Thinking About Thinking

I’ve been thinking more and more about Thinking! All the psychological research suggests there is strong connection between what you believe (think) and what you do (behavior).   I found a great discussion on the thought process by Dr. Johnson in his work on Spiritual Strengths  and have gone back into looking at thought pattern to clarify how I might change some on my behaviors/habits. I’ve been struggling with new habit establishment, so maybe a new approach is needed.

The Thought Pattern Dr. Johnson lays out is: Believing, Perceiving, Thinking, Feeling, Deciding, and Acting.   Most of this happens subconsciously and in milliseconds. We often are not even aware of the process as we react to stimulus or do things quite mindlessly. It involves the Ego and the True Self (Jungian concepts), and you can work with your strengths to align your thinking pattern more with your True Self.


At each stage of the thought pattern, you have an individual strength area (which the website noted above can help you identify for yourself).   Your combination of strengths forms the uniqueness that is you, your fingerprint of being/thinking/acting. Each strength area has a corresponding shadow (our fear and/or stress response where we lapse into shadow; not using our strength) and compulsion (often associated with Ego; an exaggeration or over using our strength). By recognizing your strengths with their corresponding shadows and compulsions, you can use the awareness to move towards your True Self and using your strengths appropriately and hopefully change behavior.  The whole thing is very powerful idea and very challenging to do.


Here are the core elements of the thought pattern:

Believing – The starting point of the thought pattern is your Values, attitudes, assumptions, life principles, your conception of the world, your philosophy of life, personal rules, and even unconscious biases. Beliefs are ideas that have become your certainties, based on experience. I know I have unconscious biases that I am trying to be more aware of. I know I have beliefs that are making habit change challenging.

Perceiving – This is about Focus/Intake, how you perceive yourself, others, events, relationships; it includes all your senses including intuition. Events are neutral until you begin to look at them in relation to your beliefs. However, you often look only for what you agree with, what matches your beliefs. I realized recently how my perception is impacted already by beliefs when we went to sell my car.   It was pointed out that it had a garage door opener feature that I had never seen… because I didn’t have a garage to put the car into. I owned that car for 12 years and never “saw” that feature. What else am I not perceiving that is in plain sight?

Thinking – This is the Evaluation moment, the analysis, assessment, or your personal making sense of the world. It is the interpretation of the intake data versus your beliefs. Dr. Johnson points out that it also starts to play into your True self (inner, awakened self) who is fundamentally loving and compassionate (affirming, considerate, harmony, unity, forgiveness) OR your False self (ego, externally driven) who is fundamentally about self-protection (fear based, judging, reactive, self-serving, separation, manipulation). I always felt I was strong in evaluation and assessment, so it was intriguing to look at the compulsion side of it.

Feeling – The Emotions is the affective consequence of the thought evaluation. If thoughts are negative, critical, or judging, then emotions will be similar. Enabling feelings are positive – joy, confidence. Negative feeling are paralyzing – confusion, disillusion, shame, guilt, worthlessness. Becoming aware/naming feelings creates personal power. I’ve been doing Emotional Awareness for a while as part of my practicing positivity. It was intriguing to me that this more than halfway through the Thought Process and possibly not enough to help in behavior change.

Deciding – Following the emotion, we make Choices, create goals (or not), set strategies (or not), and establishing priorities (or not). Personal power comes from making decisions grounded in Universal Love (True Self) and not made out of fear (the voice of Ego – competition, self indulgence, power, separateness, and control). Making choices is a big part of retirement transition and learning to live a new lifestyle.

Acting – The Action is the observable Behavior. In today’s culture, action is often based on resignation, submission, or mindlessness; it lacks commitment, is idle busyness, or ceaseless striving for more. You want to be taking action based on your personal Strengths and True Self.

Looking at the entire thought process in relationship to my personal strengths has made me realize I need to:

  • Continue to re-set beliefs and re-program my mind. Begin with uncovering what beliefs are limiting my behaviors, especially in relationship to my strengths and shadows. I need to be honest with what are the current beliefs, biases, and societal expectations I hold as truths.
  • Focus on my self-worth and creating a feeling of wholeness and of being enough. Appreciate my strengths with slightly less focus on the shadows and compulsions. 
  • Use my vision-board and a recent meditation series to create new affirmations to establish a new life philosophy, free of societal expectations.
  • Pay real attention – to people, to places, to things. Be more mindful of the moments.
  • Reinforce new behaviors, even the small steps, with rewards.


Are there things you are struggling to change? Do you think your beliefs are limiting your behavior?


Picture Credit: Tim Doyle, Africa Safari 2017… because elephants are supposed to have long memories and this was a post about thinking.  🙂

44 thoughts on “Thinking About Thinking

  1. I think about overthinking and create scenarios in my head that I think will happen. Worse thing, but it makes me more cautious!

    I enjoyed reading this and the comments here 😊


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess I would say that there are things about me that I’d like to change, but I haven’t really made a concerted effort to change them, so I can’t really be upset that the change hasn’t come about yet, now can I?? 😃

    That said, I have made numerous changes in the past. One change I can recall vividly is going cold turkey on artificial sweeteners. I had read several books on nutrition that outlined how bad artificial sweeteners are, especially for gut health. I just made up my mind that I was done and in October of 2013, I just stopped using artificial sweeteners and haven’t so much as a sip of diet pop in the almost five years since. This is a particular kind of change where it is binary; 0 or 1; yes or no. There are other changes that are tougher.

    I want to recommend a book to you that I think is very good on this topic. It is called “Change Anything” by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler. I think the approach is different and useful, especially if you are struggling. These authors are really sharp.


    1. Thanks Bob. Added it to my book purchase list. Right now, I’ve put a hold on buying…my books to read pile is too high. But heading to the beach …. I always get tons of reading done there.

      I think binary changes are easier, but not without challenge. Willpower helps. As does support. And reward.

      I’ve made lots of changes in the past 4 years. So I know I can change. It’s just a few things seem to be stuck!


  3. I, too, spend a lot of time thinking about thinking 🙂 Perhaps that is why I enjoy journaling so much – it gives physical space to all those thoughts.
    I just recently discovered much of what I believed for the past fifty years was actually based in lies. I am in the process of retraining my brain to replace those falsehoods with truth – and learn to accept myself.
    FABULOUS post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Molly, I’m both intrigued and scared to do some of the memoir work for this very reason. But I do think understanding some deeply held beliefs is the beginning of change for me. Re-train my brain, love myself. It’s not easy stuff.


  4. Pat – I totally enjoyed this post — and all of the comments! I couldn’t help but think — another ‘type’ system like Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Strengthsfinders, etc — but I think this system actually takes it a step further/deeper. I love how all these typing systems complement each other to help us understand ourselves better. While I’m not currently working to change anything, just reading these kinds of posts helps me be more aware when something comes up. Thanks for a clear, concise presentation!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janet – yeah, another “system” but it doesn’t put you into a “defined” type. It lays out your set of strengths (with shadows and compulsions). And yes, it is complementary to other systems but I found it was actually closer to linking in my core values. It’s just one more way to look at self and figure out how to grow.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It is interesting to think about how much goes into that split-second response and reaction to any given circumstance. No wonder people can have such a different take on the same situation. Thanks for breaking it down Pat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christie, thanks for liking my simplification of the process! I was struggling with why some of my habit changes desires where not coming to be and this is helping me see it’s deeper. Not that it makes it any easier…but at least it helps me understand why!


    1. Karen – the garage door opener was such an eye-opener about not seeing things. (maybe pun intended) With my recent looking into memoir and realizing some things that are holding me back, I think belief systems is where my next growth spurt will be. Change my thoughts, change my life.


  6. Hi Pat – I saw that Kathy left a comment – and I can see how the two of you (and Karen from Profound Journey) are all on the same page with this. The idea of being more intentional about our thoughts and what drives us, rather than just reacting from inbuilt beliefs that we may not even realize we have – or things that have served their use by date and need to be discarded. I will be thinking about thinking now – and trying not to overthink about thinking!
    #MLSTL 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leanne, I totally over think about thinking. Hah! I’ve always thought it was actually a strength of mine… the ability to think deeply about things, find the insights/meaning. You do it as well and then blog about it and make others think too. Love that about you. And I’m enjoying #MLSTL. Thanks for co-hosting.


  7. I love how you’ve broken this down. So much of self-belief is so deeply ingrained that it’s habitual – the key, I think, is to change the habit. I’ve been thinking a lot about the behaviours that I do which reinforce my ingrained perception of myself and how I can tweak those even a little. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jo, I like the idea of ingrained perceptions! That’s a great place to start with deeply held beliefs. For me, one thing I’ve always said about myself is I’m not a very good friend. The other night I was chatting with a friend about how hard it is for me to list positive things about myself (I’m always too hard on myself – another belief!), and given it was glass 2 of wine, I said – you list my good things! The first thing she said was “you’re a great friend”. Made me wonder what my beliefs about friendship were versus her’s and maybe I needed to change my beliefs about what friendship is! This thinking has been a roller coaster of emotions for sure.


    1. Sue, thanks for letting me know about the previous comment. I have no idea why, but it went to Spam! That’s never happened from you before. Yes, I went looking for it there. Someone told me to always look there first if someone tells you they commented and it didn’t show up. I’ll go look at your other comment now….

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Really interesting information. It’s amazing how quickly most (all?) of us go from believing, perceiving, thinking (maybe sometimes missing this step 🙂 ), feeling, deciding, and then acting. Catching yourself, then changing your reaction in that flash of a moment is so difficult (says me who often will react with defensiveness in an argument). Good for you for thinking about thinking…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janis, Reacting defensively? Who me? LOL.

      I’ve been doing some deep thinking about my beliefs and am starting to realize how much of my gut reaction is based on deeply held beliefs. It’s a place to start…but the change is HARD!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This post aligns in a rather interesting way with a book I’m reading right now – The Subtle Are of Not Giving a F*ck.

    The book suggests that the problems in our life that make us angry/stressed etc are the result of values we have attached to our life – values we may not even be consciously aware we’ve embraced. For example, if I’m chronically annoyed at my husband for certain things he may do, my annoyance may stem from a deep-seated expectation that my husband should be “Prince Charming”. Obviously no one can live up to that unrealistically high bar.

    There is a lot of consistency here in your discussion about thinking patterns and how they affect our ability to manifest change in our lives.

    In answer to your question, yes, I am struggling with this right now. I’m grappling with this concept as I try to address some issues in my next ‘reinvention’. Some change – when it involves rewiring personal beliefs, perceptions, feelings, and ultimate action – is definitely NOT EASY!! Intellectual knowledge doesn’t always help us when dealing with our human-ness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OK, that book is definitely on my list (in my Amazon cart already). You made me wonder what other fairy tale belief systems I too might have! I know I have the “Norman Rockwell family” image for sure. I’m doing some of the memoir stuff (Julia Cameron) to see if thinking about childhood will shed light on other deep-seated unconscious beliefs that are preventing me from achieving some of my new life stage goals.

      Someone told me about an unconscious bias on-line test you can take as well…another tool to identify beliefs. A friend & I were talking over wine last night about beliefs and she pointed out that if someone is not speaking up in a meeting (she still works), she believes they don’t understand the conversation! Not that they are introverted, or thinking deeply about the conversation, or just silently agreeing with what’s being said. She was shocked that she came to that core belief… since she is an introvert and often doesn’t talk much in a meeting (ironic, I know). Talk about beliefs and behaviors! We agreed that often our beliefs are not “politically correct” and so we don’t want to make them conscious. As an independent, strong women, how can we admit we want a Prince Charming? Or admit that our family is dysfunctional and always will be? Or admit other beliefs that are really holding us back in our reinvention.

      See…thinking about thinking a lot!!


      1. Believe it or not, throughout my life I’ve been told I think too much. The Holy Grail of course is to just ‘be’ in the moment and always having the gears moving isn’t conducive to ‘being’. To that I say pffffft. It’s how I know I’m alive 😉

        The whole Prince Charming / Cinderella mentality was a huge wakeup call for me as I was reading The Subtle Art. It suddenly became very obvious to me that this unconscious ‘value’ was the root cause of so many of my irritations.
        Just because I’m aware of it doesn’t mean that change will be easy!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi, Pat – Thank you for another very thought-provoking and informative post. Like Kathy, I’m not currently struggling to change my thinking or behaviors…..not that there isn’t tons of room for improvement (there is)! I must admit, that after years of struggle to do more, learn more, continually refine and grow, I am now sitting back to accept and enjoy. I am not sure if this is a temporary break, but I am grateful while it lasts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Donna, Don’t feel at all guilty about sitting back to accept and enjoy! Part of me thinks I need to get there as well, instead of this constant need to learn, search, do. I literally asked myself in my journal the other morning, have I just traded one job for another (unpaid) one? Continue to be a role model to me of sitting back and enjoying life!


  11. Hi Pat! I love how you always make me think when I read your posts, so thank you for that. You know that I’m a constant WIP in improving my self-worth and acknowledging my strengths. I hear you about beliefs and I’m sure many of us are swayed by the long-held beliefs we were perhaps taught as children. It is not easy to honestly look at ourselves and our beliefs and accept that we may need to change. I also agree about your car garage door opener example. There are many things like that where I don’t ‘see’. I’m better at seeing how people feel rather than being more aware of my day to day life. As a runner, I love fergysun’s comment above and might try that on my next run. Have a beautiful day and thank you again for another thought provoking post. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sue. I actually love it when I make people think. I also agree with your “it’s not easy to honestly look at ourselves”. I’m having that issue right now with trying to sort through some deeply held beliefs and fears. I too am a WIP and this is where I think (hah) my next growth spurt will come from! Thanks for letting me know after MLSL about this comment. I wondered a bit why I hadn’t heard from you…and expected another blog about something awesome you were doing instead. LOL. Have a great week.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Pat, I hope I didn’t disappoint you that I probably don’t have something awesome I’ve been doing LOL 🙂 I’ve actually started Life Coaching a friend and it has really helped me also look at myself. As I guide her, I’m really listening to what I’m suggesting to her and it is not only helping her but I’m getting value out of it also. I’m looking at starting a small Life Coaching business next year- maybe that is something awesome??? Have a great week xx

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Sue, I’m not sure but I think I told you I am a certified life coach with a second certification in retirement life coaching. If you have any questions about life coaching, feel free to reach out to me!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was in a conversation about the mind/body connection yesterday that made me want to explore this area further. The individual I was talking to said that your physical body is often telling you things about your beliefs/thoughts and if you change your beliefs, resolve your thoughts, you can release the physical aches. Quite philosophical, but I’m going o explore it more! Change your beliefs, change your body? Hmm.


  12. Hey Pat.. Thank you for your thoughts on this topic… I also have been working on is the emotional connection to the habits .. My focus has been on the “Mind, Body Connection. Last night I prepared for this mornings “long run” by painting an image of the route and then focusing on the positive emotions that I’ll feel throughout the workout. This emotional connection is what fuels the body during the stressful periods when the body wants to quite. During the hardest part of the run, Gracie Slick’s White Rabbit lyrics back inside my head “Remember what the dormouse said….Feed your head, Feed your head

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Fergy! I hope retirement is treating you well. I was in a big conversation about the mind-body connection yesterday in the area of health issues. Quite intriguing and something I will be thinking more on, for me personally with my current “body aches”. I adore your visualization work. Do you actually paint the image (or virtually paint it in your mind)? What medium? That is so cool! And the “feed yoru head line” made me LOL. I’m not a White Rabbit fan, but I could hear you singing it in rhythm to feet hitting the pavement as I read it. Hope the long run left you feeling energized.


      1. Hey Pat, Retirement is awesome! I left the job so far behind I forgot what it was even like…The images I paint are positive images and or responses to negative thoughts or circumstances. Some years ago I developed a habit of saying “Good Morning” to everyone I pass on my morning bike and run sessions. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I actually get a response. Lately, I have even tried to squeak out a smile if I can because I have noticed runners never do a lot of smiling as a group during runs. In general I don’t get a lot of responses but every once in a while I do get a big smile and a cheery reply that lifts my spirits. Either way I have continued to do it and it has become part of what I call a positive habit pattern.

        For instance this morning my ride was hot and humid and I was tired from the prior days run session. My 1st thought as I set out on the road was, It would have been nice to stay snuggled in bed this morning… but I’m glad I pushed myself out today and stayed on plan. I started out a little stiff from the day before and thought to myself, I’m tired and my legs feel like cement ….but reasoned ….. Well its time on the legs that will help out on the long races I have planned. As I made my way back home against the wind I remember thinking ….Its so hot this morning…..but then thought… I Like it much better than the stinging frigid cold though… and it’s not so bad really , that shower is going to feel really great when I get home… Yah Buddy!

        Developing a well-tuned Positive Habit Pattern Response to negative and or challenging circumstances is important because the mind controls the body like a captain controls the ship. The thoughts we paint in our mind …..end up as responses to the challenges we face. The material we choose to read, listen to or watch has a huge impact on our arsenal for defeating negative thoughts / responses. I’ve heard it said that…. you can’t sink a boat if the water can’t get in…In some respects it’s the same with negative thoughts and emotion… if you don’t draw them in they can’t sink you…

        If you are looking to practice a little Positive Habit Pattern….try this response the next time someone says…”Hey How Ya Doin”… Be prepared with a positive reply (like Supa, Awesome, Terrific, Fergalicious) which will activate the positive pump jets in your head. You will notice that you are directing your attitude in a positive direction. Now ….I know some will ask…well what if I don’t feel Fergalicious?

        Even if you have to use your fingers to move your lips to say it… say it and your mind will think it so… Oh BTW this works for “Good Morning” responses to early morning runners like me…. Fergy

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Fergy, I have such a HUGE smile on my face reading this! You are absolutely fergalicious!

        I also like the Positive Habit Patterns thinking…and need to begin noticing when I my attitude goes negative and the triggers. Thanks for that.


  13. Hi Pat! I have done lots of consciousness-raising work in the past and it continues to be a primary goal for me so I appreciate this post very much. I had never come across the “Spiritual Strengths Institute” before but I will definitely have to check it out. I’m not really “struggling” to change anything at this point and mostly hope to fine-tune areas that can use improvement. One of my biggest is the fact that I still care more about others opinion than is often good for me. So I share that with you? and perhaps many others. I’m ALWAYS ready to improve it. Thanks for the ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kathy, I came across it when doing Retirement Life Coach training and just recently returned to it as I kept thinking about behaviors linked to beliefs. That link has some up so often recently – an unconscious bias conversation, a habit change conversation, even a personal self-love conversation. So… what belief do you & I have that causes us to care so much about others opinions? For me, some of it is my personal identity of being the “good girl” which was my childhood role in the family. But I do wonder what other beliefs I have that reinforce it? Yup, thinking about thinking a lot lately!


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