Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thought, Expression and Action (TEA) Positive: Triggers and Filters in One’s Mind

Thoughts, it is said, are irrepressible. Expressions and actions, it is said, are controllable. There can be no expression or action without thought. Even in involuntary actions, some system or the other of the body “thinks”.  The world expects all expressions and actions to be well thought out. A spiritual guru said that a blow from one person to another person can heal with time but an abuse or indictment from one to another would never heal with time. That is the power of the word, he said.  The physiological and neurological basis of thoughts and speech is a complex field of study. It is rational and evidence based; it can be studied with behavioural observations of a person or scanning of the person’s brain. That said, every thought-expression-action linkage is neither spontaneous nor unpredictable; it is actually conditioned – by one’s own learnings and experiences as well as expectations.

Societies which are naturally evolved but fractious human agglomerations, and organizations which are synthetically created but focused employee teams require conditioned behaviour in terms of thoughts, expressions and actions. Without conditioned behaviour societies and organizations could be at risk of disruption, if not chaos. However, completely conditioned behaviour robs the societies and organizations of the principal benefit of human existence – creativity and innovation. The need for balance between spontaneity (hence of creativity and innovation) and moderation (hence of order and discipline) is genuine for societies and organizations but quite difficult to achieve. Individuals, as they mature and develop the abilities of reflection and introspection, can help promote positive conditioned behaviour.

Cluttering, de-cluttering

Human beings are processors of abundant information. Even when they are not in conversation with fellow beings, their ecosystems tend to be in conversation with them. These conversations, whether active or passive, shape the thoughts of the individuals. These thoughts, as they bubble up, set in motion a complex chain of feedback mechanisms. Left uncontrolled, a person’s mind could become an uncontrolled cauldron of thoughts. Mercifully, a few things help control the phenomenon. Firstly, a person’s innate ability to moderate the thought processes helps. Secondly, a preference for positive thoughts results in a helpful cycle of positive expressions, positive feedback, positive actions and positive recognitions. Thirdly, as a person moves from thought and expression phase to action phase, he or she becomes focused and goal directed. For example, a person in search of an accommodation to buy would be subject to multiple thoughts in the exploration phase but becomes focused on house construction once he narrows down the choice to an acquisition.

There are three other important means to de-clutter oneself of the unending assault of thoughts. One is the daily natural phenomenon of sleep. Modern research has re-established the age old philosophy that a healthy period of daily sleep is the best means for rejuvenation of the body and the mind. The second is the discipline of daily exercise which brings focus and endurance to the body and the mind. The third is the ancient practice of yoga and meditation which helps one to become calm and relaxed as well as focused and attentive.  The Art of Living Foundation lists several benefits of meditation ( The Foundation observes that meditation is like a seed which when cultivated with care blossoms to the general wellbeing of a person. Despite the availability of such compelling evidence, people are unable to implement the moderation, focus and execution trilogy at the professional level and the sleep, exercise and meditation trilogy of the personal life.

Starting early

The new NDA government despite its preoccupation with economic reforms and acceleration of economic growth has focused on some important softer aspects of life that need to be imbibed from the early childhood stage. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has advised students taking the Class X and Class XII Board examinations in March this year that they should learn to develop faith in oneself as Swami Vivekanda exhorted decades ago, and take the examinations as a game to play and also learn to relax. He has advised students to learn Pranayama or practise Surya Namaskar to reduce stress. In a proud moment for India, the United Nations has on December 10, 2014 adopted June 21 as World Yoga Day after Narendra Modi made an impassioned plea in the UN General Assembly for Yoga in September 2014. It is to be hoped that such guidance and measures would influence the new generation to stay positive from the early years.

Like the half empty or half full analogy of a glass, it is never too late or too early to start anything positive. There is so much material and expertise that is available in the public domain on sleep-exercise-meditation aspects that it would be highly inappropriate and inadequate to discuss them in this blog post. There is, however, less attention and material on the moderation-focus-execution trilogy that is needed in professional life. Within this trilogy again, there is enough literature on driving focus and execution but very little thought on achieving positive moderation in thoughts, expression and actions. As a result, organizations and societies are focused on conflict management as a discipline of learning and development. A far better route would be to root out the triggers and precursors for conflicts in the thought processes themselves.


Achievements, disappointments, targets, goals, teachings, exhortations, criticisms, observations, advices, and a host of other events relating to oneself or others in the society act as triggers for thoughts. The thoughts could vary across a wide spectrum, from mere noting and registering them in memory or shutting them out of active memory to feelings of joy or sadness, motivation or inspiration, security or helplessness, introversion or extroversion, and so on. These, in turn, make individuals to stay satisfied (with the status quo) or become dissatisfied (to change the status quo). The stronger the feelings, the greater would be the triggers. The triggers lead to expressions of satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and later on to situations of inaction or action. The intermediate stage of expression between thought and action is important because it provides an opportunity to provide or receive feedback, and thus correct or get corrected.

The intermediate stage of expression is also important because it helps in either dissipation of excessive (often negative) energy or reinforcement for needed (often positive) energy. In certain cases, when the triggers are particularly strong, individuals tend to jump from thought to action directly without going through the very important stage of expression, often leading to undesirable results. While keeping one’s own inner counsel does happen, and is also important and appropriate in certain cases, in most situations expression of core thoughts and intended response would go a long way in improving the end results. Needless to add, actions would certainly lead to certain results, which in turn lead to the next cycle of triggers. In order for one’s life to be in a manageable boundary, the triggers for thoughts and the consequent expressions and actions need to be purposeful.


As one grows up, the brain or mind starts developing its own filters that are set in place in a rather firm manner with maturity. Typically, an individual consciously or unconsciously passes his or her thoughts, expressions and actions (TEAs) through these filters. While the triggers add velocity and momentum to one’s TEAs, the filters help one to separate the positive ones (or those agreeable to one’s personality) from the negative ones (or those disagreeable to one’s personality). These filters start the processes of reflection, introspection, evaluation and selection as the TEAs pass through them. In an ideal situation, only those thoughts that pass through all the filters become expressions and those expressions that pass through all the filters become actions. Developing the right kind of filters and keeping them effective (and unclogged) is certainly in one’s capability, and helps one in staying TEA positive.

The typical filters one has in one’s mind are the following. The primary one is the emotional filter (will the TEA make me happy or sad, satisfied or dissatisfied and motivated or demotivated?). The second is the social filter, social including the family, friends, peers and the broader society where relevant (will the TEA gain me acceptance or rejection, recognition or castigation?). The third is the value filter (does the TEA fit into my value system or not?). Only those TEAs that pass through all the three filters make one truly happy. The sequence given above tends to be applicable for a great majority of individuals. For sage and wise individuals, the sequence would probably be in the reverse order; the value filter first followed by the social filter and then the emotional filter. While a few other filters like development filter or growth filter can be considered, the author feels that they are ultimately expressed in terms of emotions. Likewise, while the social filter can be separated into family filter and other filters it only adds needless complexity.    

 TEA positive

Staying TEA positive is a worthwhile goal in life. Ability to entertain only positive or agreeable thoughts and ability to de-clutter one’s mind are the fundamental capabilities which help one in the process. The more important aspect is setting the right filters in one’s mind. The filters are chosen right and set right depending on one’s knowledge of the broader good as may be taught by scriptures, texts, teachers, friends and families. The social and value filters, in particular, help one reach alignment and congruence between what is positive and what is agreeable.

Staying TEA positive is an organizational possibility and requirement too. From choosing a business to operate in to generating and sharing wealth with stakeholders to fulfilling corporate social responsibility, organizations and corporations have multiple ways to become and stay TEA positive. Organizations, which promote a TEA positive culture in their team members would become virtuous organizations. Societies and nations which create ecosystems that help individuals and organizations become TEA positive would become virtuous nations.  

Posted by Dr CB Rao on March 15, 2015    

No comments: