Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat?

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Here’s my favorite analogy to describe the roller coaster ride many of us have been on this past week – we’re like thermometers.

Thermometers: Internal temperatures rise and fall in reaction to what’s happening around them. They have no control over their temperature; they get pulled in whichever direction their environment dictates.

Have you had days like that recently?

Thermostats however regulate temperature. They pay attention to their surroundings, notice when things are moving too much in a direction or another, and respond accordingly in order to maintain just the right temperature.

This fantastic analogy inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind whenever I feel like I’m reacting to what takes place around me instead of mindfully responding. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s to expect the unexpected and adapt to change as smoothly as possible in order to maintain our well being.

I’m becoming better at noticing the “tells” that I’m in thermometer-state:

  • I crave and indulge in food that does not support the energy I need for resilience,
  • I spend too much time passively scrolling through social media in the morning and feeling anxious not about both challenging news, but also seeing others’ success as competition,
  • I become impatient or even intolerant of others.

Thankfully I’ve also noted what can quickly get me back to thermostat-state:

  • Exercise. And I mean one of those old-fashioned sweaty workouts that makes me feel like I’m sweating out what no longer serves me.
  • Cooking. Something that takes time and in which I must include the secret ingredient of love…and ideally maple syrup haha.
  • Learning. Hopping onto a webinar or diving into a great book; the ones that make me take lots of notes and inspire me to reconnect with the ways I can better serve the people I support.

I invite you to take a few minutes to your behaviors that indicate you’re sliding into the thermometer-state and the actions that shift you back towards thermostat-state so that you’re as prepared as possible for the next challenge.

Need some help in regulating your temperature? Join me for Catapult Your Career. I can coach you to work, play, and live more in a thermostat state of mind. Fill out the interest form today here & let’s take your next step together.


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  • I believe the thermometer and thermostat analogy was first used by Dr. Martin Luther King circa 1950. It could be older than that I’m not sure. It’s one of my favorite analogies though. It truly speaks volumes. Great blog post Natalie!

    • I wasn’t aware, thanks for sharing Karyn. I’ll take a moment to edit the blog. I’m pleased you appreciated the post and took the time to write!


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