Easy as ABC

CaptureOr…there’s two ways to think – one for winners and one for er…non-winners.

Someone dared to doubt me the other day. Can you believe it? I was banging on about how we can control what we think about and how that, in turn, controls what we do, i.e. our behaviour and, in turn, how our behaviour generates the results we get, good or bad.

This person wasn’t buying it. No, no. There was no linkage between the mental and the physical, he said. It’s all luck anyway. You’re talking mumbo-jumbo. Hmm…

This reminded me of someone…

…I met fleetingly at a conference. She had the following philosophy – “I never expect anything good to happen. Then I won’t be disappointed.” I may have written about her before. Do you think she’s right? Do you think that never expecting anything good to happen has no effect on her behaviour and hence her results? Of course not. She won’t strive for the good stuff because she cannot risk disappointment. So good stuff never happens.

She wasn’t easily mistaken for a ray of sunshine, I can tell you.

The poor woman…

…has an unhealthy belief. She believes she has to protect herself from disappointment by having low expectations of what will happen in her life. She has very little or no tolerance for disappointment.

How do we unravel this? Well, psychologists have a three box model for this. It’s called “ABC”. Business consultants usually have a four box model for things, with a fancy name. That’s why they’re paid more.

Back to psychologists…

So what’s this “ABC” malarkey?

A stands for some sort of trigger event.

B stands for beliefs – healthy or unhealthy.

C stands for consequence – thoughts, emotions, actions and symptoms.

And it’s sequential – A leads to B which leads to C. Then it loops round again. And again.

Now, I don’t know…

…what this woman’s trigger events were, but the C for consequences is clear: unhealthy thinking, low expectation, insufficient action and poor results.

Now I am not saying that beliefs need to be synthetically positive. I am saying that when we have a naturally negative belief, i.e. making a four hour presentation to 800 people is scary, that we make the belief healthy/negative, rather than unhealthy/negative.

The good…

So we might think “I am really nervous about this presentation but that’s normal and I can function despite feeling that way.” That recognises the reality and will lead to a more positive result.

The bad…

Here’s the unhealthy/negative version – “I am really nervous about this presentation. I hate feeling that way. I can’t bear it.” That does not recognise the reality (can’t bear it – really?) and will get a poor result.

In the case of the woman I met at the conference – she’s thinking “I cannot tolerate disappointment. When I am disappointed it is awful. It is horrible. I cannot bear it.” This is an unhealthy/negative belief.

Here’s the converse – “I accept that sometimes I will be disappointed. I don’t want to be but it will happen. That’s life and my worth does not depend on being free of disappointment.” That’s healthy/negative.

Simple but important…

Now this is an extreme and simple example, but the C – the consequencies that derive from each of these Bs are polar opposites.

There is nothing wrong with negative beliefs – all goal achievement that involves change, i.e. all worthwhile goal achievement, has discomfort associated with it and we cannot help but feel negative emotions about that. And that’s OK. It’s not about eliminating the negative, it’s about making the negative healthy.

Here’s some healthy vs unhealthy examples –

“Want to” vs “Have to”…

Wanting to do something is about choice. Having to is usually about fear. Choice is better. “I am going to study because I want to pass this exam” is good. “I have to do this stupid studying because I must pass this exam” is rubbish.

“Bad” vs “Awful”…

Things can often be bad. They are seldom truly awful.

“Difficult” vs “Unbearable”…

Making those phone calls may be difficult. The activity is NOT unbearable. Get a grip.

“Self-acceptance” vs “Self-damning”…

Sh*t happens. It doesn’t make you a sh*t.

Getting this stuff right is really important in goal achievement. Unhealthy/negative beliefs are like poison to achievement. They are inflexible, inconsistent with reality and unhelpful. They lead to self-sabotage.

Healthy/negative beliefs are what balanced grown-ups have. They are flexible, consistent with reality and hugely helpful.

Getting this right is not just about goal achievement, it’s one of the cornerstones of being happy. So be happy.

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3 Responses to Easy as ABC

  1. Will Chapman October 24, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    Thanks Mark.
    This seesm to tie in nicely with the Human Action Model; also 3 steps!
    1. Feeling of unease, dissatisfaction, discomfort, “this is not where I want to be”.
    2. Vision of a better state, condition or place.
    3. Recognising I have the means to get there and action is needed to get there.

    Cheers, Will

    • Mark Nugent October 24, 2011 at 9:17 am #

      Thanks for the comment Will. I was not aware of this model – and it has an acronym HAM!



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