Managing Your Mind To Do Great Work | UYGW034

Ever feel a little “poodley”? Or what about “moodily”? Maybe “gloomily”? Or even “wootily”?

On this week’s episode of Unleashing YOUR Great Work, Dr. Amanda Crowell discusses the one thing that predicts whether or not we do Great Work: our own minds.

What if you could change your thoughts and operate in a completely different world?

Using the “Cognitive Behavioral Model” as a starting point, Dr. Crowell explains how our thoughts create our feelings, and so, if we change our thoughts, we can change our feelings and, therefore, our lives. Building on this, she then explains how she’s grown her understanding of this to a more nuanced mix of feelings she has named gloomily, moodily, poodley, and wootily.

Join us as we discuss:

01:40 If you change your thoughts, you can change your life.

03:02 Reasons you’re not doing what you say you’ll do.

04:59 You can find something interesting about almost everything. If you want to do something, and you don’t currently have an interest in it, you can build that interest.

06:21 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Model – Another way to talk about changing your mind with the purpose of changing your life.

08:57 It’s the thought that created the feeling, not the circumstance.

11:18 What happens in your mind is what creates your lived experience of it, and you could choose a different lived experience.

13:36 The thing that kept you from fully embracing the idea of “creating your lived experience” is the thoughts and feelings of having not been good enough.

15:32 The Standard Cognitive Distortions – Ways that our mind has a tendency to react in less effective, efficient ways.

17:40 Allows an experience to bring up more than one kind of thought, resulting in more than one kind of emotion.

23:02 Do not change your thoughts from one to another, but instead change the balance of thoughts.

Links Mentioned:

How To Be Awesome At Your Job Podcast:

Amanda’s TedxTalk:

About the Host:

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist, speaker, podcaster, author of Great Work, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda’s TEDx talk: Three Reasons You Aren’t Doing What You Say You Will Do has received more than a million views and has been featured on TED’s Ideas blog and TED Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global. Amanda lives in New Jersey with her husband, two adorable kids, and a remarkable newfiepoo named Ruthie. She spends her days educating future teachers, coaching accidental entrepreneurs, and speaking about how to make progress on Great Work to colleges and corporate teams. To book Dr. Crowell to speak or inquire about coaching, check out or email




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Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Welcome to unleashing your great work, a podcast about doing the work that matters the most to you. I'm your host, Dr. Amanda Crowell, a cognitive psychologist, coach, author of the book, great work and the creator of the great work journals. Every week on this podcast, we're here asking the big questions. What is your great work? How do you find it? And why does it matter whether we do it? What does it actually take to do more of your great work without sacrificing everything else? And how does the world change when more people are doing more of the work that matters the most to them? Stay tuned for answers to these questions, and so much more.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Welcome, everybody to unleashing your great work. Today on the podcast, I would like to talk about the number one thing that predicts whether or not you do your great work. So on this podcast, we have talked at length about the fact that great work is challenging and joyful, it is confronting, but it also leads to some of the greatest unfolding Adventures of your lifetime. So what is the number one thing that predicts whether or not you will be able to do your great work? And the answer to that question is so obvious that it almost feels like doing an episode on? You know, newsflash, everybody, the sky is blue, the grass is green, dogs bark, like it's so obvious, and yet an entire billion dollar industry has built up around this insight. And that insight is, if you change your thoughts, you can change your life. Now, the reason to me, it always feels so far gone. So obvious. So, so self evident, is because who are we as people except minds, in bodies, in context, our mind is where the essence of our self is, if you have a personality that lives in your mind, if you have inclinations, it lives in your mind. If you build habits, you build them in your mind, of course, you also build them in your body. I'm not against embodied cognition. But most of all, who we are as people, is a reflection of what is happening in our minds. So obviously, if you change your thoughts, you will operate in the world in a completely different way, and change your life. But despite the fact that it feels really obvious, from a logical perspective, it doesn't feel obvious. From a lived experience perspective, we don't feel like we have a lot of control over what happens in our mind. I was recently on an episode of How to Be awesome at your job, I'll put a link to it in the show notes. And he asked really great questions. Actually, on that episode, I was talking about my TED Talk. And the three reasons you're not doing what you say you'll do one of which is you don't want to you don't like it, you're not interested. But my advice in that scenario is to go and create intrinsic interest in whatever it is. So I was telling him the story about how I had never exercised and that part of the reason I struggled to exercise was because I wasn't interested in it, the things that tend to be associated with exercise, sort of body image, and, you know, strength and sports and had no mirrors at the gym are all things that they don't speak to me. I don't have a lot of intrinsic interest in those things I never have. And so I had to look for interest elsewhere. And then he said, most people would agree that you either have interest in something or you don't have interest in it. One of those reasons is that you don't want to you're not interested in it. And my advice in that scenario, is to go create interest in it. And he asked the obvious, but I think really insightful question. Isn't it the case that you either are or aren't interested in something, but I shared with him that that wasn't the case for me. And so I had to find interest in other ways. So I saw information about the science of exercise and discovered that there are a lot of mindful benefits to exercise and long term health benefits for the heart and the lungs. Of course, you know those things, but until you're into the weeds of them and exactly how it works and listening to the people who are really passionate about that, if the common knowledge is an interesting, but the details were for me, and I find that for the vast majority of things that we're trying to do in our lives. There's something that you can find interesting about it. Almost anyone I can find something interesting about almost everything. And over time, I became really interested in that part of exercise and was able to, if you watch the TED talk, you'll see I was able to transform, you know, myself from basically a couch potato. And then I did a triathlon and a half marathon. And that's the that is sort of the focus of the TED Talk. But interest in this example, is just one of the things that we think about ourselves as being like fairly static, you know, people say things like, Well, I am who I am, or it is what it is. And that's true, you are who you are in self expertise, and understanding yourself. And living your life in a way that really resonates with you is a powerful strategy that I fully support. And if you want to do something, and you don't currently have interest in it, you can build that interest. And that's an example of changing your thought about something and then changing your life as a consequence of changing your thought. As you create more interest, it's easier for you to do the thing you're avoiding, you become good at it, you join communities around it, you feel more like you belong. And before you know it, you're doing that thing, this is a way to change your mind, and then change your life. Another really common way to talk about changing your mind with the purpose of changing your life is to talk about the cognitive behavioral therapy model, the cognitive behavioral therapy model has been around for, I don't know, 3040 years, the seminal book that sort of outlines, it is a book called feeling good. And it's a pretty good book to read. But also, it's been around for so long. And it's such a tome that you can read summaries of it to get the basics of it, but I'll cover the basics of it here as well. So the cognitive behavioral theory says that we live in a world of neutral circumstance, that whatever is happening out in the world is just happening, it doesn't have meaning associated with it, until the world intersects with human mind, which then makes sense of the circumstances of the world, right. And it's in the thought, the thought that comprises your sense making efforts, right. So we'll do an example in a minute. But it's your thought that then creates your experience of it in your life and body, that experience of it are your feelings. So let's do an example of this. So let's say that you go to work and your boss is having a bad day, and you're at the coffee machine getting your coffee at the beginning of the day, your boss comes over and says something snarky about a report that he thought he would have seen by now. And that's what has happened. Right? Those are the circumstances, although I interpreted his remark as snarky. That's actually a thought, you know, but what happened was you got to work, you were standing at the coffeemaker, your boss came over and said something to you. Okay, that's the circumstance that's neutral. Your boss said it in a way that your mind had the thought, well, that's snarky. And then that thought kicked off other thoughts, maybe thoughts, like, you know, he didn't even say he wanted it today. He said he needed it by the end of the week. He's always like this. I don't know why he's always yelling at me. I don't know why I work at this job. Those thoughts create predictable feelings, right? Like, if you're having those thoughts than the feelings you are having are fairly negative, maybe you feel a little disappointed, or maybe you feel angry, maybe you feel hurt, maybe you feel a lot of things that you can't even entirely name, because they all kind of wash over you and a big mess. But overall, you're feeling pretty negative. So the cognitive behavioral therapy model tells us that it's the thought that created the feeling, not the circumstance. And that is a mind blowing insight, it gives so much more power back to you, as the thinker as the sense maker as the meaning maker, and takes it away from what you cannot control, which is how your boss behaves. So there are other thoughts that you could have about the experience with your boss, right? He could come over and say something, and you could think he seems a little on edge. Maybe I should ask him if he would like a coffee so that, you know, he might feel a little bit better before we have our meeting. And you can imagine how that thought and the thought about, you know, having, I don't know empathy for your boss, and maybe he's going through a bad time at home and maybe he's going through a divorce or maybe his kid is a teenager or who knows. When that's the series of thoughts that you have, then the feeling you have out of that experience is totally different. It's much more regulated. You feel connected, even if you're a little annoyed, right like you might still have the feeling of annoyance like boy I wish She would stop being so volatile all the time, but I can kind of understand where it's coming from, I'll offer him a coffee, I'll see if we can move the meeting back. So he has time to calm down, whatever. Now, I want to be super clear that I'm not saying that one thought is better than another. Because your boss might be a real jerk, you know, like, he might need to lose some of his staff, because he can't keep his emotions under control, I have had those kinds of bosses and the thought, This guy's a jerk, and I don't want to work here anymore, is a rational, reasonable thought. The only thing I'm pointing out is that the thought that guy's a jerk, and I don't want to work here anymore, is what's creating your negative feelings. So, you know, people talk a lot about reframes and seeing the bright side and positive thinking and all of that. And there's a lot of value in those. But that's not the point of this episode. That's all I'm trying to really say here is like, don't write this off as another kind of Pollyanna

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

concept, because I'm not saying that you should always feel positive about something that's negative. I'm not saying that you should observe a pattern in the world and not get angry about it. I'm just saying, first and foremost, let's acknowledge that what happens in your mind is what creates your lived experience of it. And you could choose a different lived experience. You don't have to, but you could.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

And that choice to experience the world differently in a way more controlled by your own desires. More impacted by how you want to experience the world can be hugely powerful. And there are a lot of people talking about this. If this is your first time hearing this thought I want you to really sit with it. But you're probably I mean, there's a really good chance you've heard it over and over again. Like for example, there's a woman who started a coaching certification program, I guess called The Life Coach School. Her name is Brooke Castillo, she has 450 episodes of a podcast, which is all about applying the cognitive behavioral therapy model to lived experiences. She just calls it the model. And it's 450 episodes of talking about it. Yeah, talking about it applied to weight loss talking about it. And then there's Stacey Bateman's podcast make money as a life coach, which is all about applying the model to ideas around money and selling. There are a lot of people my point is there are a lot of people talking about this insight. So and you should really, if it's the first time you've truly sat and thought about it, I think you can have your mind blown, you can stop right here, have your mind blown, and really make some epic progress. If you feel yourself kind of jerked around by life, I would say that's what the cognitive behavioral therapy model and managing your mind kind of insights in general, can lead to you stop feeling so jerked around by life. And that's powerful. Now, if this isn't the first time you've thought about this, I want to extend this concept by a little bit because there's something about the way the model, the cognitive behavioral therapy model is applied in the world that has always bothered me. In fact, when I first really started thinking about how my thoughts create my feelings, and my feelings, create my actions and how the control I have, you know, over my lived experience, the thing that kept me from fully embracing it was the idea that I should somehow not like that the thoughts and feelings I was having, were somehow not good enough. Now, of course, some of that is my own, you know, history of stuff I brought forward into from my childhood, which we all sort of have, and my own experience as a perfectionist and all that kind of stuff. Like I take responsibility for thinking of it as it's not good enough. And I think that there is a way that this sort of positive psychology, perspective on things can make you think like, unless I'm having a positive experience of things, unless I'm always empathetic, and always cheerful, and always seeing the best and always feeling proactive, that it's not good enough. And I just think that that is restrictive in a way that doesn't reflect the full magnitude and richness and beauty of the human experience. Because sometimes, you want to feel a negative emotion. You don't want to block off the insight that a job you're in is not a good fit. You want to be able to hear your own thoughts about things you know, One a knee jerk response, I need to be more empathetic, I need to find a way to see this in a more positive light, no, sometimes you need to stop and really think, wow, this guy is not a good fit for me as a boss, and I think it's time to leave, you need to be able to hear those things.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

And I find that when we talk about changing your thoughts to change your life, it often feels really black and white, which is kind of ironic, because one of the cognitive distortions of the cognitive behavioral therapy model, there's a few of them, there's like an eight or something standard cognitive distortions, which are ways that our mind has a tendency to react in less effective, efficient ways, like knee jerk responses that the human mind is prone to. And one of those is black and white thinking. And black and white thinking is the idea that, you know, there's this option or that option, either I have to be really like positive about my work experience, or I this is terrible, and I need to leave and you don't see all the space in between. And that kind of black and white thinking, can can reach really deep like you can develop quite the habit of black and white thinking. And I think the cognitive behavioral therapy model can feel a little bit like that it can feel really black and white, like, well, if you would just fix your thoughts, then your life could be anything you want it to be. And I'm not going to argue against that premise. Because I think over time, with effort as you grow in maturity, that could be true. And I think that in the short term, a much more healthy and effective effort is to allow your mind to have more diverse thoughts. So I recognize that this episode might be a little esoteric, or abstract, but it's worth it to me. Because I want to introduce this concept to those of you who have maybe had the same reaction that I did to this idea of change your thoughts change your life, it's like, yes, of course, and stop harassing me about my very rational, very reasonable reactions to what is like kind of a messed up situation, like the world is full of complicated and upsetting scenarios. And being upset by those complications does not mean that you're less nuanced. And like less likely to succeed or be successful or, or finding your way into doing your great work. The way that I like to do that is to allow an experience to bring up more than one kind of thought, resulting in more than one kind of emotion. So if you have that experience with your boss, you can either you can think of it as either I'm going to have a negative reaction, or you can think of it as like, Okay, I'm gonna have a more positive reaction, I would say, allow yourself to have both reactions, notice both thoughts, and then think about how you're balancing those thoughts. So if you have the thought, Oh, this guy such a jerk, and you have the thought, Man, he's going through a hard time. And you know, and that's impacting me, that allows you to have a more nuanced experience, and then your feelings will be more stabilized, there will be less reactive, because you're allowing for both to be true. It's true that he was acting kind of like a jerk. And it's true, that there's probably a reason for that. And you probably know what it is, and you can do something to help him feel better if you choose to. So the way that I think about this in my own life, is I like to think of it as the answer to the question, how was your day? Because, you know, my husband and I go our separate ways and come back together at the end of the day, like most families and roommates and what have you. And he says, How was your day to day? And that question annoyed me for a long time. So I'm like, that don't have an A, I don't have an easy answer to that question. Like, I've never had an easy, I was great, you know, I can say, you know, I can go with the defaults that everybody has, like, Oh, my day was great. How was yours? Or oh, so busy, right? But when I stopped trying to have default reactions, and really notice the actual honest answer to the question, How was my day, I needed a better mechanism to answer that question. And out of our experience, having these conversations we've come up with these little emotional characters kind of like the movie Inside Out where there's a happy one and an angry one. But it started when I was having a tough time.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Over the summer, one day, just tough day like not a big dramatic, tough time just like a sort of moody day is what I was having. And it started because my husband came in and saw me sitting next to the dog looking out the window. Ruthie, my dog and I were both just looking out the window. And he said, I think somewhat hesitatingly Hey, how was your day? And I was telling him that I had kind of a moody day kind of a churned up day, a day where I just felt like, there was nothing wrong, but there was nothing right. And I was just feeling kind of moody. And I said, I wish it could be more like Ruthie who's part poodle. She's a Newfie poo. She's part Newfoundland dog park poodle. And I said, I guess I'm moodily. And she's poorly. I wish I was more poorly and poorly has come to mean, like, just kind of peaceful. She and I were sitting there looking out the window and I was thinking like, life is disappointing. And really was sitting there looking out the window thinking boy, it's nice to look out the window. That's what these boys by the way. And we were just having a completely different experience of it. And yet, when I looked into myself, the fact that I recognized Ruthie as having that experience was an indication that I was having at least part li that experience to I wasn't entirely moody. And so we decided that that day, I was like 70% moodily and 30% poorly. And since then, that's how we've talked about our days, but we've added other emotions to it. So we have moodily which is like churned up and a little emo and kind of like, you know, gonna write some poetry and dye my hair black. And then there's Puli, which is just sort of like a grounded peaceful, grateful way of being. And then there is gloomily, which is way worse than moodily. It's like, not only am I churned up, but life is bad. You know, sort of like, I don't, I don't like this. I don't like you. I don't like anything that's gloomily which is different than moodily, which is different than poorly. And then on the other side, we have wittily, which is like, you know, on the other side, like so if gloomily is the Dark Cloud Guy from Rainbow Brite, who if I'm not mistaken, his name is murky, dismal. That's gloomily. Then moodily is like rainbow bright herself, you know, like, Yay, life is great. I love it. You know, and I've never had a day once we sort of got to this place where we have gloomily moodily pootling and Woodley. There's never been a day without a little bit of wittily in it. Even a gloomily day, someone will say something to make you laugh. And then you think like, oh, there's a little moodily. I knew it was here somewhere. And that has helped a lot in helping me to express, you know, how was your day? How are you feeling? What experience? Are you having? What What emotions? What feelings? Are your thoughts creating? Well, my thoughts are creating a lot of feelings. And so let's talk about not changing my thought from one to another, but instead changing the balance of thoughts. And that has felt to me much more accessible. Because I want to move away from gloomily thoughts and into brutally thoughts. And I, you know, might need to pass through some poorly thoughts to get there. But I might still feel a little bit gloomily, because sometimes the world is kind of gloomily. And I don't want to be delusional, and miss it, and Miss other people's experiences. But I also don't want to be at the mercy of those people's experiences or my experiences or other people's efforts to make me feel bad. I don't want to be at the mercy of that. So I want to find opportunities to introduce Puli thoughts of gratitude and groundedness. And I want to look for opportunities to introduce some googly thoughts where like, people make me laugh. And, you know, I try to be silly, and I try to see the funny parts and happy parts of the world. And I've never had a day that was entirely Googly either. That's the other thing is like, sometimes people are like, you had something that was very, like a great day. Like I remember the day that I defended my dissertation to get my PhD and it was a great day full stop. Like if you had to put a headline on it. It would be Amanda Crowell has a great day. And there were parts of it that were poorly 100% Like, I did this, you know, like a grounded feeling of like, I did this. I worked hard on this. I overcame obstacles. I'm about to get a PhD like that. That's cool. But that wasn't like, Oh, that was like, yeah, that's poorly. And there was a little moodily in it too. Like, every accomplishment always comes with a lot us, that's just true great work is a is a wash in great opportunities presenting, sometimes pretty significant losses, you know, you leave a job to take a new job, you lose the old job to get the new job. If you choose this job over that job, you lose the opportunities in that other job. That's just part of it. So every great experience has a little bit of loss in it. That's just how it is. That's life. And I want to be fully present for life. So I want to be able also that day that I got my dissertation, there was a little, a little moodily in it, actually, because I was like, I can't believe I'm leaving behind New York. We were moving to Pittsburgh for my postdoc. I love it here. I love the friends I've made. I loved Columbia, I've never been an environment like that before. You know, there was a loss to it. And there was like, at least one gloomily thought because there was


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