The Self Coaching Model

The Self Coaching Model* is a tool you can use to gain new insights, solve problems, and produce new results in your life.

The basic premise of the Self Coaching Model is that your thoughts create your feelings, your feelings create your actions, and your actions create your results.

Circumstances > Thoughts > Feelings > Actions > Results

Before you start using the Self Coaching Model, let’s define each of its components.


  • Circumstances are facts that everyone agrees on and that can be proven in a court of law.
    “I weigh 130 lbs” for example is a circumstance. The fact that I weigh 130 lbs is measurable, provable, and not debatable. Here are other examples: it’s raining today; the project Is due tomorrow; I haven’t received an email from my client.
  • Circumstances are neutral. They’re neither good nor bad. Everything is a circumstance until you put a thought to it. Circumstances only become good or bad based on the thoughts we have about them.


  • Thoughts are sentences in your head. Human beings have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day and most of our thoughts go unsupervised. Typically we don’t intentionally choose our thoughts and that’s often the cause of many of our problems.
  • For example, thinking that your boss is over-demanding by asking you to stay late is a thought. It’s your opinion. Others could have different opinions about that same circumstance.
  • A thought is not a circumstance or a fact if you’ve added descriptive words or opinions in the sentence. Even if most people agree with you, it’s still a thought because it can’t be proven as a fact. Any time you add a qualifier to a circumstance, you are choosing to think a thought.
  • If you don’t practice thinking intentionally, you’ll continue to repeat your past and have the same thoughts you’ve always had. Your thoughts will recreate your past if you don’t train your brain to create new insights and therefore new results. You can use the Self Coaching Model to do this.


  • Feelings are vibrations in your body.
  • When using the Model, feelings should be described in one word. Examples of feelings that can be expressed in one word are relaxed, anxious, resentful, angry, ashamed, frustrated, proud, fearful, and confident.
  • Because of the way our brains have developed to avoid pain, we typically avoid, resist, and react to negative emotions. We need to learn how to notice, acknowledge, and name our feelings so we can experience them as vibrations in our body.
  • Many people confuse thoughts and feelings. For example, if someone asks you how you felt about your boss asking you to stay late, you might say, “I am upset because my boss demands too much of my time.”In this example, the feeling you’re having is upset. The thought you’re having about the circumstance is that your boss is over-demanding. Your boss asking you to stay late is not, in and of itself, upsetting; it’s a neutral circumstance. Your thought that your boss is over-demanding is causing you to feel upset.
  • Distinguishing between thoughts and feelings is critical to feeling better. Understanding that your thoughts cause your feelings is how you learn how to feel better without changing your circumstances.
  • It’s great news that your thoughts create your feelings because it means you can choose how you want to think and, therefore, how you want to feel. No one can cause you to feel a certain way. Your thoughts about what someone did (or didn’t do) is what causes you to feel something.


  • Actions are what you do, don’t do, or react to (e.g., actions, inactions, and reactions). In the Self Coaching Model, your feelings cause your actions, inactions, or reactions.
  • For example, because you’re feeling upset about your boss asking you to stay late, you decide to complain about your boss all week with the other designers. The upset you feel drives the action of complaining to others.
  • Your actions, inactions, and reactions will be based on the feelings that caused them. If you’re not taking action and wondering why not, ask yourself what feeling you have right before you want to take action. Then work backward to see what thought is driving the feeling.


  • Results are the consequences or outcomes of your actions, inactions, or reactions.
  • Using the same example as above, the consequence of you complaining about your boss to the other designers might be that it may affect your relationship with the other designers or your boss.

The problem with most coaching is that it focuses solely on changing your actions. When you change your actions but don’t change the thoughts and feelings behind those actions, there’s resistance, and that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to see real change.

That’s what happens when the symptom of a problem is treated instead of the root cause.
The Self Coaching Model is a way for you to solve any problem instead of only fixing the symptom temporarily.

Using the Self Coaching Model every day

The basic premise of the Model is as follows:

  • Circumstances are neutral.
  • Your thoughts cause your feelings.
  • Your feelings cause your actions.
  • Your actions cause your results.

The components of the Model are as follows:

  • A circumstance is a neutral fact.
  • A thought is a sentence in your head about a circumstance.
  • A feeling is a vibration in your body caused by a thought.
  • An action is what your feelings cause you to do.
  • The result is the consequence of your action.

When you have a problem, coach yourself by using the Self Coaching Model and following the steps below.

Step 1

First, write C, T, F, A, R – the acronym for the components of the Model in a vertical column as demonstrated below.

Step 2

Second, fill in one line. It can be any line that you want to solve for; it doesn’t have to be the action line or feeling line.

For example, let’s say you want to know why you’re not getting up at 5 AM, despite really wanting to get up that early so you can work out before your day starts. You would put the inaction of not getting up at 5 AM in the action line.

C :
T :
F :
A : Not getting up at 5 AM
R :

Step 3

Third, fill in the remaining lines.

C : Exercise
T : Even if I do it, it won’t make a difference.
F : Apathetic
A : Don’t get up at 5 AM, don’t exercise.
R : No difference is made.

When you discover the underlying thought causing the results in your life, you become aware of how you are responsible for the results. That awareness shows you how you’re already creating the results, which means you can change your thoughts to achieve different results.

Laddering your thoughts

Stay with the thought long enough to gain awareness of it and to recognize that it’s a choice. Observe yourself while you’re having the current thought.

Sometimes if a new thought has strong enough evidence (and you can believe it as well as the old thought), you may immediately drop the first thought for the new thought.

Create new pathways in your brain by experimenting with new thoughts. This is how you can change old habits and patterns, by practicing a new habit over and over. Practice trying-on a new thought over and over.

Or, decide what you want your new thought to be and incrementally change it. Your thoughts only lead to your results if you actually believe the thoughts.

For example, if your thought is that working out won’t make a difference anyway, you can’t start repeating “Working out is going to make a huge difference” because you don’t actually believe it. If you repeat a thought you don’t believe, nothing will change.

Instead, you need to repeat a new thought that you do believe such as “I am human, and it’s OK that working out hasn’t worked for me in the past; this doesn’t mean it can’t work for me in the future. That thought is neutral and incrementally moves you away from the negative thought. (Again, that thought only works if you truly believe it.)

You have to incrementally change your thoughts from negative to neutral and then to positive. That process is called “laddering your thoughts” to make real change.

The Self Coaching Model helps you learn how to process your feelings and create the results you want despite knowing that you’ll have problems along the way. Typically, people resist, react to, or avoid their feelings. The Self Coaching Model teaches you how to experience your feelings. Your willingness to experience negative emotions will directly affect your level of success.

This is how you change your entire life, so it can be exactly what you want it to be.

Thought downloads

If you can’t figure out why you acted or didn’t act in a particular way, conduct a thought download.

Write how you feel and what you’re thinking for five minutes without stopping or putting down your pen. You’ll see how your thinking is causing your results.

What to do next

  1. Start using the Self Coaching Model daily. Any time you have a problem, write CTFAR and fill in each line. The more you practice using the Model, the better you’ll become at creating the results you want.
  2. Any time you feel a certain way that you don’t like, ask yourself, “What am I thinking?” and practice being with that feeling instead of avoiding, resisting, or reacting to it.
  3. Let’s talk about how we can work together so I can coach you by using the Model. My goal with the Self Coaching Model is to help you create new results in your life that you never believed possible.  Schedule a mini session with me to talk over how we can start working together.


Thought Download Worksheet

Self Coaching Model Diagram

Self Coaching Model Worksheet

*Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School created the Self Coaching Model based on years of research and studying. She found information on the specific components of the Model (e.g., thinking, feelings, circumstances), but there wasn’t a way to apply these concepts to our daily lives. This is why she created the Self Coaching Model.

Author: Jamie Cavanaugh

Jamie Cavanaugh is a Certified Life Coach, Educator, Interaction Designer, and Writer.

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