Stop and listen to what’s going on inside your head right now. “Where will I get that info for my assignment from?”, “Why did that person do that?”, “Were they trying to deliberately upset me?” What will they think of me?” “Surely they realised that …” Sound familiar?
One of the things that gets in the way of our wellbeing is our tendency to overthink things and to procrastinate. A little voice takes over in our heads, usually around three o’clock, and we think, think and then think some more. Little things then build up into big things and before too long we are stuck – unable to take suitable action to do the things we must do for our own wellbeing and daily lives. We start to feel anxious and this can lead to states of anxiety, depression and possibly even worse. When we don’t do things for our own self-worth, our self-opinion decreases – making us feel bad about ourselves and our competence and the cycle starts all over again.
If procrastination is the thief of time, then overthinking is the thief of action. While thinking and planning is a critical part of our world, so is action. We need to understand what’s stopping us from actually doing.
I believe that fear, pride and confusion are three things that get in the way of our progression and they lead to overthinking.
Fear – fear that whatever we are thinking about or are intending to do may hurt or embarrass; or simply may not work. We fear the consequences – even if those consequences may be positive!
Pride – doing what we need to do may mean having to admit that we are wrong, both in our actions and words. Who likes to admit when we are wrong or made a poor choice?
Confusion – not quite sure what we should do or know what the first step to getting us moving in the right direction is. Everything seems grey and uncertain and we feel like we are in this heavy fog of confusion. Where is the way out?
My first piece of advice for overcoming these states is to realise that we have all done it! Even the most confident person at some point in their life has experienced overthinking. We have all had periods of self-doubt and I believe we all carry little seeds of it somewhere in our consciousness. So, if you overthink – you’re not alone!
This leads us to my second tip on addressing overthinking – get over yourself! Too many times I listen to people who are caught in the overthinking trap – “what happens if…” I know I should but…” My response is typically – “what would happen if you did?”. To which the usual response is – “I don’t know”. It’s not constructive – try and take a moment to tell that voice in your head to stop.
We try to get things right the first time – I believe perfection is a myth. Don’t worry too much about it. I refer to my third tip here as “the law of imperfect implementation.” Or put simply – give it a crack! This tip has a two-prong approach. 1. Give yourself an “hour of power” – for 60 minutes, just do. Don’t think – do. Whatever task you must do, whatever is on your mind now – just do it for 60 minutes. It works! 2. “Hone it till you own it.” Whatever you do today can be improved.
If overthinking is the thief of action, the thrill of achievement is the reward of doing.