Balance & Beyond Podcast
#10 Unlocking the Magic Equation: How Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviour Shape Your Success and Well-Being
Could one simple equation really hold the key to changing everything?
Imagine transforming your life with a single equation: your thoughts drive your feelings, which drive your behaviour, which ultimately leads to your results. Sounds too good to be true? Join us as we uncover the power of this life-changing equation and how it can help you achieve true balance in your career, relationships, and overall well-being.
Did you know that our minds produce around 85,000 thoughts daily, 90% of which are repetitive and negative? We'll discuss how these thoughts spark emotions within our bodies and how our bodies can't tell the difference between real and imagined fear. Together, we'll explore the concept of becoming neurologically addicted to emotions such as fear, guilt, shame, overwhelm, or imposter syndrome. Learn how to break free from this cycle and rewire your mind for success by becoming conscious of your thoughts and feelings and finding the tools to achieve your goals.
Don't let your thoughts hold you back any longer - tune in and discover the power to change your life today!
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- How your brain works and the volume of thoughts that make it so noisy in between your ears
- The particular primal instincts that served you on the savannah but are now working against you in today’s world
- Why it can feel so difficult to switch off at the end of the day, especially the bubbling anger and frustration that feels so alive
- The neurological reason most of the things you’ve tried before never stick and why change feels so exhausting
- The simple shift that lets you stop feeling numb, defrost and let in the joy and calm so many of us crave.
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INTRO: Welcome to Balance and Beyond, the podcast for ambitious women who refuse to accept burnout as the price of success. Here, we’re committed to empowering you with the tools and strategies you need to achieve true balance, where your career, relationships and health all thrive, and where you have the power to define success on your own terms. I honour the space you’ve created for yourself today, so take a breath, and let's dive right in…
There's an equation that I came to know a number of years ago and, as somebody who was never that great at maths, or that interested in maths, I initially dismissed it. Until I really understood what stood behind this equation, and it blew my mind and literally changed my life. And I don't say this very lightly, and every single person I share this equation with has this light bulb moment of, "Oh my gosh, you're right, that is how it works!” And it can change everything.
Let me share with you what this equation is, and I'm going to talk you through each of the components, and it's going to give you some insight into what's going on with you and how you're feeling at the moment. But also why some of the strategies that you're trying, or why you're trying to change, aren't actually working for you. So this is going to work on both sides.
So this equation is that your thoughts, drive your feelings, which drives your behaviour, which gets you your results. I'll say that again. Your thoughts, drive your feelings, which drives your behaviour, and drives your results. This has been shared in many different ways throughout history. You call it ancient wisdom, things like “mind over matter.” But my logical brain always thought, "You know what it's about. The strategy, these thoughts and stuff that don’t matter, that's fluffy stuff, that's woo.” “Let me double down on the strategy.” “Let me double down on shifting my behaviour, and then I'm going to get the results that I want.”
I thought that if I was just clear on my goals, or I worked a little harder, or I pushed a little harder, everything would change. Let me break down each of these four components, and share with you what really sits behind them.
So first, let's talk about our thoughts. These are the voices in our head. We have, depending on what research you read, about 85,000 of them a day, literally multiple thoughts. A second 90% of them are repetitive and negative. Your brain is not really interested in thinking about something different. We get stuck in this loop that goes around and around and around, and many of the voices that are in your head are subconscious, which means you're not intentionally thinking these thoughts. They're part of, almost like an old program that continues to run again and again and again.
And what drives the thoughts that run around in our head are very often the questions that we ask ourselves. Questions like, "Did I make a mistake?” “Was that good enough?” “What are they going to think of me?” “Did I win?” “What am I going to miss out on? What's going to happen if I don't do this?” And as we have a thought, that thought triggers a chemical reaction in our brain, that actually then creates a physical reaction in our body, which is called an emotion.
So, just to be clear, these emotions or feelings are being driven by a thought. And you can imagine, depending on what that thought is. If that thought is, "Oh my gosh, tiger!", then we are going to feel fear, and we are going to have a physiological reaction in the body. Our heart rate is going to elevate. We're going to have blood rushing to extremities. Our body is preparing us to run. If I've had a thought about, “Oh, such a lovely hug, and I'm feeling love.” “Well then, I'm going to have this warmth in my chest.” “I'm going to almost feel a nice glow.”
If I've been cut off in traffic, or somebody's just asked me for something that I can't produce, I might feel angry. I'm going to clench my fists, or my jaw, or I'm going to feel this burning in my chest. Researchers have even mapped how each of these different emotions literally show up in heat maps in the body. So, this thought that now drives the emotion, or the feeling, has changed my physiological state, which, no surprise, then generates a whole heap more thoughts about why I'm feeling. And let me find more reasons to feel that way. And so we kind of dig ourselves in this hole and dig and dig and dig and stay there.
In some cases, it might have been a physical event outside us that triggered the thought. Our eyes go, "Oh, tiger running towards me!” Okay. And the thought goes “Tiger!" And everything else happens from there. But, interestingly, an emotion can be triggered whether the thought is of a real thing that's going on in front of you, or whether it's completely imagined. Your body does not know the difference between real fear and imagined fear.
And I do this exercise sometimes with my clients, where we get them in a room or virtual rooms, and I get them to deliberately think of something that they're afraid of. And when they do that, and stepping into that environment, when they turn around and go, "Oh my gosh, I'm now conscious of what I'm doing.” Whoa, like they could not believe the difference in their body. When you're lying in bed reliving the anger of being thrown under the bus in yesterday's meeting, your body is experiencing that anger in that moment, as though it's happening in real time. Your body doesn't know that that anger is from yesterday or from last week or last month, or that sadness from when you were five, that is still living in you, is still being run on a loop, again and again and again.
Our brain likes to conserve energy. It's one of its key methods of survival. And to do that, well, new thoughts require more energy. They require reprogramming from habit, from a trigger. So, it's designed to just keep things on a loop. It doesn't care whether it makes you happy or not, it's not interested in that. It's interested in your survival. So, as you sit there reliving the past memory, as if it's in the present, you can see how what's really happening here is. Your body is now trapped in the past. You continue to live in the present moment. A past thought, which drives that feeling, and we go round and round. And so your current reality, then reinforces the thought and comes up with more reasons, usually from your past. Or it then projects forward, because the emotions that most people in my world, who haven't yet worked with me, are living in are guilt and shame and fear and overwhelm.
When your body's in that heightened state, it's really worried about, "Well, I'm heightened, because I'm waiting for the tiger to come.” And so it continues to project forward in a desire to protect you, because it thinks that's what needs to happen, to keep you alive. When’s it going to happen again? And we go back to our primitive brains. We go back to we've just seen a lion, and we're out on foot on the savannah. “I am now going to be extra heightened as I step forward, even though the lion's gone.” Behind the rock, I hear a crack to my right in the bushes. I'm going to be on high alert because my brain is trying to predict, "Could that thing, could that lion, be coming at me again?" And so we're very then focused on trying to avoid that fear or that threat coming in.
The future makes sense when it's a lion, and we're trying to make sure that the lion hasn't been tricky, and gone and done a loop around, and is then going to come and attack us from the front. But when that thing that we're focused on is our inbox, or something from the boss, or our kitchen bench, that's when it becomes debilitating. Our brain is having exactly the same chemical reaction, and is stuck in this loop as if it's a lion. Exactly the same stress responses on the savannah, plunked into our digital, modern world. And so we continue to stay trapped in the past.
This is really all a memory is: an emotional reaction to a thought, which may or may not be the result of an external event that we capture like a photo. We've captured that moment, and then we've stored it in our long-term memory. Anyone who's seen the movie Inside Out, that's a great way to understand some of these concepts. It's a Disney movie or a Pixar movie, but in that there's these beautiful moments where there's this feeling of love or joy. The character, Joy, then creates a memory and there's this ball that kind of comes out, and then goes into this big long-term memory bank. That's how our brain works. And so, if we are stuck in these loops of particularly fight or flight, overwhelm and stress, and then somebody cuts us off in traffic, well there's another memory, because we are constantly looking to repeat the past.
As I'm now stuck in this loop of emotions and thoughts, what that's going to do is, that's going to now trigger a certain behaviour. Some examples for you. I'm quite happy to be thrown under the bus in a meeting, because I actually wanted off that project, and I was looking for a way to hit the escape button. I might feel some relief when that happened. And I'm now going to go to my boss or my stakeholders and say, "You know what? We need to reallocate resources, because you're right, I can't deliver that because I've got this other, more important priority.” You're going to have a very measured conversation.
If your thoughts and feelings about that external event, if you're embarrassed or you're angry, you're probably going to confront that person. Maybe you're going to step into conflict, or maybe you're going to run away and hide and then bury yourself on the couch that night until 2am and then feel the need to go and correct that thing or prove them wrong.
A more simplistic example of how these emotions trigger a behaviour. I'm a child, if I love dogs, and I see one walking towards me and the thought is, "Oh puppy!” I get excited. And that emotion is excitement. Now my behavioural response is I walk over towards the dog for a pat. If I don't like dogs, and I see one coming, I go, "Dog!” And that emotion is fear. Well, now my behaviour is I hide behind my parents' leg and shake. So, you can see how the same external event that's happened to two children, a dog is walking towards them, based simply on their thoughts and their emotions, this event is going to trigger different responses.
And very often, those thoughts are based on past experiences, not present ones, which is how we get trapped in the past. And this has a purpose. I mean, we see the lion, the lion charges. Next time we see a lion, learn not to do that. But if we continue to suspect that we're going to let somebody down, or we're going to feel guilty, well then that's not the way we want to be living.
And then, at the end of the equation, this behaviour gives us our results. Maybe I'm now friends with the neighbourhood pooch and every time I go for a walk in my stroller I get to see it and wave and say hi. or our results might be that I now won't walk down that side of the street because I'm terrified that that dog is going to come and pounce on me. Maybe my results are: “I've now made an enemy in the finance department, because I'm now trying to throw them in front of the bus because they threw me.”
Or I'm staying awake until 3am, redoing something that I feel like I was embarrassed by, or wasn't up to standard. And now, as I'm here doing lunches and having breakfast, I'm yelling at the kids as they get ready for school. And that's nothing to do with them. But that is the result of these thoughts about, "oh my gosh, it wasn't good enough, i should have double checked it, i shouldn't have delegated that and then feelings of guilt and shame, and then behaviour of staying up till 3am, and then the result is we yell at the kids, or the partner or our team or something like that.
I mentioned earlier that the challenge with this equation and how it works in our life is that many of these thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, are not actually conscious. While we might intentionally get angry at something. There are a huge amount of these subconscious programs running in the background that hijack us. If you think about it, you're not conscious of having 80 plus thousand thoughts in a day. Many of these are just: you need to go to the bathroom, you're a bit thirsty, or you need a cup of tea. These are things that our body is doing in the background.
It's these subconscious programs that make us feel compelled to triple check something when it's not okay, when you know it is okay. That might be the subconscious thought that you're not really aware of around, "Maybe I'm not good enough, or I shouldn't be in this job.” Which then drives the emotion of usually some kind of fear based emotion, which then tips us into this hyper-vigilant behaviour where we want to control everything, and it has to be perfect, and it drives perfectionism. And then we worry about things and then it takes us forever to complete something, and our result is a massive inbox and things that we can't get through. When in reality, it's simply our thoughts and our feelings that are driving those results for us.
We also become neurologically addicted to these emotions. When you have a pattern, they say that neurons that wire together, fire together. So if we have this continuous or stimulus response of, " See child; feel guilty.” “See child; feel guilty.” “See child; feel guilty.” Well, you're not going to have to worry. That program now, that neural pathway, is very well activated. And so anytime now we see a child, our brain goes, “Ah; feel guilty.” And if we now go, “Oh, I don't want to feel guilty.” Our brain then says “No, no, no, no, this is now eight o'clock.” We feel guilty at this time. So what else can I make you feel guilty about? Hmm, I know, you were late to work. You can feel guilty about that. Or you put chips in the kids lunchbox instead of an extra fruit. You can feel guilty about that too.
This is where it becomes so important to become conscious of what's going on, and understand how all these emotions work, because you are battling against your brain. You are battling against what has been wired together. It's not your fault that they're wired together. You didn't know it was happening. But this is where we have to do the work to wire and fire the relationships, or the channels that we want. When we talk about this wiring and firing I hinted earlier there is also a biodirectional relationship in this formula where, yes, our thoughts drive our feelings, which drives our behaviour, and drives our results. However, feelings also directly can impact our thoughts, if we don't process them.
And most women who come to me, I would say, are emotionally numb, or frozen, and that's a word they use a lot. They just feel a bit numb, they feel a bit meh, and that is because they've lived so long in these disempowering states of fear, guilt, shame, overwhelm, imposter syndrome. I feel like they're doing it wrong, that their body decides. You know what I feel? It's so terrible, feeling these negative things all the time. But to protect me, I'm just going to turn the volume down on everything. Because there's so much fear, and there's so much overwhelm, and there's so much guilt. Let's just turn the volume down and make it a bit softer.
But what happens is when you turn the volume down on emotions and start thinking, "All right, well, your body's doing what it wants to.” Let's turn down the negative stuff. You also turn down the positive stuff. You turn down the joy and the contentment, and that's when you just end up feeling meh. And what will still happen is those subconscious patterns will still. Even though you've tried to numb yourself, those subconscious patterns are still going to be there.
So, this is when women say to me, “Right, you know, I'm going to try to do something different.” “I'm going to go for a massage.” Well, if you're subconsciously addicted to guilt, you're then going to feel guilty for going for the massage. And then, when you come home, you're going to be guilty because then somebody else had to look after the kids when you were gone. So you were guilty for that. And we just get stuck in this guilt loop and it's debilitating. So here's where we go wrong, trying to change our lives.
We live in a results driven world, and that is sort of what the last couple of hundred year era has been. It's all about results, it's all about numbers, it's all about logic. And so we think, “All right, well, I want different results, let me set a goal.” And we start at the end of the formula, we’re almost going “to go back to France.” We think, “Right, I'm going to change my results.” “I know I don't want to be burnt out.” “I know I feel stuck.” “I know I'm on the treadmill.” “I know I'm a slave to the to-do list.”
So, all right, let me now adjust my behaviour. I know I need to get up every morning and go for a walk. I know I'm going to try meditation, thinking that it's that behaviour, that is what we need to tweak. But everybody always tells me that, "You know, Jo, I stick to this behaviour for kind of two to three weeks, and then, it doesn't last.” “It's this blip in the radar, and then I go back to how it was feeling."
What's actually going on here is you are relying on willpower to make that behavioural change. And willpower usually involves some pushing. And there might be some "Ra! Ra!", some motivation. But willpower can also run out, it can be depleted. And when you are coming to this from a “Yes, willpower!” perspective, but you haven't learned to change your thoughts or your feelings about the goal that you're going for, what happens if you say, “Right, no, I'm going to exercise, I'm going to move my body, I know it's good for me.” “Right, I'm going to get up tomorrow morning and go for a walk.” You set the alarm and then you hit snooze. And you go, “Oh, I shouldn't have done that, I should really be going for a walk.” And then you get up and you realise that there was an urgent email that you have to respond to. And you didn't go for a walk. And so you shame yourself, and you guilt yourself. “See, I can't even do this.” “The kids need me.” “I can't even look after myself.” “This is never going to change.”
And you get on this shame, guilt and fear spiral again. And so no wonder that the behavioural change doesn't work is because, while you might have every motivation and you've got you know a list where, right, i'm going to tick this off every day and I'm going to celebrate it And you can say some of these things, if you've still got all of these subconscious programs running at the same time of you only walked for 15 minutes. You should have worked for 45, this sort of all or nothing. Yeah, but you didn't even really sweat. You go there to walk That was more of a stroll And you're beating yourself up at the same time, because the thoughts and the feelings aren't actually aligned with what you want, that there's only so long that you can continue to push through that, because the dominant feelings haven't changed, and then you'll almost go back to your old ways, even though it's not really what you want.
Those old behaviours almost had a, let's call it a tolerable level of shame and guilt that you were used to. And because you haven't done the work and didn't have the support as you tried to, we didn't know how to change your thoughts and your feelings. You had this new massive influx of shooting and guilting and shaming that your body is going, “Ooh, this doesn't feel any good.” “This isn't how it's meant to be.” And so we step back from that because we don't know how to step into that.
We call it the void, this discomfort of doing things differently, because you've still got the old narrative running. And now you've got almost this old narrative on the stairways. This proves that you can't do it. There is never any time for you. Everyone always needs you, and so after a couple of weeks, we go back to the level of guilt that was actually more comfortable for us. And, as you're a human, you're a meaning making machine, so you will create meaning out of the fact that you couldn't do it, or that everybody else needed you. Whatever has happened, usually we'll blame circumstances. “See, I can't make this happen.” “Now everybody's sick, there's no time for me.” And we are just stuck back in this loop.
I'm not saying that we don't need behavioural change, however. What actually needs to happen is you really need to start at the beginning of this equation. It doesn't work backwards. You can't simply try to change your results and think that any behavioural change is the answer. And this is where I talk about, it is not just about strategy. Yes, strategies are part of it. But you need to really understand what are the thoughts and the feelings, conscious and subconscious, that are actually driving your behaviour.
When you get to the bottom of that, you will be amazed at when you can eliminate a feeling, or I call these weeds in your garden, or limiting beliefs that are driving a whole stack of fear, and guilt. When we yank that weed out from the roots, at the root of the thought's perspective, what actually happens is all of that behaviour downstream disappears.
So, rather than playing whack-a-mole with all the different behaviours, the perfectionism, and I'm disorganised, and I'm procrastinating. “Yes, we can deal with those, but if we actually get to the root of the weed that is causing all that behaviour, well, we just work on the root, pull that out Now we've got the opportunity to intentionally cultivate new behaviours from new beliefs.
I hope you can see that this is the way that we actually make lasting change. Let's not play whack-a-mole with a whole stack of: “I need to do that better.” “I need to do that.” “And yeah, I know I need to stop reading my emails four times.” “I know I need to stop triple checking things.”
Everybody's aware of the behavioural change they want, but the challenge or the trap they fall into, is they don't really understand what has to happen. And our thoughts, and our feelings level to actually get outcomes from that behavioural change. It is not about grinding, it is not about beating yourself up. It is not about better, faster, more. It is about defrosting. It is about not being numb anymore. And this can be scary, I'll admit, as you start stepping into this wonderful world of feelings. There's a whole stack of things you don't want to feel. This is really uncomfortable.
But you've actually been feeling a lot of these emotions that, as you defrost, you start to feel again. You simply kind of cut off access to them. Your body has actually been feeling them. You've just sort of cut off the vagus nerve between your body and your brain. So this is how we bring back the joy. This is how we bring back the peace, and the contentment, and the playfulness, and the curiosity, and the creativity. All of these are emotions that every woman tells me they want more of.
So, if that's the case, we've got to get you at the start of this equation, you’ve got to really understand your thoughts. “Where do they come from?” “What are they?” You've got to bring your awareness to them. We've got to, now intentionally, help you build, wire, and fire your own neural pathways, so that you can start feeling the emotions that you want. And when you feel something that doesn't serve you: whether it's guilt, or shame, or fear, you know how to let that emotion go.
And emotions should last between 60 and 90 seconds, and that is how long the wave lasts, for when you know how to let them go and you're actually letting emotions flow through you, that's how small it can be, instead of being this ginormous emotion that becomes part of our personality because we don't know how to shake it. So that is the trick, my friends, is understanding this equation, and I hope you can now see how the details of this equation and knowing how all of these sit together can be a fundamental shift in how you see your world. And, ultimately, you want to change the results of your work. You want to change the results that you have. I want you to be content. I want you to be present. I want you to reach your potential. But to do that, we've got to start where the equation begins.
OUTRO: Thank you for joining us today on the Balance and Beyond Podcast. We're so glad you carved out this time for yourself. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend who might need to hear this today. And if you're feeling extra generous, leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice would mean the world. If you’re keen to dive deeper into our world, visit us at www.balanceinstitute.com to discover more about the toolkit that has helped thousands of women avoid burnout and create a life of balance, and beyond. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next time on the Balance & Beyond Podcast.
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