Simply put, our thoughts are directly responsible for our actions, and therefore, our results. Using this model to map our minds can free us to become the best version of ourselves.
Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life
The first step is to identify the negative thought you want to change. That sounds easy, but our brains and our daily mental routines fight against us. We don’t give ourselves peace to “listen” internally so we can notice the lies we tell ourselves.
- I’m stupid; I have no talent.
- I don’t deserve to spend time writing; it’s a luxury.
- I’m not worth the paper this is written on.
- Why bother? Nobody cares about the stuff I write.
We’d never say such things to a fellow writer. So, why do we say them to ourselves?
Even when we say them to ourselves in jest, they affect our psyche.
What Lies Are Haunting You?
Let’s apply the model to a negative thought that Author Sally has identified she wants to change: “I can’t write because I have no idea what to write about.”
- Circumstance (a provable fact): Sally is a new writer wanting ideas.
- Thought: “I have no idea what to write about.”
- Feeling (the emotion when she has the thought): Frustration
- Action (what she does when she feels frustrated): Curls up on the couch, watching mindless shows every night
- Result (the outcome of her action): Sally does not write
The result (i.e., Sally does not write) provides evidence for her original thought that she cannot write and has no ideas.
If you struggle to consciously identify thoughts that are holding you back, can you identify a feeling instead? If so, work backward in the model to identify the thought that produced your feeling. You’ll likely come up with several, but pick just one thought to work with first.
Creating and Believing New Thoughts
After you apply the model using your original thought, the next step is to create a new thought to replace the old one. Yeah, that’s not easy either.
You may need to use a “bridge thought” (as named by Castillo), which will provide a stepping stone until you can believe the new thought.
That’s where the bridge thought is useful. Her bridge thought could be, “I’m willing to consider that I do have ideas when I pay attention and let myself get quiet.”
Every time the old thought shows up, Sally can replace it with her bridge thought. Eventually, the bridge will become her default thought. At that point, she can begin replacing the bridge thought with her new belief.
In the beginning, keep your bridge/new thoughts simple and straightforward so they’re easier to use as replacements for the old thought.
Let’s look at another example. After receiving constructive feedback from her critique group on a short story, Author Glenda thinks, “I don’t have the skills to be a writer.”
- Circumstance (neutral, provable fact): Glenda received feedback from her critique group.
- Thought: I don’t have the skills to be a writer.
- Feeling: Depression.
- Action: She stops writing, quits studying the writing craft, and leaves her critique group.
- Result: Glenda no longer grows and improves as a writer; her development as a writer halts.
Since Glenda stops learning and practicing the craft, her writing skills don’t improve. Thus, her result (no improvement) provides the evidence to support her original thought (“I don’t have the skills”).
If Glenda wants the simple new thought: “I AM a writer,” she might consider a bridge thought such as “I’m willing to learn and improve my writing every way I can.”
Now, it’s your turn.
This will feel awkward or artificial to you at first. That’s common. Fully understanding the model takes time and repetition. Keep trying. Tackle your negative thoughts one at a time. The more you apply the CTFAR model, the better you will understand it and receive its benefits.
I’d love to hear how this goes for you. Comment below or email me at Gina@AroundTheWritersTable.com.
Gina Edwards is a retreat leader, a certified creativity coach, and a book editor. She is also a writer, so she’s intimately familiar with the challenges and elation that come with being one.
She supports all writers—published and aspiring—who want to write as an act of courageous and necessary self-expression.
Walking the writer’s path hand-in-hand with her clients and students, she helps them establish a writing practice and define a creative life on their own terms.