Self-Coaching for Personal and Professional Success

Decisions? Decisions. Decisions! As a small business owner, we have decisions to make every day. It can be hard work. It can be overwhelming. And sometimes we even feel stuck and unable to make a decision. Have you ever felt that way? If so, or if you just want to understand how you make decisions so you can make decisions more effectively, take more action, and achieve more of the results you’re looking for, read on!

I learned about Brooke Castillo’s Self Coaching Model several years ago, and it made so much sense to me. I have taught it many times since. It’s incredibly accurate and powerful, but it isn’t something we’re taught in school and might not be intuitive.

To begin, Castillo explains that our circumstances are “inherently neutral.” This means that any two people could experience a similar, or even the same, event and perceive it differently. For example, siblings could lose their mother and one sibling is devastated, believes the loss of the parent was unfair, and isn’t sure how they will continue with their lives, while the other sibling is at peace in the belief that the mother is no longer suffering, that she had a good life, and left a strong legacy with her family, friends, and in the community.

That example shows us that we go through things and then we immediately have thoughts about what’s happening. Our thoughts are often based in our version of reality which is informed by our past experiences personally and professionally. A request from a supervisor to meet could excite one staff member, while it causes anxiety for another. This shows that our feelings about a situation or circumstance are based on the thought we had about the circumstance, not about the circumstance itself.

Take that in.

If we settle into the understanding that our thoughts lead to our feelings, then we also come to understand that no one makes us mad. In the same vein, no one makes us happy. We are happy or angry based on the thoughts we have about the person or the behavior of the person, not the person themselves. This is a very important distinction as when we learn and accept this truth, we take our power back. When I’m angry I have to reflect on what I thought before I felt angry. Then I can analyze whether my thought is actually true. Sometimes it isn’t true, it’s an assumption, a stereotype, or the person’s behavior has unearthed some hurt or trauma in myself that still needs healing.

This seems like a good time to insert a *sidenote* about feelings. I believe that, as a culture in general, we are woefully inept and undereducated when it comes to learning about feelings and feeling words as children. We usually learn the feelings of “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “afraid” as young children. But isn’t there a difference between frustrated and furious, or between happy and elated? And our behavior likely corresponds to the intensity of our feelings. So, my reaction to something I am frustrated about might be very different than something I am furious about. (Search online for “feeling word wheel” to see for yourself the variety of feelings we experience.)

To be more direct, we make decisions based on how we want to feel, or how we want to avoid feeling. Wow. Take a moment to think that through. We don’t make decisions based on information alone, like we often think we do. We make decisions and take action based on our feelings… but feelings are fleeting. Therefore, it can be helpful to “sleep on it” before making any big decisions, so that you don’t jump into something exciting headfirst without thinking it though, or so you don’t avoid something great out of the fear that you aren’t ready for growth or challenge.

To recap so far… we have a circumstance that leads to a thought. That thought creates a feeling, and the feeling leads to our action or inaction. Our actions lead to our results, and that result becomes the new circumstance in the self-coaching model. (See the image for the “CTFAR” self-coaching model.)

If you love the way you’re feeling about an aspect of your business, reflect on how you’ve been thinking about it. On the other hand, if there is something that feels “bad” to you about your business, reflect on how you’ve been thinking about that. If there are thoughts, you’re having that are causing “negative” feelings, you can choose to change your thinking about it with new data, with a new perspective, or with an intentionally more positive outlook.

You can also ask yourself how you want to feel when completing certain tasks within your business, or running your business overall, and test out the different thoughts until you find the one(s) that lead to the feelings you’re wanting to experience. If you want to create the energy to take a certain action, ask yourself what you would need to feel to achieve that action, and then what thought would lead to that feeling.

You can “jump into” the model at any level and work forward and backward until your thoughts, feelings, and actions are congruent and aligned to create the results you desire.

Here’s the bottom line:

1.) What you think matters. And you have complete control over your thoughts. Managing your thoughts is free and immediate. We can replace our thoughts in the moment and the new thoughts will become habits over time.

2.) We take action based on our feelings. It’s important to check in with ourselves before taking any major action to see how we feel based on what we’re thinking, to see if our thoughts are true and accurate, and to ensure that our thoughts are serving us well.

3.) When we know what we want (in action or result) we can achieve it more easily by working through the CTFAR self-coaching model.

4.) We have power over our own thoughts and feelings. No one makes us feel anything. No hardship, circumstance, success, or situation makes us feel anything. It’s our thoughts that cause our feelings. Be responsible with your thoughts and feelings to run a more stable and successful business and be a better supervisor.

5.) Think, feel, and act based on what serves you, your business, your employees, your customers, and your community best. This means sometimes slowing down to work though the thoughts and feelings you and others have about a situation or a decision that needs to be made rather than just making a list of pros and cons.

You are powerful beyond measure and your brain and heart want to work in your favor. Allow them to do so. Put the CTFAR model to work in your business and in your life and track the results. I am sure you’ll be glad you did.

To learn more about the CTFAR model, see

Dr. Nikki Tobias is a SCORE Mentor, a Certified Life Coach, and an engaging and motivating educator and public speaker. You can contact the author with questions or comments about this blog post at

CTFAR image

About the Author(s)

Nikki Tobias

Dr. Nikki Tobias is an educator, professional speaker, life coach, and founder of Grounded Vision. With her background in teaching, counseling, administration, crisis management, and nonprofit management, she is adept at helping people overcome anything that holds them back.

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