Master Resiliency Training Skill of the Month: ATC (Activating Event, Thoughts and Consequences)


Each month, the R2 Performance Center will present a Master Resilience Training (MRT) skill of the month. For the month of December, the skill is ATC.

The skill of ATC helps build Self-Awareness, helping us become more aware of the thoughts, emotions and reactions we experience throughout the day. In fact, ATC is an acronym for Activating Event, Thoughts, and Consequences.

An Activating Event is any event that happens. It can be a trigger moment; a challenge; adversity; or any event that seems positive as well. The event itself is just something that happens.

For example, your alarm going off is an activating event. A driver on the road cutting you off is an activating event. Someone wishing you ‘Good morning’ is an activating event. Again, it’s just something that happens.

‘T’ is for thoughts. Our thoughts are the interpretations of the activating event. That inner monologue, of what we are thinking about an activating event.

Following our previous examples, it may lead to the thought of, “I don’t want to get up,” or it may be, “That driver is rude!” It may also be, “That’s kind of someone to wish me good morning”.

The last letter is ‘C’ for consequences. For consequences, it simply means the results, not necessarily something bad. We can even break consequences down more specifically to mean Emotions and Reactions.

Emotions are what we feel from our thoughts and Reactions are the physical actions we take, and/or how our body physically feels from our thoughts.

Finishing up an example, if the Activating Event is an alarm clock, someone may have the thought, “I don’t want to get up!” That may lead to the emotion of irritation and the reaction of smacking the alarm clock.

One more example is, the activating event of someone wishing you good morning. You may have the thought, “That’s kind of someone to wish me good morning,” and that may lead to the emotion of pleased and the reaction of smiling.

What we are able to do through utilizing ATC, is to slow down and separate the activating events, from our thoughts and our consequences, our emotions and reactions. This is key because we all experience activating events which are outside of our control. Where we have the greatest control, is with our thoughts. We have the opportunity to be aware and shift our thinking to drive more productive emotions and reactions.

As with many things, talking about it is far easier than practicing it. Please do keep in mind that ATC is a skill and it can be improved with more deliberate practice.

For those of you wanting to know a good starting point, strive to identify and separate the activating events, from the thoughts your having, from the emotions and reactions you’re experiencing.

Feel free to reach out to your unit’s MRT or the R2 Performance Center (Bldg. 128) for more information.