Saturday Series “How to Use Adversity to Your Advantage”: Part 2: Change Your Thoughts, Minimize Suffering!

All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming. – Helen Keller.

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenfettig/1390275600

(This is the second in an 8-part guest series titled “Why Catastrophe ROCKS! An 8-part Series on How to Use Adversity to Your Advantage.” by Sarah Novak. The first post, which explores why catastrophe happens, can be found HERE. Please share your thoughts in the comments, tx! Tia)

As mentioned in post one of the series, I have yet to figure out a way to prevent catastrophe from happening, but I have learned the next best thing – how we can control our response to it.  To do that, we need to start by de-bunking a common misperception. 

The misperception I’m referring to is the belief that our circumstances directly produce our feelings and therefore must change in order for us to feel better.  

In reality, there is something happening behind the scenes that we often forget – there’s actually a THOUGHT taking place between the circumstance happening and the feeling being produced. 

And guess what? 

That feeling is a direct result of the thought you choose to believe! 

What that means is that you can choose to feel better by changing your thoughts WITHOUT your circumstance needing to change. This is great news for times when you have no control over the situation’s resolution!

Upon understanding and accepting that you have a choice in how you respond to the circumstances of your life, the question then becomes, “How do I WANT to be with my circumstance and what thoughts need to change in order for that to happen?”

A Useful Model

Instead of just expounding on this concept (which you may have heard some iteration of before), I’d like to take it one step further and give you a model to help you change your thoughts. The model I’m going to show you today was created by fellow Life Coach Brooke Castillo. I find this model uber-effective because it is not only simple, but powerful too.  

Here’s how it works:

  1. To use this model, begin by asking, “What is the circumstance?” You can define circumstance as something that is out of your control.
  2. Step 2 is to ask the question, “What thought is this circumstance producing?” Be really honest with yourself when identifying the thought.  If there are multiple thoughts, pick the one with the most emotion tied to it.
  3. Step 3 is to ask, “What do you feel when you think this thought?” Feel free to list as many emotions/feelings as you can identify.
  4. Step 4 is to ask, “How do you act when you feel this way?” Again, feel free to list as many actions as you’d like.
  5. Finally, ask yourself, “What is the result of this action?” Most likely, it will prove that your original thought was accurate, which then serves to reinforce the cycle.

In order to shift the final outcome you must learn to ask yourself, “What is a better-feeling thought to choose concerning this circumstance?”.

Key point: The thought still has to be true. It just needs to have an ever-so-slightly more positive feel to it.

To help you understand how the model works, I’m going to make up a circumstance and hypothetically work through the steps. For today’s purposes, let’s assume the circumstance is that you applied for a job and didn’t get it (since I know many of us can relate to that).

  • That circumstance produces a thought which might be something like, “I’m not good enough.  I’m never going to succeed in my field.” 
  • That thought may stir up a variety of emotions ranging from self-pity and despair to anger. 
  • The action it results in is often INACTION. Your confidence is down so you might withdraw and indulge in self-pity.  The result is you don’t go out and apply for more jobs. 
  • And that result ultimately reinforces your initial thought that you weren’t good enough and are never going to succeed. 
  • Then the pattern repeats itself.  Can you see what a vicious cycle this is??? 

So how could you find a better-feeling thought concerning the circumstance of not getting the job? 

You might think, “There must have been a lot of amazingly-qualified applicants.  I wasn’t the best match this time, but I know I’m going to find the right fit soon.” 

This produces calmer emotions and an acceptance of what is, allowing you to put your energy to use in more productive ways. Your corresponding action may then be to continue applying for jobs at a steady pace. Chances are that after enough interviews, one will result in a job offer. 

Please notice again that the result proves the original thought in this circumstance.

As you can see, this model shows that by changing your thoughts, you can also, in effect, control your emotions.  It also disproves the idea that your circumstances have to change in order for you to feel better about a situation. 

In reality, circumstances are irrelevant once they’ve occurred because they’re in the past

Moving from victim to empowered individual requires that you recognize where your control lies. It is a waste of time expending energy into trying to change the circumstance; much better to channel that energy into choosing your response (and therefore minimizing your suffering).

This model has radically decreased the amount of suffering I created in my life and I sincerely hope it will rock your world too! Why don’t you go ahead and try it out right now with a circumstance you’re facing in your life?

Leave a comment below about what you discovered by working through this model. Stay tuned for next week’s post when we’ll begin exploring the benefits of adversity!

As a Cancer Coach, Sarah Novak is committed to helping female cancer survivors use their experience as a catalyst for transformation in their lives. Although we cannot control our circumstances, we CAN always decide how we choose to be with our reality. Visit www.coachsarahnovak.com to learn about her private and group coaching programs + receive her free guide: “Coping with the Everyday Fears of Cancer: How to Minimize Fear and Anxiety by Transforming Your Thoughts.”

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** Want MORE BLISS and less stress in your life? Inner Sparkle: The 21 Day eCourse is made for you. Click here to get inspired. Happy. Sparkly. **

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  1. says

    “It is a waste of time expending energy into trying to change the circumstance; much better to channel that energy into choosing your response (and therefore minimizing your suffering).” – love love love this, Sarah!! Thanks for this kickass series!

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