esther m palmer

You're practicing observing your thoughts. Maybe you're recognizing the power of thinking. But how exactly do thoughts lead to action?

Remember Newton and the roughly equal force (F) of sudden (high a) vs. daily (high m) thoughts?

Well, if fundamental physics got us to the idea of the thoughts having power (F), it was the algebra that helped us understand the different ways thoughts wield force.

The truth of the equation teaches us not only about F, force, but also m, mass, and a, acceleration. You can look at the different roles the parts play in the equation to see how one effects the others.

Because math is math, all true equations work this way. So we can use this feature again to figure out what thoughts are made of and how they are connected to actions.

The equation of thinking

If you were a thought, what might have had to take place to stir you into being? When do you find yourself thinking?

All the time, I know, but specific thoughts tend to arise with actions, right? You do something, you think something that goes with what you're doing or comes up because of what you're doing.

So, thoughts (t) = Actions (A).

Then what? Does something need to be added to the action to create thought or determine the nature of the thought? Is thought the action amplified or deconstructed by something?

To sort through this, let's say you're doing a walking meditation. That means you're walking (pretty slowly) and thinking only "left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot..." (or similar) and presumably you're feeling nothing about what you're doing. You're at an emotional neutral.

In this scenario, t = A is sufficient. But t = A can also be expressed as t = A * 1. Thus there can be an algebraic equation t = A * x, right? Just so long as x = 1 = neutral feeling/emotion.

But what if you've been sitting in a traffic jam for half an hour? When the cars start to move, you'll likely feel relief and think something along the lines of "Oh, thank goodness we're moving".

Your emotion here is other than neutral and it has contributed to your thought. So, we can replace x with a more precise variable f, feelings, and allow it to have a value other than 1. Thus: t = A * f

Your thoughts are the result of your actions and the feelings they stir up.

Of course, because of algebra, where t = A * f, it must also be true that f = t / A and A = f / t. Oh, how I do love equations! But even still, let's not get too attached to the exact equation. I concede you could as easily justify t = f / A as t = A * f because we're dealing with the mind in a broad, non-scientific way, so maybe just roll with it for me...

Whatever the actual "math" for any one situation might be, the point is that your thoughts and feelings and actions are undeniably, mathematically (!), intertwined.

Your thoughts are the product of how you feel about your actions.

Your actions are the result of your feelings analyzed by thoughts. It doesn't matter if those actions are automatic or calculated.

Your feelings are the result of transforming your thoughts into actions.

Want to change the value of any part of the equation? 

You can go through either of the other two parts to get there. Change your Actions and you'll create a shift in your thoughts and/or feelings.

Feel rotten? Make yourself smile and jump and dance. Fake it till you believe it.

Feel antsy? Do something that requires a hefty physical effort or mental focus.

Feel joy? Soak it in. Know that you'll be OK when the feelings of joy morph into something else.

Some days, it'll feel like you're fighting yourself. But the more you let yourself dig in, the better a shot you have of your better self coming out the victor.

How do you dig in?

Thinking nasty thoughts about a colleague? 

Find a good feeling: search for at least one thing about her that makes you smile. Go the extra mile and tell her.

Thinking critical thoughts about yourself? 

Take action: do something you're really good at, even if it's a mundane task.

Assess and repeat!

Sometimes, though, making these shifts isn't the right move. Certain thoughts you should engage with and shouldn't try to walk off. If you feel challenged and resistant to any of the above suggestions, try to ask yourself why. Do you just need to feel the way you feel for a while? Are you going through something tough that does indeed need processing?

Those aren't the thoughts and feelings to ignore or throw away. Engage freely in turning them over in your mind. Talk them through or write them down. (External processing can speed the healing process.)

When the challenge of observing without engaging is too much, trust that. 

If, rather, you just seem antsy or bored with the task, well, you can do better, I promise! (As long as you want to do better.)

Change your approach, or give it a break today and come back tomorrow. Then, keep at it, a little bit each day.

By doing so, you'll have the fuel for transforming your thoughts, feelings, and actions!

Once you can observe your thoughts enough to realize that they're effecting you, you can take an action to change them directly or indirectly, as per our equation above.

You will always have the three components in your equation to create the change you seek. If one doesn't work, you can try another.

Keep at it, day by day.

Observing with you,

There's a powerful force in your life. Your thoughts.

(Missed my email on how to start observing your thoughts? View it here and then sign up below to catch the next one!)

If your thoughts create palpable force, then perhaps we can draw in a little help from our old pal Newton to understand how thinking works...

I know. Physics wasn't exactly what you were expecting. But don't go! There are no tests here, just pure concept that even I can grasp.

A lesson from Newton

Newton's second law states: Force = mass * acceleration

That is, the amount of force something exhibits is the result of its "size" and speed. A grizzly bear is big enough that he can knock you over with a slow punch or a rapid smash. But the force of the rapid smash will create a crushing impact, while the slow punch will just make you fall.

A mouse who stumbles into you will leave the slightest impression - a tickle on your ankle. But a mouse who races headfirst into your ankle at his top speed is gonna make you take a step back (unless you're braced and ready for him).

Another way to say this is that power is bred of size and timing.

And if your thoughts have power over you, it's likely because they

  • hit suddenly, even if they're small or "inconsequential"
  • onset slowly, especially when they're big or profound

Or you could think of size as volume. Then your powerful thought might have

  • high repetition, while being of average size or everyday importance,

and create a strong force in you.

(I can't tell you how much this analogy tickles me. Such is the power of thinking over your feelings, but more on that next week!)

The power of thinking

Sudden revelation can feel like an actual force has slammed into your brain.

The power of that force makes you stop and take it in because you don't really have any other option. That's how a sudden insight can change the course of your life.

Is there a moment you can think of that rerouted your own actions in life?

Just a teensy bit of re-purposed physics "proves" that the same ability to change your life can come through the steady persistence of an everyday thought.

Why might you even want to tap into the "power" of thinking? Why should you care that it's there whether you seek to create it or not?

Is there something about yourself or others that is true but that you struggle to embrace and believe?

You can remove the struggle.

Take the truth, package it up nice and neat, and then repeat it in your thoughts everyday.

One day, somewhere out there in the future, not only will you believe it, you will start to make decisions and take action based on that truth. (So make sure it's actually true and useful before you begin!)

(Thought repetition can work in both good and bad ways --so please, take care with your thoughts. Avoid repeating factual falsehoods or hurtful, negative opinions (about anyone) in your thoughts. They won't do any permanent damage once in a while, but over and over again and hurtful thinking, well, hurts.)

Put your thoughts to work

The power of thinking fuels action and generates changes beyond your mind. And while you may not be striving to take action on anything in particular, its still important to be aware of this equation.

There will be power in your thoughts that you didn't know was there.

A powerful thought can propel you to say, do, or feel something you didn't expect. And if you weren't expecting it, you may not be prepared to take the driver's seat with it there.

I can't tell you how many times I've nearly lost my sh*t for what felt like no reason at all. But somewhere in my head are the ideas, the thoughts, the experiences that tie into those moment of zero cool.

Even if you don't have an outlet in mind for the power of your thoughts, that power will go somewhere: into your next thoughts or actions, or maybe someone else's ear.

Start paying attention to your thoughts. You can become aware of how you react, respond, and reflect in your thoughts. Through that clarity, you can shape your actions.

How do you start? I have an equation for that too. Check back here next week for part two on the power of thinking in which we tackle not only thoughts but feelings (!) and taking action...

Till then, keep observing,



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