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. 🙂