Calibrating Your Thought Compass: What Thought Feels Better?

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Dave Berman

Your feelings reflect your thoughts. It may often seem that your emotional state is caused by external circumstances, but this “outside-in” paradigm is an illusion and your reality is actually created “inside-out.” The Thought Compass is a way to remember how true this is and to guide you in selecting better feeling, more useful thoughts.

Just as a regular compass points north and helps you find your way in the forest, your Thought Compass is calibrated to True North, represented by holding both arms straight out in front of you with the palms of your hands together. In this position, you sense connection to your inner wisdom, an emotional GPS system. You are aware of feelings of freedom, love, joy, appreciation, knowledge and empowerment. True North indicates high quality thinking that can be believed, trusted and acted upon. Take a moment now to recognize your relationship to True North. Find some thoughts that bring you to this good feeling place.

Feelings are always the indicator of when your thinking is on course, as well as when thoughts are off course. Remember a time now when you had to make a big decision but weren’t yet ready to choose. Indecision is common. Use your Thought Compass now to calibrate how it feels. Keep your left arm straight in front of you and begin moving your right arm clockwise until you find the point that represents this feeling. Indecision, by definition, is a lack of readiness to take action. Notice the contrast between this feeling and True North, where you do feel that inner direction to take action. Sometimes we may call this a “gut instinct.” When it kicks in, it means you’re ready to believe the thoughts causing that feeling, ready to take action based on them, and you’ve calibrated back to True North.

Play around with some other feelings now. Use the same process to calibrate for fear, anger, disappointment, contentment and positive expectation. You don’t need to stay very long in any of these emotional states, now or ever, but for the sake of learning to use this powerful tool, take a few moments and really discover what thoughts lead you to feel each of these states. If done in the sequence I’ve presented, you’ll likely start out furthest from True North and gradually make your way closer.



Positive Expectation

True North


At any given moment, if you are experiencing undesirable emotions, you can always calibrate your Thought Compass and then ask yourself “what thought feels better?” No matter whether you are as far off course as fear, guilt or shame, or in a less severe place such as impatience, pessimism or boredom, you have the ability to assess the feelings and choose from among your thoughts the one that brings you relief from the others. Relief is inherently good and means you’re choosing to move in the direction of True North, even if only incrementally, because doing so feels better than continuing to focus on the other thoughts.

From the perspective of the Law of Attraction (LoA), it is always preferable to keep your attention on what you want rather than what you don’t want because either way you get more of what you are focused on. As your thoughts generate more desirable feelings, you also raise your vibrational frequency and become a match to that which you desire. This is called “allowing,” a necessary component to receiving what you want. The flip side of the coin is “resisting,” which is what happens when thoughts are focused on what is not wanted. As a consequence, undesired feelings cause a lower vibrational frequency that prevents getting what you want and instead delivers more of the unwanted outcome being focused on.

The complementary nature of allowing and resisting is akin to the yin/yang and has at least two other important analogs. The good feelings that indicate allowing also mean you can easily experience progress. Conversely, the undesired feelings of resisting indicate the difficulty of self-sabotage. Add this all up so far and what you get is that your Thought Compass is a mechanism for letting you know when your thinking is trustworthy enough to act on because the good feelings you have allow progress to be easy. And it gets even better…

There are many actions you routinely take without even giving your conscious attention to them, such as tying your shoes without looking at your hands, walking while having a conversation, eating with utensils, operating a vehicle, and many other common activities you have practiced so thoroughly that you have built unconscious competence, or muscle memory. By using your Thought Compass and training yourself to move towards and stay at True North as much as possible, you will be cultivating sensory memory. Analogous to muscle memory, sensory memory develops by rehearsing the sensory experiences of having what you want.

A basic premise in the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is that each of us has our own unique perception of reality created by using our senses – what we see, hear, feel, smell and taste. The very thoughts being calibrated by the Thought Compass are represented to ourselves via these same senses. So when choosing thoughts that create good feelings, this really means rehearsing the sensory experiences of picturing having what you want, hearing what it will sound like, discovering the smell and taste and ultimately the feeling of having it. Rehearsing these sensory experiences is really the crux of effectively using your Thought Compass for several reasons.

When beginning to coach NLP clients, the starting point is always asking “what do you want, and how will you know when you’ve got it – what will it look/sound/feel/smell/taste like?” By identifying this required sensory evidence of success the client’s focus is immediately directed to the mechanism of Thought Compass calibration. Even if the old saying “practice makes perfect” is exaggerated, and perfection is never attained, it is ultimately this rehearsal of the senses that breeds familiarity with the desired experience, heightening awareness of any deviation from it, and thus improving the sensitivity and function of the calibration mechanism itself. There is also another LoA benefit in that attention is focused on having what is desired, rather than the mere wanting of it (which would only serve to attract more wanting).

For more insights about this “inside-out” paradigm, read “Effortless Evolution” by Jamie Smart. Jamie basically reached the top of the field in the world of NLP coaching and training and decided to move on to studying and now teaching The Three Principles. His book “Effortless Evolution” has been released for free, chapter by chapter, as each has been written. The book is nearing completion now and may not always be available as a free .pdf download so get it while you can. The book was published with the title “Clarity” in March 2013 and immediately became an international bestseller. On April 26, 2013, I posted my review of the book here.

One final thought. People sometimes tell me they want to “work through” feeling their emotions, even the ones that might be unpleasant or otherwise undesirable. That is perfectly reasonable and I’m not proposing that there is anything wrong about it. The Thought Compass is simply a means of understanding that working through emotions you might like to evolve is really a process of watching your thoughts change over time, whether quickly or slowly. You are entitled to whatever feelings you have, and you can have whatever feelings you choose.

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UPDATE 1/9/12 9:57am: This article has also been published at

UPDATE 2/7/12 7:34pm: This article has also been published at

UPDATE 2/28/12 9:36am: This article has also been published in the Feb/March 2012 issue of the Isis Scrolls magazine.

UPDATE 8/10/12 9pm: Today I submitted a proposal to do a presentation about the Thought Compass at TEDx Eureka coming up in December. I also got this link from Scott “Q” Marcus for the download of the teleseminar we did together in January that covered the Thought Compass. And earlier this week I finally added the photos to this page that were originally taken for Isis.

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Dave Berman is a Certified Hypnotist, Life Coach & Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He offers private and confidential sessions on a sliding scale in his Arcata, CA office and remotely via Skype. Referrals and inquiries are welcome. Learn more at or call (707) 845-3749 for a free consultation. Subscribe to future articles from Manifest Positivity:

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Posted: 1/8/12


About the Author:

Dave Berman offers Life Coaching, Laughter Coaching, Laughnosis and Hypnotherapy. He earned a B.S. in Communication from Cornell University and has extensive experience as a public speaker and workshop facilitator. His book, "Laughter For the Health of It," co-written with Kelley T. Woods, is available here. For speaking or writing requests, or for a free coaching/hypnotherapy consultation, write to Dave, connect with manifest_positivity on Skype, or use the Viber app to call his mobile number from anywhere in the world +1 707-845-3749. Connect with Dave on Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to future blog posts via RSS or by e-mail.
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