Thoughts are optional

The kind of coaching I do is referred to as thought work. In its most basic form that means I help people see what they are thinking, how that is effecting their life and help them think better thoughts. With better thoughts they get better results. Doesn’t it sound like a nice easy process? There are times when it can be simple, but more often than not what happens is we tend to think our thoughts are facts. We believe everything we think. Even if what we are thinking is causing us problems.

The first thing I do with any client is help them separate out the thoughts from the facts of any situation. Facts are observable and provable, anyone can agree on them. When we are telling a story about our lives we think are simply reporting the facts. Here is an example:

Bedtime is the worst time of the day! We try so hard to plan and be consistent and it’s just so frustrating because the kids act like they have never done this before when we have done the same thing every night of their entire lives!

Any other parents feel me? It’s just a fact that bedtime is frustrating. If the kids would get it together then I wouldn’t be so frustrated. Sounds reasonable, right? I mean we are all tired already and they move SO SLOWLY, and…and…

Let’s check this out through fact test. What are the observable provable facts that EVERYONE can agree on? That it’s bedtime? Well. that’s just a choice we’ve made as parents (the kids certainly didn’t choose it!). We put them to bed at roughly the same time every night? Sure, that’s provable. And we do the same routine almost every night. Also true and observable. In that whole tirade above, those are the only things that I could say are facts in this situation. The piece about it being frustrating is not a fact. Even though I probably could have gotten many parents to agree with me that bed time is in fact frustrating, there are probably lots of parents who dont’ think it’s frustrating. Well, they probably just have easy kids right?

The truth is that frustration is just a feeling caused by the thought that the kids should know what to do and just do it! But what if that isn’t true? What if the kids are supposed to push the limits every night like it’s their job because it’s their actual developmental job? Well, that thought actually makes me feel amused. And there are plenty of nights when I think that and the bedtime process is just fine. The kids act the same either way. The frustration or amusement is all in my head.

This is the great news. Thoughts are optional.