September 28, 2021

Episode 6: Assess your beliefs

Your brain uses a model of reality to best adap your behavior to what’s likely to happen next. Your beliefs structure that model. In this episode, we discuss how to assess what those beliefs are – and what to do when they don’t serve you.

What you will discover

  • The important difference between your thoughts and your identity
  • How beliefs physically shape your view of the world
  • The best way to find out what your beliefs are
  • The treacherous mistake you likely make when assessing your beliefs
  • What to do once you’ve found a limiting thought


Mixed and produced by Adrien Grenier

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Episode Transcript

This model works on everything. There is nothing that cannot be analyzed and improved thanks to the Model.  Hi, welcome to the Excellent Rider’s podcast. I'm Mélanie, I'm a certified life coach and I specialize in helping people like YOU get things done, find ease and motivation again and get unstuck when it feels like you've lost your mojo.

Last time we looked at how to figure out what you believe.  Today, I'm going to show you how to assess whether your thoughts are useful. And by that, I mean whether they create feelings that fuel the type of actions that will take you closer to your goals.

The tool I'm going to share that will help you assess your thoughts was created by Brooke Castillo, the founder of the Life Coach School, where I have trained as a coach.  It's both extremely simple and profoundly powerful.  The model that Brooke has created helps us understand why we do what we do and why we don't do what we would like to do.

Broke didn't invent something completely new with this model. She has organized the learnings from different well-known sources, but she's done so in a extremely elegant and potent way, that explains our experience in a way that is so much more clearer and actionable than anything I had ever heard before.

If you have a chance to go and listen to her podcast, I really recommend it. So it's The Life Coach School Podcast, and her name is Brooke Castillo, C A S T I L L O.  So what's in Brooke's model? Brooke's model is based on five lines, five questions that help you describe what's going on for you in a given context, so that you can recognize what the actual problem is.

(And so that you can do something about it). So the way to fill out a model is to write on a piece of paper, the letters C T F A R one letter on each line. The first line is the C, which stands for circumstance. And this is where we write the facts of the situation.

If you had filmed the situation with a camera, this is what you would see.  Or if it cannot be filmed, this is what 8 billion humans would agree on.  So example of circumstances can be: the meeting was scheduled at 10:00 AM and she arrived at 10:08. Or my brother said, “this is what you always do” and then he laughed. Or a third circumstance could be, I have a 75,000 USD debt to pay off.

The circumstances are always neutral until we make them mean something and writing them down helps us separate what is a fact and what is the story we have about the fact. So the first line you will fill out what are the facts of the situation? What are the circumstances. The second line starts with a T for thought. This is where you will write your thoughts about the situation.

So it should be one grammatical phrase.  So there should not be any linking word like “and” or “which”.  A thought could be for example, “I should not have said that”, or “there's never going to be enough time”, or “I'm going to have to sell the apartment to pay this off.” On the third line, you're going to write the feeling that this thought creates for you. So just one word.

For example: sad, excited, resentful, stressed out. So just one word.  If you're not sure what you feel, I recommend looking at the list of feelings (I'll put one in the episode notes), and this will help you identify what emotion exactly it is that you're feeling. On the fourth line, which is the A line, the action line, you're going to describe what you do on the basis of this emotion.

So when you feel like this, in this circumstance, what is it that you do.  But you're also going to describe what you don't do and that you would most certainly do if you had felt confident, relaxed, and hopeful. So for example, on this action line, you might write:

“When I'm stressed, because I think I'm going to have to sell the apartment, I think and rethink about the reasons I owe this money, and I blame myself for making poor financial decisions”. And then on the last line, which starts by R (for Results), you will describe what experience you create for your life as a consequence of these actions.

The result typically confirms that the thought is true, in one way or another. For example, if my thought is “I won't have time to finish everything” and that makes me stress out, chances are that I will waste a lot of time and not be efficient; and as a result, I will indeed not finish everything. So, let me take an example of a complete model to explain this better.

The circumstance line could be, I have a 75,000 debt to pay off.  The thought line, the T line could be, “I'm going to have to sell the apartment to pay this off”. The feeling this would create – the third line – would be stress.  The action line – and here I will write all the details of what I do and don't do from feeling stressed:

“When I'm stressed because I think that I'm going to have to sell the apartment, I think and I rethink about the reasons I owe this money and I blame myself for making poor financial decisions. I revisit all the options I could think of to pay off this money.  And I conclude that each of them is a dead-end.

I imagine the process for selling the apartment and how it's going to be a mess and a logistics nightmare and how it's going to cost me money to move and relocate and put me in an even more complicated financial situation, at least temporarily. I can't see any other solution.  And I loop back to blaming myself about allowing myself to get into such a position.

I don't contact a real estate agent to have them explain to me the steps I would need to take or the kind of price I can probably sell the apartment for. I don't brainstorm other ways to obtain the money, like borrowing from my family or friends or creating value that I could sell.

And then the last line, the R line, the result that I create for my life from all of these actions is that I don't create any alternative to selling the apartment. So how does the model help? Well, it helps us identify what's really going on and what the problem really is.

Our tendency in life will be to pin the problem on the situation itself: on the other person's behavior, on the weather, on the plane that was late, on the reorganization, on the Corona pandemic...  Filling out a model reminds us that the problem is always how we feel and that our feeling is created by our attitude towards the situation.

So filling out a model makes us aware of our emotion and it makes us in particular aware of how the result that we have is actually created by our mindset, by the thought we believe in the situation.  So to take my example again, the problem in this situation is not that I have a debt of 75,000 to pay back.

The problem is that I believe that the thought “I'm going to have to sell the apartment” is an accurate description of reality. In fact, this is just an opinion, but since it creates stress, it is not a helpful opinion.  It might be true, but it is not helpful. Now I see what's going on, meaning now I know what is creating my stress, which is my thought about the situation, not the situation itself, not the debt, I have the opportunity to change what's going on.

And we will look in more details on how to do this, but it's definitely neither positive thinking nor chanting affirmations.  It's finding a better angle of view into the situation.  And I we'll show you exactly how to do this, but just for the sake of giving you an example: in this situation, I could for example focus on any of the following thoughts:

Instead of thinking “I'm going to have to sell the apartment”, I could think “I always find a pragmatic solution” and that would help me feel confident.  I could think “this is an opportunity to build up on my resourcefulness”, and that would help me feel hopeful. I could think, “I wonder what other solutions I could also consider”. And that would make me feel curious. I could think “It's a difficult situation, but I know how to do difficult” and that would create determination.

Or I could think “the solution doesn't have to be to sell something I have; the solution can be to sell something I create”, and that would help me feel resourceful. So this model works on everything. There is nothing that cannot be analyzed and improved thanks to the model. Sometimes it takes a little while to identify exactly what the issue is, but thanks to the model it's always possible.

In my experience, the only times when the model seems to not be working is when it has not been correctly filled out.  So the typical mistake that we make when we fill out a model is that we, instead of writing a fact in the circumstance line, we write a thought. So something that is already an interpretation.

Or sometimes we try to go too fast and we write an entire paragraph in the thought line, instead of writing just one phrase or even better writing down everything you think on a separate piece of paper and then doing separate models on each of the thoughts.  Another mistake that we do is that we write too many feelings in the feelings line.

And that confuses us because we don't really know what action we are taking from which feeling. And it makes the whole model very complicated to understand. We write too little in the action line. So we are very succinct in what we write. And for example, we write in the action line, “I procrastinate” and that's it.

We don't write anything about what's actually really going on: what we are doing, what we're not doing, what we're thinking from this feeling. So, if you fill out the model correctly, it always works in every situation to help you really clearly separate what is a fact from what is an interpretation.

And then to really notice that the problem you have in the situation is that you're feeling a certain way, which means you're not able to take the kind of action you would like to take. And the feeling always comes from a thought. So you can try this model on a situation. And I would recommend that you started on a small situation that annoys you.

You can, you know, pick a situation with, for example, your colleague who never helps you out, or your boss who’s always late to the meeting, or your kid who is so slow in getting ready in the morning.  Find an issue that you have. And analyze it, breaking it down into the five components that I have just mentioned.

The circumstance or the facts of the situation; the thought that you have about it; the feeling that this thought creates; the actions that you take from the feeling; and the result that you create for your life, the experience that you create for your life as a consequence of those actions.

If you liked what you heard, you can go to my website - that's excellent rider in one word dot com – and get the episode notes. They're organized in a structured way that makes them easy to remember and there are additional exercises and the illustrations that you don't get in the audio.

If you really liked what you heard, go to your podcast platform and leave me a review. You can Google that if you're not sure how to proceed.  This helps the podcast be more visible.  It means that it will be easier to find for other people who need to hear exactly this message. And it's also a great encouragement for me.

If you felt that this information was valuable, it's the absolutely best way to let me know. I personally answer everyone who is kind enough to leave me a review.  Thanks a lot for listening today. I hope to talk to you again very soon because you, my friend, even when you cannot get yourself to do what you want, even when you're stuck in negative emotions and unpleasant thought loops.

And even when you don't believe it, especially when you don't believe it, you absolutely rock and you’ll soon be an excellent rider.  There's no bad horses. Only untrained riders.

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