This is often the case with solutions to problems, creative ideas etc. and I rarely ignore those kind of thoughts and perceptions. In this case, the image helped me to realize that “thought tracking” has become very natural to me but that it might be interesting to write about it for others who may never have contemplated it as it can be very useful and even life changing.
Thought tracking leads to and feeds of Awareness. Ironically I wrote about it in my last post without really registering it as a tool: “Awareness comes with questioning your beliefs and finding (tracking!) the source of the thoughts that created them.”. I should also have mentioned that it is, in fact, a great tool for increasing/training your Awareness. I did not do that as I wrote about it more in the sense of a state of being. The thought I woke up with this morning is that you can actually become more aware by consciously tracking the source of thoughts. Over time and with increasing Awareness the process will become more and more natural, subconscious and automatic. My intention with this post is not so much to promote thought tracking as a tool for Awareness but as a verification tool before action. Admittedly these subjects are very much related.
We all know the concept of mind mapping. This technique is often used to drive a concept or idea forward. Mind maps are also very useful to back track the ideas and thoughts that gave rise to some final conclusion. Basically its a nice way to make notes. Typically a mind map will give you an insight in the logical and relational context and dependencies of an idea. The map will give you a verification of the soundness of an idea that supports your actions on it.
At first glance you may think that “thought tracking” and mind mapping are basically the same thing. For me they certainly are not. In mind mapping we record our thoughts in a forward direction. We map the thoughts, events and concepts and connect them certainly backward and forward but the whole idea of making the mind map is moving towards some realization, resolution and/or action. In thought tracking we work the other way around. We know the action we are about to take but now we are going to back track the thoughts leading up to that point. More importantly, we are going to track the sources of those thoughts. To demonstrate I will give a short example.
Say, you are working in a team to solve a problem for a customer. You come up with an idea that solves the problem for the customer and costs the company little money. The idea is carefully scrutinized and all agree. Even at a later date your mind map clearly supports the action. The mind map, however, will not tell you the whole story, not your personal story. Because when you track the sources of the thoughts you may find that initially your motivations for the idea you came up with are connected with irritation over a colleague who maybe caused the problem or usually comes up with the solutions to such problems. You may find that the source for you thoughts are connected with ego gratification. That does not mean the idea is invalid or bad but it may include some side effects that are negative for the colleague in question. Do you score points over him/her? Will it change the perception people have of you and your work at the colleague's expense? If so, can you still claim your actions are purely for the best of the customer and the company?
It is a fact of life that we all tend to do this and that we probably never can completely eradicate these things. Ego and pride are not bad things. They are part of our being (even survival) and are important motivators. We just need to make sure we do not mix positive ego with self serving, destructive and revengeful behavior. Don't help to get a pat on the back from others. Help to help. Feeling good about yourself afterwards because you helped is positive ego.
Going back to the example, thought tracking would most certainly alert you to these less positive sources of your idea. These things you will not find in your mind map! It would give you the opportunity to revise your idea in such a way that it eliminates the negative fall-out. The result would be an even better solution that would earn you genuine respect from your colleagues. Even the one you had a problem with. You would have opened up for positive changes in your relationship with him or her instead of creating even more resentment.
Thought tracking requires complete honesty with your self. The truth will not always be what you want to know but it gives you the opportunity to perceive without judging and use your heart to question your beliefs and create new ones. At first it will be a very conscious action that you may even find a bit annoying or intimidating (your ego will fight you all the way!) but eventually you will find a calm and harmony from which your true self emerges. You will have deepened your Awareness considerably. Your positive ego will thrive just because you feel good about yourself. You will not need it affirmed by others. But, more than ever, they will!
Certainly in the beginning when thought tracking is still a conscious action for you it can be hard to take the time to do that when you want to blurt out something impulsively. Typical examples of such situations are in meetings and on social media. It is in such situations your impulsiveness can have the most harmful effects. Here is a very well known mnemonic that can serve you well in such situations. It does not go as deep as thought tracking and it should not be used as a substitute. It should be used as a quick filter, a shortcut, that if it doesn't help at least it certainly doesn't harm.
Before you speak or act THINK!
T = is it True?
H = is it Helpful?
I = is it Inspiring?
N = is it Necessary?
K = is it Kind?
I hope, tonight, I will dream of a world where we all track our thoughts and THINK before we speak and act.