Beware the Thought Train

Have you ever woken up and the first thing that comes to your mind is something negative?



It might be some negative self-talk or something someone said to you yesterday. It could be some criticism you received from your boss or perhaps you’re still thinking about the argument you had with a loved one. When this happens, how does this make you feel?

Crappy and now you don’t want to get out of bed?


And what was supposed to be a great day has now been blackened by your own thoughts? Have you ever considered how these first thoughts affect how you start your day?


If this rarely happens to you and you wake up with a clear mind, positive about the new day then that’s great!!


But don’t stop reading!!


I’m betting that on that odd occasion, these thoughts can linger and put a dark taint on at least some of your day. If you resonate with having these thoughts more regularly, I’d invite you to reflect on,

To what degree do these first morning thoughts affect your day?

Do your dark thoughts affect just you the first few minutes after you wake?


Are they washed away with your morning shower?


Or do these thoughts colour everything you do for the whole day? Are these thoughts pervasive and affect your mood so deeply that you’re grumpy or snappy to everyone for the whole day?


Is your mood affected for a few days?


Weeks?


Are you basically always grumpy and it’s been so long since you woke up feeling happy or even vaguely neutral…? Ouch! If you can ever recall waking up with thoughts that change your self-confidence, your mood or what you chose to do for even the shortest time, you have experienced a Thought Train.



I love the Thought Train concept. It makes me think of a locomotive with a line of carriages behind it.


This is because your Thought is the locomotive that pulls the first carriage called the Meaning you give the thought. The second carriage is the Emotion we assign to the Meaning.


THOUGHT MEANING EMOTION

So, depending on the meaning you give to the thought, you feel an associated emotion. Sometimes it doesn’t end with the Emotion...


If you allow it to, your Thought Train can actually grow to become a freight train. You know the type of train I’m talking about - The type of train that has so many carriages that take ages to slowly rumble past while you’re sitting, waiting at the railway crossing. And if you allow an Emotion to stick around for too long then it can turn into a Mood.

When you allow a Mood to fester, then it becomes a Temperament. And a Temperament, if left to become a habit then becomes your Personality. At Personality your Thought Train is at its most powerful.


Everything you do, think and say will be coloured by your Personality.


At this level of influence, the Thought Train creates blocks, beliefs about how things are and these create more thoughts, making more meanings and emotions that stop you from moving forward towards your goals. So, let’s break it down once more.


You have a Thought. You then assign a Meaning to the thought based on a number of factors including your beliefs about how you see the world and how you believe the world sees you. Based on the Meaning you give the Thought, your body expresses an Emotion. How about an example?


Jenny and Kathy are walking down the street together. They see Craig walking towards them. They both look in Craig’s direction but Craig walks by them without acknowledging them or saying hi. Jenny’s Thought Train: Thought: “Oh, that’s unusual, Craig didn’t say hi. Oh well, he must have a lot on his mind. I’ll give him a call later. I’ve been meaning to catch up with him to hear about his amazing new job”. Meaning: Craig was distracted, it’s not about me. Emotion: Excitement and optimism for a call. Kathy’s Thought Train: Thought: “What an ars&%$! He deliberately ignored me! He thinks he’s so good now he’s got that fancy job”. Meaning: Why doesn’t he like me? Aren’t I good enough? Emotion: Anger, hurt. Two very different Thought Trains.


Jenny and Kathy had very different experiences and very different emotional responses.


I wonder how long Kathy will feel angry for?


I wonder what she will miss out on today because of this angry mood?

How do you stop the Thought Train?


The key to controlling the Thought Train is the meaning you assign to your thoughts. What are you making it mean? And what are you making it mean about you? Sometimes, like in the Jenny example, there’s little to no meaning to be placed on the thought at all.


Analysing, agonising and assigning meaning to every little look, action or conversation can screw with your head in a big way.


Humans are meaning-making machines!


Sometimes it’s OK to not give something meaning. Sometimes it’s not about you.


Why would you want to control the Thought Train?


How would you like your mood to be most of the time? I don’t know anyone who wants to feel angry, hurt, lost, stressed or sad all day every day, do you?


These feelings and emotions become habitual for some people just like other unhealthy habits.


It becomes part of their personality.


And who wants to be known as Mr. Grumpy-pants, really?


Even if you are someone who only allows your thought train to get the better of you once in a while, it’s important to reflect on what you miss out on by being in a mood.


What experiences or people have you pushed aside to continue to live in that emotion? Ask yourself how can I reverse out of the mood and give the thought a different meaning?

What can I do?


What can I tell myself?

 

Emma Taberner is a qualified Leadership and Executive Coach, Speaker, Facilitator, author and self-confessed Human Behaviour nerd. With over 20 years Supply Chain industry experience and 10 years coaching and mentoring frontline leaders, she is passionate about helping small business owners and their teams to understand how their behaviours determine their leadership and effectiveness in business, relationships and in life. Emma works One to One, with groups, both face 2 face and online.

When she’s not building future leaders you can find her flying small planes, being in the outdoors, growing her own food and hanging out with her husband of over 20 years.

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