Note: This article uses info from the simple little book Leave your Mind Behind. Authors McKay and Sutker do a great job of delineating how thought works.
The Short Explanation: Thought is what happens in the mind. What happens in the mind determines everything. Therefore, thought determines everything. Or, as was said 2500 years ago, All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.
A review of the OODA Loop processes:
Step 1. We have a perception, an Observation.
Step 2. Orientation. The Mind automatically reacts to the perception with a mix of the various elements of thought. We 'make sense' out of the perception based on the elements of thought that arise in response to the perception.
Remember, what the mind thinks, we believe. Whatever we believe becomes our guidance system that we then use to navigate through reality. Our beliefs form our personal Matrix of hopes, fears, and rules.
Step 3. Decide. We make decisions, choices (based on the flow of our personal Matrix).
Step 4. Our choices translate into Actions, which then have create our lives.
And the process flows on and on, from moment to moment.
Remember- we cannot change Observations, and Actions will change only through a change in the Orientation or Decision process. The Orientation and Decision processes are composed of the elements of thought. Therefore, understanding and mastering the elements of thought is a critical element what I call the Red Pill path (from the film, The Matrix), or living with a free mind.
There are several basic elements of thought. They are listed below in no particular order.
1. Observations - of the present moment
2. Memories - of images, words, and sensations
3. Judgments - good-bad? right-wrong? guilty-not guilty? pretty-ugly? nice-mean? better-worse? brave-cowardly? ...and so on
4. Storytelling Thoughts - that try to explain why things happen, likely explanations
5. Future Thoughts - 3 types (in no particular order)
a. Planning thoughts - figuring out how to handle something in your 'for sure' future - specific steps of coping with something
b. Fantasy thoughts - mental tourism, "mind trips" that might be romantic, escape, financial, sexual, dramatic, creative, scary, dark-- but it isn't real and it isn't happening now
c. Fortune Telling thoughts - commonly called "worrying" - anticipating future problems, their severity, the loss or pain you or others could experience
No element of thought is intrinsically better or worse than any other element. We need them all. Each element of thought has some utility, but the utility depends on the context.
The elements of thought are like the hand tools in our tool box. If you really need a hammer for a job, trying to do the work with a drill will just make a mess and you will probably fail. If the only tool you ever use on any job is hammer, you can do a few jobs well but you will fail at most jobs. We need to understand how to use all of the tools in our toolbox so that we can be effective everywhere we go.
And, we need to be able to see the tool that we are using right this second- what tool is in your hand now?
What element of thought is operating in the mind now? Any given thought is composed of one or more of the elements of thought.
The elements of thought are the foundations of the mind. The mind is the forerunner to all things.
When you are asleep to the nature of the mind, you will believe whatever your mind thinks. You are thus trapped in your personal Matrix, your "blind mind".
When you are awake, when you know and understand the elements of thought, you will have a chance to be free, and that will make all the difference.
And that is enough for now.