Why your thoughts matter: 3 steps for feeling better from burnout in just 15 minutes

Kaitlyn Rapai journaling at a table.

A few months ago, I was working with a first-time client who was new to coaching, and as we talked through her thoughts, she kept repeating, “Yeah, I get that, so what do I do?” 

I totally understand her question; all throughout our lives we are bombarded with messages to “just do it” and “put in the work”. The missing piece is that “the work” has to come from somewhere intentional; the thoughts and feelings that we choose on purpose.

When I think back to my weight loss journey (which I am still working on). I would think things like, “I’ll never be able to do this,” feel defeated, and think I could just magically push through all that negativity with action.

It never worked. 

Here’s why; Our brains are wired to prove our thoughts true

This was my old thought model:

Circumstance: I weigh __ pounds and my goal weight is __ pounds

Thought: I’ll never be able to do this.

Feeling: Defeated

Actions: Eat off my plan, eat secret cheese in front of the fridge, stop myself from going to the gym because I felt gross, distract myself with TV and social media

Result: I made sure I never reached my goal

My actions, driven by my thought/feeling combo, made sure I didn’t succeed.

“Ok, I get that. So what do I do to feel better?”

You too, huh? Stay with me for a minute.

Every feeling we experience is created by a thought in our mind. So to continue with my weight loss example, I had to come up with a really strong thought/feeling combo that would drive the actions I needed to get results. 

My new thought model:

Circumstance: I weigh __ pounds and my goal weight is __ pounds 

Thought: There is nothing that can stop me from reaching my goal. 

Feeling: Motivated 

Actions: Follow my plan, prep my food, get gym clothes ready the night before, set my alarm, pack my lunch, show up to my training appointments, have backup plans for days that go sideways 

Result: I lost 40 pounds

Little bit different?

So many people try to take action from a place of shame or “should” (as in I should be doing this). But because feelings drive our actions, relying on shame to feel motivated is a situation set up for failure.

I know when I feel shame, it completely blocks out motivation, and motivation is the feeling I need to get the results I want.

Step #1: Do a thought download (10 minutes)

I know you don’t have time. 

I promise all 3 steps will take 15 minutes.

Sit down and dump all of your thoughts onto a piece of paper for 10 minutes. Set a timer if you want, and write all of your current thoughts. If you’re thinking about how busy you are, write it down. We have around 60,000 thoughts a day, and most of them fly around in our brains completely unsupervised and unquestioned. Then we wonder why we feel terrible.

Step #2: Pick a thought & put it into a model (3 minutes)

Ok, this is two steps combined. Pick whatever thought you want. I usually pick the one I have the most questions about, or the one that I’ve been thinking about the most. 

Write the letters C, T, F, A, R down the left side of your paper, and write the thought you picked on the T line.

Circumstance: The facts surrounding the situation

Thought: The one you picked from your thought download

Feeling: Ask yourself, “When I think this thought, how do I feel?” A feeling is a one word emotion. If you have no idea what emotion you are feeling, you can stick with the “Mad, Sad, Glad” triad.

Actions: When you experience this feeling, what do you do, or stop yourself from doing?

Result: When you take the actions you listed, what does it create in your life?

Step #3: Do a new model (2 minutes)

Write the letters C, T, F, A, R down the left side of your paper a second time. 

Circumstance: The Circumstance line stays the same (that’s why this part is only 2 minutes 🤓) Then drop down to the Result line at the bottom and work upward.

Thought: What new thought would I need to believe in order to feel that way? 

Feeling: How would I need to feel in order to take those actions? ⬆️

Actions: What would I need to do or not do to get my new result? ⬆️

Result: Ask yourself, “Without trying to change the Circumstance line, what new Result do I want to create in my life?” ⬆️

You did it! You’ve created a blueprint for a brand new result you want to create in your life!

You’ve taken ownership of your thoughts and feelings. 

You’ve identified what your unexamined thoughts and feelings are currently creating in your life.

Now it’s just practice! Write down your new thought/feeling combo. 

Follow the action plan you’ve identified. 

When your brain tries to go back to the old thought, gently redirect it. 

You’ve got this.