In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about The Energy-Thoughts-Action Framework.

The thoughts that we have in our your mind play a huge role in the actions we take. And our thoughts influence how we behave, our attitudes to things in life, and they also control how you react to different situations as well.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what the Energy-Thoughts-Action Framework is, the hierarchy of action, how behavior usually leads to action and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

01:00 Why this topic was chosen.

01:50 What is the Energy-Thoughts-Action Framework.

03:39 Why Hiten calls it the hierarchy of action.

04:37 Things that come before thought.

04:44 How behavior usually leads to action

05:05 How the ultimate thing that you’re looking for is your actions.

05:42 Why the trigger part is crucial.

05:48 How most of us are not aware of how susceptible we are to external factors.

08:17 The importance of setting positive triggers for ourselves.

3 Key Points:

  • Before there even is a conscious thought, there is a feeling.
  • The ultimate thing that you’re looking for is your actions.
  • Being aware of the trigger is really really important.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: This is Hiten Shah. On The Startup Chat today, we’re going to talk about something that Steli’s going to explain, I thought I’ll throw at you at first, that I’ve shared with many people privately and haven’t really discussed in in any way, shape, or form in a way where other people can be on a one-on-one, can take advantage of it. I think, Steli, you wanted to go after this?


Steli Efti: Yeah, yeah.


Hiten Shah: I’ll let you set it up, and then let’s talk about it.


Steli Efti: This is one of my favorite things about the podcast is uncovering these little nuggets of content gold, private discussions. Then later, just putting them on the docket and be like, “We should talk about this. The world needs to hear this.” Last week, I think last week. Yeah, last week I was in San Francisco. We were having lunch after a conference that we spoke out together. We always drift into, I think, very interesting topic. We’re always drift into a current state of new self-discoveries and self explorations. Things we’ve discovered about ourselves in life, and psychology, and energy in the universe, and everything. You brought up a beautiful framework that I wanted to share with people, which was what I will call it now, the energy thoughts, actions, framework. I’ll summarize what I heard, and then you can correct me. We can unpack this for the listeners real quick. We were talking. I think the conversation started about inner talk, self-talk, and how our thoughts and the quality of our thoughts and the tendency and energy of our thoughts, how that then affects our actions and our habits. You were like, “You know what? One thing that I’ve started to think about more is energy. I’ve discovered that a lot of times before they’re even is a conscious thought, there is an energy. There’s a feeling. That feeling of energy in your body then produces a certain type of thought in a talk. That in a talk and thought then creates a chain of inner thoughts that then create actions. Maybe those actions eventually create habits.” It all always starts at the energy level, right? At the feeling level, at the emotional level. You were describing to me how you started paying a lot more attention to the energy before even the thoughts arise. The feeling could be, “Am I hungry? Am I tired? Am I irritated? Am I excited? Am I nervous? Am I afraid?” There’s an energy in your body. If you catch that early on, you’ll be a step ahead of the thoughts that might arise. Then those thoughts will eventually kind push you towards certain actions. I thought that was brilliant and beautiful and simple, and so I wanted to unpack it for people.


Hiten Shah: I’m going to go after it a little bit and give I think what I’m really going after. One way to think about it is … I’ve been thinking about this. Really trying to gravitate towards it. Understand it, view this as way to help myself really first. I call it the hierarchy of action. The reason I call it that is because I think there is a hierarchy to our actions. The ultimate thing is a bunch of actions. You look at it a pyramid. To me, there’s a trigger.Something that triggers you. It’s internal, external. It could be a trigger from childhood that keeps coming up for whatever reason. It could be somebody said something. It could be you saw something. You were just walking around, and you saw something like that little teddy bear you had when you were a kid or something. That’s the trigger. Then, it turns into energy. It’s usually energy that you have in your body and you can feel it. Awareness of this is very low for most people, unless you’ve done a lot of meditation or yoga or some kind of breathing exercises or practices like that, or are just somebody who can feel stuff in your body really easily, because that’s not most of us. There’s trigger, there’s energy. Then there’s actually, I think emotion before there’s thought. Then after that comes behavior. Then that behavior usually leads to some action. The behavior could be something really small like you move your hand a little bit or something like that. Then you take an action. To me, it’s actually trigger first, then energy, then emotion, then thought, then behavior. Then, finally, the ultimate thing that you’re looking for as my actions, right? What am I doing? Where does it come from? I wanted to add that component in where I think things trigger us. We skip energy and emotion. It goes straight to thought. Instead, I think we need to think about it as what’s triggering us and what is the energy that we’re feeling before we go even any further. If we can cut things off at that point, I mean negative things, at that energy level or at least recognize them, then we can basically spend more of our effort. Not, “I shouldn’t think that,” but, “Why am I feeling that?”


Steli Efti: All right. Let’s unpack this real quick. I think the trigger part is crucial because I think that a, most of us are not as aware of how susceptible we are to external signals and things that trigger a domino effect of things that then lead us to make decisions and take certain actions. But we never really had full awareness of attribution of where it all started, right, and how it started.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, it’s attribution problem. Yes.


Steli Efti: We think it started with I thought about you always doing this. I got really irritated. I thought now it’s enough. I need to do something. But what might have triggered all of it was I ate too much bad food yesterday. Today, I decided to skip lunch. I’ve been really irritated. Then I started thinking about all the things that irritate me and boom, I thought about you in the one thing you did. But the problem really, the trigger really, I mean you could go back. There’s actually an exercise that we might discuss that’s a bit out there, but kind of fun. If you try to find the starting point, it might’ve been being hungry. We could go even crazier and go, “Well, maybe it was overeating the day before. Why did you do that?” I don’t know. You can go back until you can’t go back anymore. Being aware of the trigger is I think really, really important. All right. I’ll throw this out there since this is such out-there episode. There’s this crazy exercise. I don’t know if it’s like … I heard this from Robert Anton Wilson a long time ago where he talked about this. I think it’s a Buddhist exercise, where you sit down and you ask yourself, why am I sitting here? Basically, you try to keep answering that until you can. He was describing how you said, “Well, I read this or I heard Robert Anton Wilson talk about this exercise.” Well, how did I hear him talk about this exercise as well? Well, read his few books. That led me to listen to some of his lectures. Why did I read this books? You just keep going until it’s like, the Sun is the perfect distance to Earth, right? It’s like you go back in time. He was describing how I, every time he does this exercise, he discovers something new about himself, life or the universe that he was aware of before.


Hiten Shah: Cool.


Steli Efti: That’s a crazy exercise, but I wanted to throw out there because it’s fitting here. Bring me back to triggers. There are external triggers, but then there’s also the flip side of it, which is I think something we under utilize, which is setting positive triggers for ourselves. Knowing who we are, knowing what triggers good actions, what triggers good thoughts, good emotions, good energy.


Hiten Shah: Absolutely.


Steli Efti: I think we’ve talked about this many, many times before. What gives you energy? What cost you energy? What kind of people give, bring your energy? Which ones are the people around you that suck energy out of your life? Creating and designing a life that has, in your days, in a way that creates these positive triggers can be huge. Something that I think we all under utilize the times. The next thing though, the last time we talked, I confused energy and emotion as one thing. You separated it here, which is super interesting because I thought, “All right, there’s a trigger and then I have energy into me.” Energy was just an emotion, but you actually made those two distinct things. First, there’s energy and then it translates to an emotion. Can you unpack that real quickly for me? Where is energy and how does it live? How does it go to emotion then?


Hiten Shah: I think that what ends up happening is that we start with an energy, and it leads to an emotion. The emotion leads to the thought. I don’t think we can think anything without it being it having some emotion. I don’t think we can have an emotion without an energy. That’s why it’s a hierarchy for me. The trigger leads to some energy. It’s energy in your body energy. It could be in your head too. I mean that’s part of your body, right? It’s an energy that just comes really fast, comes on, leads to some emotion, some negative or positive. Then you go, and then there you have it. You’ve turned it into a thought. It’s almost like slowing it yourself down and be like, “Where did this thought come from?” If you’re ever wondering how to work backwards here, thoughts are the easiest thing to recognize. The hardest thing to probably recognize is actually the trigger, because so many things are going on. Right now, even as I sit and talk to you, I can look around and be triggered in so many ways. That’s because there’s all these things everywhere, right? I’m looking at it a socket. If I ever got electrocuted by a socket, there’s a whole bunch of stuff there, right? I think I wanted to separate out the emotion part because my understanding, at least of myself, is that before I have a thought, I have an emotion. Before I have an emotion, there’s an energy. The whole thing starts from some trigger. I just want to work backwards and figure it out where these thoughts come from so that I can understand them better.


Steli Efti: I love that. I think this is a beautiful framework for anybody out there that is as passionate and is as interested and practically seeing self-awareness is the two of us are, right?


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: It’s all goes back to if you want to grow, if you want to become wiser, if you want to improve yourself the way that you live life, the way that you impact things, first, you have to, not first, but you have to try to constantly master yourself a bit better and understand yourself a bit better, if you want to have any hope of understanding the world. That’s also one of the reasons. Probably self-awareness is one of the key themes of this podcast. We have many episodes around this. I’ll throw two out, Episode 45 found our self-awareness. Then 65, how to become more self aware? We have so many. If you type in The Startup Chat and self-awareness, you’ll find lots of episodes, team self-awareness, all that. I think this framework is a beautiful one to help practice more self-awareness of a practical framework to go. How do you catch more of your thoughts? Then instead of just evaluating those thoughts onto themselves, ask yourself first, go find the attribution. Where did this thought come from? Well, I felt this way. How did this emotion arise? Can I find the source of what created the energy, that then created the emotion, that then triggered the thought. Once you have the correct level of attribution, I mean, that in and of itself, will push you to step back enough to have a bit more perspective, right? Once you analyze your thoughts and emotions in this way, disconnects you a little bit from them, which allows you to think more clearly. It also gives you the context to truly evaluate those thoughts and be like … I think that the one framework that I use a lot is, “I cannot trust myself right now.” Or, “I can’t trust these thoughts right now.” I don’t know if we talked about this at the lunch, but oftentimes, if I’m in a bad emotional state, especially when I’m tired or hungry or exhausted. Sometimes I’ll go to the gym. I’ll go, I’ll train martial arts. I’ll push myself a bit too far. The next day I’m sore, I’m exhausted. Everything hurts. In that physical bad state, I will have more negative thoughts. Then when I catch myself, I go, “Oh, you cannot trust yourself right now.” You cannot trust that inner voice right now because it comes from that emotional place that’s bad. All your thoughts are going to be a bit more exhausted, a bit more tired, a bit more grumpy, a bit more aggressive or irritated. I cannot trust any of these things that I’m thinking right now. That helps me just catch myself and not let these thoughts run wild or run a muck. Then, eventually, do really bad actions that you almost always regret, right? One big part about this whole framework is catching yourself before you do really dumb things, right? Before you say something that you will regret or do something you will regret because a day later or a few hours later when the emotion is different, you wouldn’t have said it this way. You wouldn’t have done this thing, right? You would have thought about it totally differently. Stopping yourself from doing dumb things is 80% of winning in life. Stopping oneself from making really terrible decisions is a huge part of winning that we all, I think, under estimate.


Hiten Shah: Totally, agree. Couldn’t agree more.


Steli Efti: All right.


Hiten Shah: It got to stop.


Steli Efti: That’s it from us for this episode. We’ll hear very soon.


Hiten Shah: See you.