I can't quite get it right, even though I've been trying to for a while now. So I'll just scratch out the thoughts I can and publish anyways, because I think the topic is worth thinking about.
There is, roughly, something called a "thought cycle" - it's a series of a thought forming, the chains of thoughts that go from it, any actions that it spur you into, and the feedback from the actions.
Or something like that. I haven't defined it really well yet.
What's the length of a thought cycle? Well I suppose it depends, and goes between some sort of range. Most are very short (sometimes very short), and occasionally - rarely - they're somewhat longer.
It seems to me that everything that almost everything that humans do are created by thought cycles. To some extent, they're automatic and habitual and we don't pay attention to them. Something like blinking or breathing is automatic until you think about it. With training, you can even control your heart rate to some extent.
So, are those thought cycles? I'm not sure, but I think so. Maybe we could make some classification between "reflective" thought cycles when you're thinking about it, and "habitual" thought cycles that are not.
It seems to me that pretty much everything we do is started by thought cycles. To change the world, you change your thought cycles.
I don't mean that in a fru-fru "just imagine and feel it, man" sort of way. No, I'm including action (or the lack thereof) as part of thought cycles. After all, our brain runs the show, and controls what we do. Thus, our thoughts control what we do. Sometimes we're not paying attention to our thoughts - they're habitual or customary at that point - but at some level, it's still thinking the brain that's running the show, and at some level, thoughts which are controlling are actions.
(Maybe there's some actions with reflexes and fully automatic processes - or maybe not)
Hmm, I wish I could be more concrete, but I've been trying to mentally walk through this for a while now and haven't quite gotten there.
But I do think -
1. We have thought cycles - a pattern of forming a thought, a chain of thoughts that proceed from there, lead to action, and the environmental feedback from the action.
2. These control either all or most of our actions.
3. To change our actions, thus, changing where we direct and how we initiate our thought cycles matters.
I reckon a lot of things can change your thoughts and thought cycles. Obviously learning more on a topic lets you have more sophisticated thoughts on the topic. Learning about nutrition lets you have thought cycles better devoted to eating well.
Likewise, paying attention to what you think on can go quite a ways. If you found that you do better thinking in a particular environment, it'd be good to spend more time in that environment. If you do particularly bad thinking under some circumstances, you might want to observe and work against those circumstances.
Just paying attention can probably shape your thoughts. Sometimes it's kind of self-indulgent to go off on a certain train of thought, and if you catch yourself you can re-draw your attention to somewhere you'd like to spend it.
The action component is a huge part of it - thought cycles the fizzle out without spurring any action are not going to produce results. But it seems to me that improving the quality of your thought cycles (particularly the spurring-to-action component) would go a long ways towards living a better and more meaningful life.