Conclusion…

I’ve said it a few times – the Self-Coaching Model is super simple and has incredible power when you start using it.

The best teachings in life are common sense.

Now, I’m sure you understand the concept. What is going to make a difference to your life though, be it your work or personal life, is to take action and practice using the model.

Do you find that the way you think, feel and act in certain situations is counterproductive? Is it damaging your self-esteem or your relationships with others?

No matter what it is, I can assure you this model can help you solve it.

So, what do you think? Are there any thoughts you can reframe using this model? What results are you seeing?

Let me know in the comments, and please share this post wherever you can if you liked it – it makes a huge difference!

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