In the last week, I’ve learned something; I’m far from alone with this overthinking business. After reading my last post, friends and colleagues far and wide reached out to me to tell me that they too dabble with dithering. I decided to consult this World Wide Web thing for some solutions to stop the cycle of the overwhelming thought spiral.
First the bad news: since we’re all such individuals, there is no one surefire tactic that will work for everyone to turn off our inner Lisa Simpsons. That said, but I test drove a a bunch of tricks for the most scientific behavioral study ever done, and these were my faves:
Be comfortable with being wrong. Most often, overthinking comes from wanting to make the right decision. A perfectionist mentality that is impossible to achieve. Once you realize you’re going to make mistakes, and that when you do life goes on just fine, it’s easier to make a decision. Once you make a decision, it’s easier to make the next one. Before long, you have that lightness that only comes making decisions and getting things off your plate, which, aside from having a day with no plans at all, is the best feeling ever.
Let go of your fear of the unknown. You punch in the number of that prospect you know will be a great fit. But what if you blow the call? You’ll call after lunch. Oh, but after lunch might be too late in the day. You’ll definitely call tomorrow. Then tomorrow becomes a week, and then you convince yourself he probably wouldn’t be interested. All because you are afraid of how things will go. Make the call. The unknown is usually way more forgiving than we anticipate.
Redirect and refocus. So, you know how a toddler can sometimes become obsessed with something, like, say, wanting to drink your coffee and will have an all out meltdown when you, meanest of mean parents, won’t let her. And while she is wailing, “Coooooffrrrreeee” (as though she even knows what it is), you distract her by doing something unexpected like blowing bubbles, which causes her to giggle, pop the bubbles and giggle harder, leaving the obsession with your latte in the dust. Treat yourself like a toddler and use that same redirection trick on yourself. Take a break. Go for a walk. Work on something else. Go get a latte. Take that, kid!
Your assumptions are not reality. Your friend hasn’t written back, so of course she is angry with you. Your boss never replied to your email, so of course he thinks your ideas are laughable. Your client wasn’t interested in the product you suggested, so of course she is never going to do business with you again. When you treat assumptions as fact, it's easy to go through all these scenarios until you have convinced yourself you're one step away from being friendless, jobless, and never having clients who trust you. In most instances, your friend hasn’t checked her texts; your boss forgot to reply, and your client just didn’t like the product for that campaign. Don’t let assumptions create problems where there are none, even if it’s just in your brain.
Get active. Why, oh why, is exercise the solution to everything? It's insane how much agony we would save ourselves if we just got moving. Feeling super tired? Exercise. Can't sleep? Exercise. Stuck in a pattern of indecision? Exercise. If you do something mentally or physically active (or better yet both), you free yourself up long enough to get out of the obsessive patterns and get into a state of flow. That’s why you get great ideas on a morning run, when you’re walking your dog, and even taking a shower. All the extra endorphins don’t hurt either. While physical exercise has special benefits, trying out new hobbies like painting, making jewelry, and even putting together puzzles like your grandma is enough to get your brain train out of an endless cycle.
Bottom line: You can think every scenario through 500 different ways, and when it comes down to it, fate and outside circumstances will bring something you never could’ve expected. There will always be variables out of your control, and it's okay if things don't end up perfect. Planning and preparation is essential, but when it starts to hinder instead of help, it’s time to step away to get yourself unstuck from indecision.