The Ancestor of Every Action is a Thought (The Thought Model)

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

“The ancestor of every action is a thought.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your circumstances are not responsible for your feelings, actions, and results. Instead, your feelings, actions, and results are determined by you and your thoughts. Recognizing that truth and learning The Thought Model changed my life.

I had a very interesting and drawn out journey to getting to where I am today going from a burned-out doctor to a life coach who now helps doctors with burnout.

Physician Disability Insurance

My Journey Through Burnout

About three years back, I started to have some symptoms. And I didn’t recognize them as symptoms at the time being a doctor, as everyone listening knows, we are the worst patient.

I started noticing that I was sweating when other people weren’t. I was kind of hot. When I came into work area where I work, there’s this little lounge that has two closed doors and a thermostat. I started noticing that every time I came into the office, I would actually turn the thermostat all the way down.

Whenever I’m working with one particular nurse, she likes it to be particularly warm. And I knew immediately when she was there and working.

I never put that together.

The Hot Dinner Party

There was even this one dinner party.

The reason for the dinner was because my buddy was starting to date a new girl and we were all being introduced to her. As we sat down, I broke out into a sweat. My tee shirt that I was wearing was drenched.

I looked around and I noticed no one else is sweating. And I was thinking, “why in the world is this person keeping their house so hot? Don’t they have a thermostat? Can’t they turn it down?”

That was the first time that I realized, oh, this is not normal. Something’s going on. I don’t know what it is, but something’s going on.

Anxiety on the Golf Course

Two weeks later, I’m on the golf course with my buddy, Mike, and we are planning on playing 18-holes. Whoever wins buys the other person a beer. It’s just something that we love to do.

Well, I have an essential tremor. I take propranolol for that tremor.

On this day, I ran out of propranolol. But… we’re playing golf. So, I’m not worried about it. It’s just an easy day. We’re going to drink a couple beers, play golf. It was supposed to be low key relaxed. No stress.

That’s when it happened.

While in the fairway on the second hole, this group behind us tees off into us. The ball lands about five feet past my head. And I immediately enraged. I’m angrier than I’ve ever been in my life.

This was immediately followed by the first panic attack of my life.

Grave’s Disease Diagnosis

Fortunately, my primary care doctor had already put it all together when I told her my symptoms. I told her things were rough at home. Kristen and I were getting into arguments. I’m getting hot all the time. I can’t sleep. In fact, I hadn’t slept through the night for more than like 10 days in the last year. I told her about the panic attack.

Of course, she ordered some thyroid labs.

My TSH comes back. It was undetectable. The cause? Lo and behold, Graves’ disease.

Burned Out Thyroid?

Prior to the diagnosis, I thought all of my symptoms were due to burnout.

Yet, even after my labs were normal, my burn out kept getting worse.

Everything on the outside looked good. In fact, I was achieving at very high levels. I had published RCT’s, won teaching awards, and was clinically productive.

On the inside? I was totally miserable.

I was having thoughts that I shouldn’t have. On top of that, I was anxious. I was irritable at home. And, I was treating my family poorly and things were just not going well. That’s when I finally started looking for help.

Life Coach School & The Thought Model

Things didn’t really get much better until I found the Life Coach School, which was recommended tome by Bonnie Koo. Dr. Koo runs Wealthy Mom MD and is also a certified life coach.

And so I started reading about it and I ran across this thought model. It’s the thought model that Brooke Castillo teaches at the Life Coach School. It goes by an acronym. CTFAR.

The Thought Model

C is for circumstance.
T is for thoughts.
F is for feelings.
A is for actions.
R is for results.

Most people have this idea that our circumstances determine our thoughts, feelings, actions, and results, as if we’re just a bystander that has no way of controlling any of this. A person cuts you off in traffic and you’re angry. It places the power into the person driving that car and takes all of the power, strips all of your autonomy from you because you’re saying that I’m angry because that person cut me off.

That’s the feeling, I’m angry.

So what’s your action? You shift into the left lane, you speed up and cut them back off. And the result is that you’re in this road rage battle that’s completely unnecessary.

The reason why is because we don’t intercept the circumstance with our thoughts. So we just let the thoughts happen automatically. The feelings, actions, and results then follow.

So the thought you might have when someone’s cutting you off is “they don’t respect me.” That might be your thought, and that makes you angry. That leads to you cutting them back off and being in a road rage battle.

Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life

However, if we learn to focus on the thoughts we have and not on our circumstance, it can change everything.

There are not thoughts that are true or false. There are only thoughts that serve you and thoughts that don’t.

When I learned that I could choose the thoughts that serve me to improve my life, it changed everything. It changed my life.

I learned to deal with my anxiety. It helped me deal with the stress at work. I became a better dad and a better husband. It helped in every facet of my life.

There is power in your thoughts.

What do you “get” to do?

For example, if you shift from “having” to do things to what you are priveledged to “Get” to do, it changes a lot.

You don’t have to work out, you get to work out. You don’t have to eat healthy, you get to eat healthy.

When I have a reframe of my thought process, it all of a sudden doesn’t make me angry that I’m having to deal with something right now. It is a privilege to be a husband. It’s a privilege to be a dad and a doctor, and a coach.

These are the things that I get to do.

It all starts with our thoughts. We must take responsibility and own the fact that it is up to us and our thoughts in that we get to determine our feelings, actions, and results.


1 Comment

  1. PrudentPlasticSurgeon

    Great post! I have had a similar shift in mindset as well. Not just in finances but in all aspects. Truly thoughts can alter your reality. Thank you for sharing and congrats on the new podcast!

    The Prudent Plastic Surgeon


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