BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
I think I’m going to start this new routine in my life.
Wait…what if this isn’t the right routine? Here, let me look up a few more.
Oh…this other routine is so much better! Let me start this one.
But wait, I haven’t looked up this OTHER thing…let’s just take a minute to see what other people say about this.
And the cycle repeats until you realize…you wanted to do this days ago, and you still haven’t.
Overthinking is something I think we all can admit to – whether it affects your personal or professional life, we’ve all been there in a very paralyzing way, and getting out of it is one of the more difficult habits to break. Just like every habit you’d like to break, you not only need to stop doing the thing you want to get rid of, you also need to create something new to go in its place; otherwise, you’re going to end up with a new bad habit. Here are a few suggestions to start evicting overthinking:
Start by being aware
What are you overthinking? Is it all aspects of your life, or just a few? Are you overthinking just professional matters or personal ones, too? Awareness is the key to change – if you don’t know where the problems sit, take a few moments to reflect. If you find yourself overthinking something, stop, check-in, and write down some details about the situation. Do this for a week or two, and then review the areas you find yourself overthinking.
Focus on what can go right
One of the things that comes up the most for overthinkers is perfectionism. If it can’t be perfect, why bother? With that comes the concern about making sure things don’t go wrong – and being obsessed with things going wrong and all the ways they might go wrong. You can combat this by focusing on what can go right. Stop finding all the pitfalls and start paying attention to what might go right if whatever you’re overthinking happens.
Give yourself time
Yes, this is going to take some time and practice. But treat your overthinking like a dairy product and give it an expiration date. Don’t worry about making sure your thinking is completely perfect. Worry about making sure you only allow so much time to overthink. Let yourself indulge in that comfort of overthinking for a day, two days, a week – and then after that, make something happen and take action. On that same note, start to reduce the time you allow yourself to sit in that fretful place. Gradually reduce until you get to a place where you don’t feel the need to – but remember that you do need to give yourself the grace to not expect a change overnight.
Know that you can’t predict the future
One of the reasons people overthink, as mentioned earlier, is because people obsess about the things that might go wrong, and they obsess about this negative prediction. Repeat after me: you can’t predict the future. If you think you can, you’re more than welcome to send me a lotto set for an upcoming jackpot, because I can think of a few ways to spend millions right now. All joking aside, this is probably one of the most powerful bits of advice – you can’t predict what’s going to happen, so why try? Why waste hours, days, weeks trying to get the “right” decision made, when you know in your heart that making a decision will be the best possible thing.
After you finally make that decision, take a breath, congratulate yourself, and make the next decision. A good friend told me you have to jump from one lily pad at a time, so remember, just make the next jump.