esther m palmer

an equation to live by: thoughts, feelings, actions

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,

Thoughts or questions? I'd love to hear them.

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