Have you ever been angry? Never mind, that was a rhetorical question. So cast your mind back to a time you were angry. At that moment, you probably did not think critically about how you ended up feeling angry, just the event that, ‘made’ you angry. Well, now that you have time to read this, let’s explore the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Imagine going to the bank for about half an hour before it closes. I’m sure your own personal examples are starting to come up. You stand in a long line and finally get to a teller. While interacting with the teller, they slide a sheet across the counter for you to full, but it seems it was done in an abrupt way, that lacks some professionalism.
In the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and actions, thoughts are usually the control center. Almost all motivational speeches address thoughts and the way we think. This is because motivational speakers understand the power of the mind and our thoughts. The way we think is influenced by a number of factors. Family culture, national culture, education, and life experiences are all examples of such factors. So let’s start with the above scenario in the intro. What are some of the thoughts you might have about this? “This teller is so rude, no customer service manners!” Or, They’re moving so fast so I can finish quickly, but that was not the right way to do things.” Or, “It’s been a long day, I’m sure they’re so tired and did not realize that they did that.”
In the relationship between your thoughts feelings and actions, feelings tend to be experienced the strongest. We often allow our feelings/emotions to drive a lot of what we do. This can be very dangerous, especially when our feelings are very strong, regardless of the type of emotion it is. So working with our example, I’m sure you can already imagine the types of emotions that may come from the thoughts outlined above. The first thought may lead to feelings of strong anger, entitlement, and frustration. The second thought may lead to a mix of satisfaction with the speed and some irritation. And the last thought, could lead to feelings of empathy and thoughtfulness.
The last of the three is the most overt (obvious). This is the part of the process that others see. The interesting thing about actions is that they do not always align with our thoughts, and that’s not a bad thing. Imagine feeling so happy after getting a promotion that you want to give your CEO a big hug and kiss on the cheek. Unless the CEO is your parent, you probably wouldn’t do that, would you? Probably not! So, with our example, the first thought and feeling might lead you to snatch the sheet and return it in a similar manner, maybe even yell at the teller as well. The second thought and feeling are likely to lead to you being cold and ignore what happened, or you may even decide to give a bit of advice if you’re feeling patient enough. The third and final thought and feeling might lead you to remain calm, smile at the teller, and maybe even say, “You must be tired. I saw the long line you served. Thankfully the day is over.”
Bringing It All together
From what we can see, the same event can lead to multiple outcomes. However, the important thing to note is that thoughts often determine how we feel and generally influence our actions. So whenever you are assessing your behavior or feelings, work your way back to the thought that ran through your mind first. Faulty thinking called cognitive distortions can lead to many negative emotions.