Self-coaching is an effective way to manage your thoughts, and Brooke Castillo’s Model is the best coaching tool I’ve come across.  This quick introduction to the self-coaching Model will help you start coaching yourself right away.

You don’t necessarily need a coach in order to manage your thoughts (although coaches are totally awesome!).  One of the most effective tools in my arsenal – and the one I use the most – is called the Model.  It was created/defined by Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School (I am a certified life coach through their program, but Brooke and The Life Coach School do not endorse endorse me or my website).

The style of coaching I practice is called causal coaching.  That means that we look for the root cause of the symptoms you’re experiencing, and go to work helping you to resolve those root problems.  We use the Model to do this (along with other incredible tools), and it is tremendously effective.  Here’s how it works.

How The Model Works

The self-coaching Model is made up of 5 elements:

  • Circumstances
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Actions
  • Results

Are you ready for a mind-blowing realization?  Here goes.

Your thought about a circumstance in your life causes you to have a feeling.  Your feelings motivate you to take actions.  Your actions are what create your results.

Circumstance —-> Thought —-> Feeling —-> Action —-> Result

Why is this significant?

Because, in essence, it means that your thoughts are the key to your results in life – both the results you’re getting now and the results you want.

Let’s look at an example, and then we’ll dive into each of the 5 elements of the model.

C:  I am employed at XYZ Company

T:  I hate my job

F:  Frustration

A:  Resist doing work for my job, distract myself by reading news articles on my phone, do easier work tasks and leave the more difficult tasks for later

R:  Get less work done and get more behind in my workload, causing me to hate my job even more

Do you see how the thought, “I hate my job,” creates a feeling of frustration, which causes less work to get done, which ultimately results in hating the job even more?

Your mind is an incredibly powerful force that propels your direction in life.  Learning to manage it allows you to harness that power and steer your life in the direction you would like it to go.

Now that you know the elements of the Model, let’s break each one down a little more.


A circumstance is the first element of the Model.  Circumstances are:

  • Neutral
  • Generally provable or things that everyone would agree on
  • Unable to affect you until you have a thought about it

Let’s look at some examples to help illustrate what a circumstance is and is not.

“My husband yelled at me.”  Why isn’t this a circumstance?  Because if everyone in the world watched a video of what happened, we may not all agree that the husband yelled.  What’s the definition of “yell?”  Do we all agree on that?  Is there a certain point at which decibels go from speaking to yelling?  And has that threshold been crossed?  How do we know?

“My husband said ‘I can’t stand you.'”  Why is this a circumstance?  Because if everyone in the world watched a video of what happened, we would all agree that he said those words.  We don’t have a subjective descriptor in there, such as “yell” or “loudly.”  We only have the words that a specific person spoke.

Here are some more circumstances as examples:

  • I answered 95% of the questions correctly on the test
  • I woke up at 4:30 a.m.
  • My friend Jenn is in the hospital
  • My son said “I don’t want to eat this”
  • I have dishes, pots, pans, and silverware sitting in the sink
  • I have 12 items on my to-do list

Here are some examples of things that aren’t circumstances:

  • My siblings are difficult to deal with
  • I don’t have enough time
  • My house is a mess
  • People will think I’m a loser if I fail
  • My mother-in-law doesn’t like me
  • My sister makes bad choices

…So if these aren’t circumstances, what are they?  They’re thoughts.  Let’s talk about thoughts next.


Thoughts are sentences in your brain.  And that’s all they are.

Your brain can offer you sentences on its own, or you can choose to think some thoughts intentionally.

The most important thing to know about thoughts is that they are optional.

That means that just because your brain offers you a thought, doesn’t mean that it’s true or that you have to believe it.  That doesn’t mean that you can instantly switch to a different thought and feel better.  It often takes time and practice to choose how you want to think about something.

Have you ever had a thought about something – that a person wasn’t nice, that an outfit was cute, or that you should pursue something in your life – and then changed your mind?  When you changed your mind, you chose a different thought.

We live much of our lives thinking that we are at the effect of the circumstances in our lives – that the circumstances are what cause our feelings.  But the truth is that our thoughts about the circumstances are what cause our feelings.


Let’s look at an example to illustrate.  Let’s say someone you know dies.  Most people would say that the person’s death causes them to feel grief, sadness, sorrow, or similar feelings.  It doesn’t.

What causes those feelings are your thoughts about the person’s death, because your thoughts cause your feelings.  A circumstance cannot affect you until you have a thought about it.

Let’s say you just found out that someone you know died a week ago.  Would you have felt sadness the instant they died?  No, because you didn’t know at the time they died.  You weren’t thinking about the circumstance of their death, because you were unaware of it.  When you found out a week later, you had a thought about it – perhaps “That is so terrible,”  Or “I will never see this person again.”  And your thought about the circumstance of their death – not the circumstance in and of itself – caused you to feel sadness.

Let’s take this scenario a little further to illustrate not only that thoughts are optional, but that circumstances are neutral.  Let’s say someone else did not like the person who died, and is indifferent, satisfied, or even relieved that the person died.  The person’s death is a fact – a provable circumstance.  It is possible for different people to have different thoughts about that circumstance, meaning in a basic sense that thoughts are optional.


We generate feelings with our thoughts.

Circumstances don’t cause our feelings – our thoughts about circumstances cause our feelings.

Feelings (also sometimes called emotions) are the reason we do the things we do.  When we desire something – such as a new outfit, more connection in our marriage, a career change, or a slice of cake – we desire it because of how we believe we will feel when we have the thing or achieve the goal.

If thoughts are optional, feelings are also optional.  You can generate any feeling you want at any time by figuring out what you would need to think in order to currently feel the way you want to feel.

That doesn’t mean that you should try to generate only positive feelings, or that you would want to.  Life is 50/50 in terms of positive and negative emotion – that is part of the full human experience.  You can, however, decide how you want to think and feel about any situation.  You can also choose to feel negative emotions that serve you – yes, it’s possible for negative emotions to serve you.


Our feelings motivate us to take action.

Actions can be physical, kinetic, observable events – such as walking away from someone, having a conversation, or applying for a job.  Actions can also be internal to our own thought process.  Thinking about a situation, doubting yourself, praising yourself, or criticizing yourself are all internal actions that you take because of a feeling you have.

Actions can also be things we don’t do, in the context of the Model.  Not having a conversation, not making a decision, or not cleaning your house are all examples of inaction because of a feeling you have.  And the feeling, of course, is generated by the thought.


Results are, in essence, the effect of your thoughts.  A result is what you create in your life through the actions you take.

The result in your Model always applies to you and no one else.  We can’t control other people or their Models, so we always look at the result we’re creating in our own lives through our thoughts, feelings, and actions about a circumstance.

Results are often one of three things:

  • A projection of the thought about another person
  • More evidence to prove the thought true in your own brain
  • An exact match of the thought

If you want to change your results, the key is to change your thoughts.  You should only change a thought after you have created awareness around your current thinking, why you’re thinking it, and the result it’s creating in your life.

Some people want a different result so badly that they try to switch to a new thought too quickly, without fully understanding and exploring their current thought and its Model.  This often results in the brain reverting to the trusty original thought, even if it doesn’t serve you.  Your brain goes back to that comfortable, unhelpful thought, and you end up with the same old result.

The Best Coaching Tool In The World:  Conclusion

This was only a brief introduction to Brooke Castillo’s Model.  The Model takes time, practice, and understanding to fully implement.  Once you have a strong grasp, you can harness its power to create results in your life that you’ve only dreamt of.

As a causal coach, I use the Model in every single coaching session.  I show my clients their thoughts and what they’re creating in their lives, help them uncover and question the story behind their current thinking, and, if appropriate, choose new thoughts that will generate the feelings, actions, and results they want.

You can definitely coach yourself using the model (and once you learn how to use it properly, I encourage you to do so).  Learning the Model with a coach is an awesome way to delve into thought work and pursue the goals you’ve always wanted to achieve.  Schedule a free coaching consultation call with me to learn more about how I can help and to see if we’re a good fit.

About the Author

Amy Schield, MBA is a time management and productivity coach for small business owners. Using a mix of simple tactics and neuroscience-based strategies, she helps clients manage their time successfully, set and achieve goals for business growth, and navigate the mental and emotional side of owning and running a small business. Acting as a personal trainer for the brain, she teaches clients how to get out of their own way, so they can finally build the business they want.

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