Stop Thinking So Much!

Overthinking—it’s something we’ve all done. What a pain. There we are, trying our level best to be responsible, to be savvy, and to think things through, in the hope that the decision we make will be the right one, the best one for all involved. So then we think about it some more. Except, the problem with overthinking is that, more often than not, doing so freaks us out! We get caught in an emotional eddy and, more often than not, we get stuck, torturing ourselves with all the ways it could blow up in our face. Exhausting.

Any of this sound familiar?

As an individual prone to thinking things to death, I envy those carefree souls who don’t worry too much about the possible consequences. They don’t allow their fears of looking stupid or feeling embarrassed or failing spectacularly prevent them from doing what they want to do, whether that’s introducing themselves to someone new or reaching out to someone old, investing their money in a personal project or calling it quits on something that no longer works. Yes, these folks have my respect because, to me, they appear fearless. Of course, that’s not true. They have as much anxiety as any of the rest of us they just manage it better.

How well do you manage yours?

Re-booting is all about managing our fears—our fears if we don’t do something and our fears if we do. Consequences will follow regardless of our choice, so we may as well do what we want. What do you think about that sentence? How do you feel about doing what you want?

We live in a nation built upon the Puritan premise of of self-abnegation, denying ourselves things everyday. No to the bread, yes to the berries. No to saying what we think, yes to politically acceptable platitudes. No to the slow lane, yes to the power play. Making these choices is part of daily life, but where we get into trouble is when we talk ourselves out of testing the waters. We refrain from reaching out to people we like or think we may like. We refuse to reverse course on a big commitment because we’re terrified that doing so may reflect badly on us. We judge ourselves harshly for getting it wrong, pining to go in another direction. So, instead, we sit tight, treading water, watching enviously as others swim right by. Over thinking will do that to you. Overthinking will squash your spark if you let it.

Now, I’m the first to say that throwing caution to the wind has its absolute downsides. Of course it does. But what doesn’t? The way I manage such internal debates is reminding myself that I have a (fairly) good head on my shoulders so I should be able to manage whatever fallout may come from taking a risk. But then (and here’s the trick), I also tell myself that no matter how stupid I may come off or how embarrassed I may feel, there’s more to me than this. I am much more than what happens to me.

You are more than what happens to you. You are more than your achievements. You are more than your losses. You are more than your dreams, your fears, or your beliefs. You are much more than how you feel today. There is a part of you, an indwelling part of you which never changes, never gets distracted, and is never afraid. This is your highest and best self, and it’s this same self that will provide the power you need to grow and evolve. Rather than relying on the haywire, erratic adolescent mentality that often highjacks our brains, we need to trust that part of ourselves that really does know best. At times, it may tell us to do things we really (and I mean really) don’t want to do, but we need to listen.

For me, that indwelling part of myself had whispered for quite awhile that I was heading in the wrong direction. I dismissed these messages repeatedly. I had a lot going in the right direction and, besides, I had no idea what I’d do otherwise, so I plowed forward. Sometimes, after a few glasses of wine, I would screw up my courage to ponder what I might do instead, if I left this life of mine behind. I fantasized about walking away from relationships and careers that I had spent years investing in. And then I drained the bottle, reminding myself of how much I stood to lose. But these murmurings didn’t fade; my instincts continued to fire, and still I overrode them. By now, regular DR readers are familiar with my story, but the reason I keep repeating it is because this is what you do, too. You’re ignoring your gut on something pretty important. You’re making excuses as to why you can’t do X, Y, or Z. You find a reason not to pick up that paint brush or look for another job or imagine what your life might be like if you called it quits…It’s all wildly inconvenient and upsetting, I know.

Of course you’re terrified! The terror doesn’t go away, I assure you. What I will say is that my overthinking kept me chained to a life and a set of priorities that did not serve me. I was my own jailer and my overthinking was a form of Chinese water torture. Drip, drip, drip.

Instead of thinking about how much you stand to lose, why not reframe it and imagine how much you have to gain? Stop thinking about it and just do it! If Plan A doesn’t work, there’s always Plan B…

Plan A

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