For several years we have committed to taking time off right after Christmas and the New Year.  This year we are grateful for a winter vacation where there was sun and warm weather. This allowed us to stop working, truly relax and recharge so we can return refreshed and ready to be of service.

Retreating from our cell phones and constant emails, we rested and practiced doing nothing—which isn’t easy for two extroverts!  As we stilled the outer activity, we had more energy to observe our internal thoughts.  Once our minds quieted, we became more aware of what we named our ART–Automatic Reactive Thoughts.

ART thoughts are important to be aware of because most of the time they are unconscious and run our lives without realizing the power they have over us.  We discovered there is a pattern to these ART conversations within ourselves and observed how they are usually based in fear and anxiety.

One example of how your ART may operate is to ask yourself what you think before you enter a meeting at work.  Do you approach the meeting and automatically think one of these, or similar thoughts?

  • “Here we go again, another boring meeting!  I am just going to ride this out.”
  • “These people are disorganized and need my help.”
  • “These people know more than I do, so I’d better keep my mouth shut.”
  • “I need to prove my work and express my unique perspective.”
  • “I will look for the problems no one else sees.  We need to be realistic.”

Another example of how your ART sounds, may be in long term relationships.  Here are just a few possible examples:

  • “There he goes again, telling me what I should do when I complain about work.”
  • “It really bugs me when she asks me if I am listening.”
  • “Why bother sharing what I am thinking? They will not understand anyway.”

These reactive thoughts feed the Victim Orientation and set you up for relating within the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™.  Becoming aware of your ART—and the picture you are painting about your life experience—is the key.

If you simply listen and not judge your ART, you can avoid creating an elaborate story to justify the thoughts.  Now you have a better chance of shifting into the outcome-focused Creator Orientation and pave the way to relate to yourself and others through TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)™.

For instance, before going into the meeting you could shift your thinking to “I am going to participate by listening for the outcome(s) we want to create.  If they are not clear, I will ask questions to help determine what we want.”

In an intimate relationship, you might make a request for what you want.  It could sound something like: “Sweetie, I want to share my day at work and all I need is a few minutes for you to listen to me.”

By observing your ART, you will have a greater chance of understanding your thinking and how it is unconsciously influencing your life.  Take a moment now and ask yourself, what is one of your Automatic Reactive Thoughts?  What picture does it paint and how can you shift your thinking toward TED*?