Thought Streams ” In the Cauldron”

Working hard to get nowhere ?

Joe has part of a successful practice.

Some of what he does takes him where he wants to go some doesn’t and some takes him in the opposite direction.

Joe can’t see what is what or which is which.

He thinks he is doing the best he can.

He keeps an ongoing list of ‘to dos’ that he shuffles.

Sometimes he has an hour to plan his life and he does it on paper which he keeps in a safe place.

The paper is upstairs in his office but he doesn’t go in much now he is back at work full time.

He has an ap he uses to manage his list of jobs. It works as it is designed to do and makes it easy to cross them off. He loves this bit and often write sin stuff just to cross it off and see what he’s done (achieved?)

One feature he finds useful, is that it also makes it possible to shuffle the deadlines forward and delete ‘to dos’ easily if he wants to and he makes a lot of use of this, shifting dates into the future. He also has a habit of deleting things he hasn’t actually done in time to keep the ap looking good.

The ap is all you need to manage your own success but equally it’s all you need to playa considerable part in maintaining the status quo and ensuring failure.

Sometimes he forgets about the ap for a few days and, when he catches up it makes surprising reading. he sees in black and white what he said he would do and then his thought streams obligingly compare that to what he actually did. Not much fun!

Of course what you actually do, like what you eat, can be very hard to remember later and without the ap Joe wouldn’t know at all. perhaps this would be better ?

Once he went through a period of using Fatsecrets – it’s a great recording ap for food. All users add in the foods they eat and there is a library that picks up what you ate in terms of macros and nutrients. It’s simple but it works (if you fill it in)

Joe’s dad would have described filling it in as it as ‘being on it’.

When Joe was young, they went to a circus and saw a juggler  balancing plates it was one of those things they subsequently talked about – a lot.

Joe hadn’t really understood his dad’s fascination until he saw a juggler at a circus who could spin plates on sticks and keep 8 or so running without falling.

Most of the children the audience liked it best when he tried to spin too many plates at once and several crashed to the floor.

If he had looked more closely at the adults, Joe would have seen one or two reacting very differently and his dad tried to use the pates to show Joe a life lesson.

Joe felt he got it, the smashed plates meant that there were only so many you could service at any on time. Too many plates led to smashing china and Joe suspected the juggler could manage different numbers on different nights. His dad had helped Joe understand this was the same the world over. Anyone could only keep attention and effort on so many things at once. Too many and the attention was spread too thin and for the juggler this meant that they all started falling.

The juggler gave the impression that the 8 spinning plates was good but you couldn’t help feel the pressure that the audience wanted more and if perhaps even the juggle, if he was honest with himself, would think 9 was better than 8. Joe’s dad called this mission creep taking what was good or even great and trying to make it better to keep the feeling of achievement alive.

Joe’s dad had said the juggler knew when his plates were about to fall. It was obvious to everyone as the plates slowed down and the sticks began to wobble. The juggler would run round just catching the plate intime to spin the stick and ‘save the day’. Joe suspected the real skill of the juggler was as a showman, playing the crowd and his greatest applause came when he just saved the plate. Saving the day was more exciting than keeping all the plates running smoothly, this would have been boring, no one would have paid to watch a plate spinning success.

Joe knew plates made it simple to see what was really going on, w hen you were juggling other things like time or money or energy then it wasn’t always so obvious to recognise which ‘plate’ needed a spin or when you had too many plates to stand any real chance of success.

It’s easy with plates they spin or they fall.

To others, Joe may look like a successful young man. He apparently had money to spend, great holidays, expensive nights out and a new car.

If we knew these were his only plates, the only ones that mattered to him or would ever matter to him then we could agree but like his some of his thought streams we may have our doubts..

Typically this year, the thought streams in his head had mainly encouraged him to live it up and yet there were some that also nagged at him. They posed questions about longer term issues and considerations. Things he should or could do to make things better from a longer term perspective.

Currently Joe is seen as someone who works hard and plays hard. Currently he likes to think of himself this way and wants to be seen that way by others. If we looked closely we might wonder if Joe actually knows or accepts this but in a few years he will recognise there is some truth in this.

Perhaps already, if we looked more closely at what was going on inside him, we might see the beginnings of dissatisfaction or disillusionment with his longer term prospects. Although the ‘have a great life’ plates appeared to be spinning we might conclude that his choice of actions and effort wasn’t doing the full job and there are some plates missing if  Joe wanted a long and happy life.

Of course his thought streams are beginning to reflect this too and, as a result, Joe is increasingly aware of all this. He hasn’t spent enough time to let himself understand what’s really going on or to completely get it, perhaps it’s just a growing realisation of the conflicting thought streams or the building noise in side him. He has no plan just a growing unease caused by the torrent of conflicting and sometimes worrying thoughts he has in his head.

Joe can’t seem to choose between the plates that are increasingly offered by his overactive thought streams. He spins some only to let them slow and crash almost immediately. Others that have long outgrown their usefulness demand his attention and time and he keeps them spinning for old times sake. Its a confusing mess of noise, instructions orders and feedback on his performance that resonates but he doesn’t really understand.

There’s not really any context that something like a purpose or a vision of his future life might supply.

Often he concentrates on those thought streams that are most insistent, those that are the noisiest, choosing to run with what seems to be the immediate or most pressing thought stream particularly if it seems to offer to help him avoid pain or gain pleasure.

Joe is reacting, circumventing million years of evolution, acting like a single cell amoeba and simply moving towards or away from stimuli.

He reads through todays actions again.

There’s a couple he no longer understands or supports so he deletes them.

There’s one he doesn’t want to even think about so he shuffles this forward a week (the longest option on the ap)

Then listening to another thought stream he reopens this particular To do and instead of shuffling it forward a few days he reschedules it altogether for a date beyond his own focus. In Joe’s case this is about 2 months later. He’ll deal with it then.


There’s a couple of big ones on the list and a thoughts stream of learned behaviour and best practice tells him its best to do these first. As he digests this advice another thought stream imposes its view and reminds him he has a morning routine.

This is a ‘Joe sponsored thought stream’ one that takes Joe exactly where he wants to go. He is pleased and quite rightly celebrates the triggering of this thought. He acknowledges it happened because he set up a trigger and as he picked up his tooth brush it happened automatically.

Well done Joe there’s a semblance of control and direction.

Unfortunately even this triumph is not enough to slow the thought streams down. Lost in the swirling torrent Joe cant use what just happened in any new meaningful ways. He doesn’t know this ‘toothbrush trigger’ is the only one he has set up to help him have the life he wants.

The bathroom is set up to remind him what to do and he works on automatic following the prompts. This time he is the architect and the prompts save him well. In the moment he fails to realise the opportunity this might offer him if he were to extend it.

The shower settings, the weights, the straps and the cleaning stuff all positioned precisely. He steps into the shower and turns it on aiming the freezing jet at the most sensitive part of his body.

He tells himself it is only cold. He is in charge and he does what he has chosen to do –  not what his body or mind screams for.

He moves the cold water up his chest, under  his arms, this causes another shout of rebellion but he persists. In charge, he continues when everything inside him screams ‘no’ he lets it run over his head, down his back which is still warm from bed.

He watches as the thoughts rush across this screen urging him to get out or switch it off. But in here, in this moment Joe is in charge, he counts gently telling himself it’s only cold water. He thinks of Whim and smiles.

He knows he is proving he is in charge of his body and for a moment he delights in the feeling. His routine kicks in – he switches the shower off and soaps. Then he turns it back on as he stands under expectantly.

The cold is less intense now as his body responds to his intent and after a couple of moments he is clean and the water feels neutral not cold.  Incredible what it can do , what he can do when he demands obedience and results.

He gets out and sprays the shower with the cleaner – the spray is next to his body soap and then he exits standing on the waiting mat in the cold air. He shaves as he air dries, experiencing the cold savouring his reactions to it and then turns to the wall which is hung with rubber bands and he runs through the same 4 exercises he does every morning.

He feels the heat return and dry at last he stretches. He returns to the bedroom to find his clothes and picks up his phone and those todos.

At the same time his head fills with more thoughts streams and once more Joe is wandering lost. we might say his head is once more a cauldron, a boiling pot full of apparently unrelated thought streams each claiming his attention each trying to take him where they think he should go.

Conflicting demands with no right answer at this level of detail leaving Joe busy, confused and unfulfilled.

You might also want to ask some questions to help Joe even though you already know the answers –

Who’s in charge? – not Joe

Who’s writing the story? – not joe

Who’s going to get what they want? not Joe


Read more about Joe and what happened to change everything in Joe’s Cliff


Reengineering your relationship with your Monkey helps your Cauldron of thoughts to settle down. Following through the exercises lets you set your own agenda and give some

  • direction for any who wish to help you
  • criteria for you to use to judge the value of any and all plates
  • Valuable information for you to decide which plates to spin and which to let fall

Free offers of audio book and Challenge here this month.