The Nature of Thought

Situation: I am driving my car with my loved one sitting by my side. It’s a romantic date. We are both dressed up, on our way to the fancy place whose table I have already reserved. We are both happy and excited about the evening when all of a sudden, Bam! The car’s tire gets punctured. And so does the dream of a perfect romantic date. Angry me, I find myself cursing the poor condition of roads of the locality, of the whole country.

An Undesirable Situation

The above situation can, at best, be called as undesirable. An undesirable situation is one which, by definition, is not desired. I was in the process of doing a task when suddenly, or gradually, something opposite happens which stops me from progressing further. In this case for example, I was on my way in the car and the tire puncture happens all of a sudden.

Upon deeper inspection however, we realize that that is not the reason why this situation is undesirable. The situation is actually undesirable because, in my mind, in my thought, I have already achieved the outcome.

Think about it. Thought precedes action. Always.

Anything you do, any place you go to, any action you perform, the food you eat, the job you do, the sleep, the waking up, the toothbrush, the drive, even a simple walk in the park after a nice meal, behind every action there is a thought.

In the tire puncture situation, although in my action I was on the road, in my thought I had already reached the place of the romantic date where I was supposed to reach. Not just that, I had also created the thoughts of conversations I am going to have once I reach there, where I will go after the dinner was over, what I will do after reaching home, so on and so forth. There is no end to imagination.

There is one small problem though. In my action, I am still on the road.

The Thought-Action Gap

This is what I am calling here as the Thought-Action Gap.

Thought-Action Gap

As can be seen from the above image, there is fundamentally a gap between a Thought and the corresponding Action. And the gap is that of Time. The thought is complete before the action even begins.

That is basically because we are, by our very nature, thinking beings. Which means that we have evolved in a way that all of our physical creation had to be first thought out in our head, and then manifested in the real world.

But why is it important to discuss this?

It is important because, in our thought, it is very fast and easy to get the job done. But when it comes to the corresponding action, we are bound by the laws of our physical nature.

The factors governing the corresponding Action

On what factors is the corresponding action of any thought governed by? In other words, what are these laws of the physical nature we are speaking of?

After carefully planning and thinking about the whole evening, the moment I and my loved one actually sat in the car and left for that romantic date, I was doing my bit to make it happen. I was taking the corresponding action. That is in my control.

However, on the way, unexpectedly, the tire of my car got punctured. And that is something which is not in my control.

And these are the factors governing the corresponding action of any thought.

  1. The factor which is in my control – the ‘X’ factor
  2. The factor which is not in my control – the ‘Y’ factor

And that makes all the difference. Any possible action that we take, small or big – from walking to brushing our teeth to sleeping to driving and everything else is controlled by these two factors – the X and the Y. We have also discussed this in a previous post on the Equation of Life Part I followed by the Equation of Life Part II (If you have not read these posts, I recommend you to go through these).

So for every single action that we perform, we do our bit, which is the X, while the nature (or God, Universe, Existence, or whichever name comes to you), does its bit, which is the Y.

And nature is wicked! At times it does its bit in our favour, which is what we call ‘good luck’. At other times, it does its bit against us, also popularly called as ‘bad luck’.

Whatever games nature play, the only thing we can control (to a reasonable extent) is the ‘X’ factor, the effort we are going to make for any given work.

The Thought-Action Mismatch

Let’s also now take a look at the nature of thought.

Unlike action, the thought is governed only by the X factor. I can think of all the romantic dates I want to have with all the supermodels of the world. I can be a billionaire in my thought. I can be the King of a nation, even the God of the entire Universe, because there is nobody stopping me. There is not ‘Y’ factor to screw my thinking plans.

This is what I am calling here as the Thought-Action mismatch, as shown in the below diagram.

Thought-Action Mismatch

As you can see in the above figure, the path to the goal of meeting the desired outcome of something we want to achieve is rather a straight line from the point of view of our thought. This is because of thought being controlled only by the ‘X’ factor.

The path to getting to the same goal becomes a lot more twisted in the realm of the action. This is where tire gets punctured on the way, someone from the family gets sick at the last moment, someone is playing games to make sure we don’t go to the romantic date at the first place, the restaurant’s main chef goes on an unexpected leave on that particular day hence the food isn’t that good, the date herself (himself) refuses at the last moment because of some reason or the other. As you can see, the realm of action is really twisted.

And hence the mismatch.

So what’s the point of all this?

At this juncture, there arises this question. Okay this is fine, the whole thought-action phenomenon which is going on. But what is the point of all this discussion?

There are many actually, some of which will be discussed in later posts on the same subject. But for this one, here goes.

The moment I completed the task of going on a romantic date in my thought, because the outcome of it is so pleasing to think about, I somehow got attached with this particular outcome.

As I got attached with the outcome of my thought, I want the outcome to happen in the corresponding action as well. Meaning, in my thought I have already planned for a spectacular date. I want the same in my action as well. Which is a good want to have, but what we often tend to ignore is that in the realm of action, the ‘Y’ factor is hanging above our heads all the time. In the realm of action, the only factor which is really in our control is the ‘X’ factor.

And so when the ‘Y’ factor is in our favour and we meet the desired outcome in the action realm as well, we feel happy and elated, and when the ‘Y’ factor is not in our favour, we feel sad and miserable. The more ‘Y’ factor favours us we think we are somehow ‘lucky’. Vice versa is also true.

Krishna spoke about this in the Bhagvad Geeta about the whole idea of doing one’s ‘Karma’ without attaching to the goal. Buddha spoke about the same in his own way about having ‘equanimity’ at every point in time of one’s life.

Easier said than done.

Moral of the Story

Moral of the story is the thought realm is fast and easy. We can think whatever we wish to. It is controlled purely by the ‘X’ factor and things are accomplished in the thought realm at a hyper-sonic speed.

The action realm is slow and difficult. When the thought boils down to action, the outcome depends both on the ‘X’ factor and the ‘Y’ factor. And ‘Y’ factor does not favour anyone. It has no reason to. Hence it is important to not get too entangled with the outcome of a task which is created by the thought. It will seldom match the outcome in the action realm.


Think of a task that you want to accomplish. It could be getting a job, getting a work assignment, learning a skill, losing weight, getting great scores in the exams, or anything else you want to accomplish. Now imagine you have accomplished it. Imagine the feeling of accomplishment, the emotion that runs on the body when the task is accomplished. Chances are this feeling of accomplishment is quite pleasant. This pleasantness of feeling creates attachment with the outcome of the task. Now think of the tasks you had thought of but you could not accomplish them. Weren’t you sad, unhappy with the outcome?

Because the thought (controlled only by the X factor) is playing its part on one realm and the action (controlled both by the X and Y factors) is playing on another, outcome of thought matching the action has a lot of roadblocks. Attachment to the outcome of thought is what is creating trouble for each one of us. Let us realize this and liberate ourselves from attaching ourselves from the outcome of our own thoughts. More often than not, they are going to make us unhappy at the end of the day.