At some time or another, each of us is bitten with the “paralysis of analysis” – or the plague of over thinking.
Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend shares four steps that will help you overcome the trap of overthinking.
At some time or another, each of us is bitten with the Paralysis of Analysis or the plague of over thinking. Over thinking is differentiated from regular thinking when we to become consumed, overwhelmed, or lost in our thoughts and favor the idea of more “thinking” or pondering instead of action or progress. Sometimes over thinking is simply a bi-product of our brain trying to deal with too much information or too many details. It can also be caused by a lack of productivity skills, some psychological trauma or issues, fear of making the wrong decision or it could simply be your brain’s way of slowing things down. The problem with over thinking however, is usually a lack of forward progress and growth in our lives. Although thinking is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, over thinking may actually nullify that human advantage, and leave us even less effective and more stressed out than if we just lived our lives without deep thought. The key to turning your thinking from a process that holds you down into one that takes you to the next level can be found in the following four steps.
Recognize If Your Thinking Patterns Tend to Lift or Lower You
When it comes to the power of thinking, the age old wisdom of the Buddhist quote, “What we think, we become” seems to sum it up beautifully. Nothing is a better predictor of what we will do with our lives than what we think about. Our thinking patterns can either make us or break us. They lift us into healthier and more productive views of life, or they lower our point of view dragging us down into deeper and darker days. The ability to recognize the patterns in your thinking is the beginning of making a true and powerful change. Do you notice that you tend to jump to quick negative thoughts about others? Are you prone to obsess and worry about things over which you have little control? Do you have a hard time letting some thoughts go? Do little thoughts keep getting in the way of healthier and more important thoughts?
Redirect Your Thinking from What Concerns You to What You Can Influence About Those Concerns
Each of us as human beings has things that concern us about our own life or the life of the people we love. At times, our concerns can overwhelm us and drive us crazy as we become unable to think about anything else. For example, some may worry incessantly about a natural disaster hitting their community while others are concerned about how a son-in-law might be treating their daughter. The problem with consistently thinking about the “concerns” we face in life is that we spend more time fixated on our problems and less time identifying what we can actually influence or do to dispel the problems. This problem-focused thought process tends to leave us feeling hopeless and weak; however, the opposite is true when we are thinking about what we can actually do to influence our problems and concerns. The simple rule is, “Where ever you focus your attention, it will grow!” If you focus your attention on your concerns, your concerns will just get bigger. If you focus on what you have influence over, your influence will grow. For example, if you’re concerned about an earthquake hitting your community someday, wouldn’t it be better to focus on creating an emergency plan, 72-hour kits for the family, and a clear method of communicating rather than just obsessing on the potential disasters that may take place? By spending more time thinking about the things you can influence, your influence grows and your concerns tend to become lessened by your inevitable preparation.
Use Your Time & Energy to Act On What You Can Influence and Not Just Think About It!
One of the fastest ways to begin to create peace of mind and hope in our lives is to act on the various thoughts we have. While the ability to think is powerful, to think and not to act inevitably invalidates our power and decreases our brain function to the less productive task of simply dreaming or stewing. Nothing is more overwhelming than thinking of the 20 things that need to get done today and doing nothing about them. Nothing saps more energy and increases more stress than knowing you’ve got a project due in 24 hours and over thinking the process of how to accomplish it. Simultaneously, nothing is more liberating than beginning to act on those things we’re thinking about, taking them on one step at a time, and accomplishing them. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.” In the end, real power in life comes to those who think deeply and act intentionally on those things they’ve thought about. It’s when we have the ability to take our thoughts and turn them into action that the power of our thinking materializes in our lives.
Change Your Thoughts and Energy into Something Else
Each of us has experienced a time when we were unable to go to sleep simply because our mind was just too occupied with other things. Sometimes we’re thinking about memorable thoughts that need to be remembered. Sometimes our thoughts are logistical such as appointments, schedules, To Do lists, or tasks not to be forgotten. But, there are other times that our thoughts and feelings are negative and need to be forgotten. The important thing to realize is that all these different types of thoughts need to be dealt with. My basic rule is, “You can either let the thoughts run your life, or you can run the thoughts out and get a life.” So here are some ideas to manage the good, neutral and negative thoughts of your life.
· The Good Thoughts – Those great thoughts, memories, and ideas that are stirring through your head can be shared in conversations with others like your partner or friends or in letters, journal entries, or on electronic mediums like Facebook, scrapbooks or blogs!
· The Neutral & Logistical Thoughts – These are thoughts about your schedule, appointments, and To Do’s that might be stirring through your head and just need to be documented so you can let them go. These can be materialized by writing them down on lists, entering them into your planner, calendar, cell phone, or on other planning tools.
· The Bad & Ugly Thoughts – These are thoughts that tend to involve more of the negative thoughts and feelings about others. They might be centered on specific situations, people and problems you’re facing. Maybe these are fears, concerns or embarrassing thoughts that you just can’t let go of. You can deal with these by sharing your feelings with people you trust or writing them down in a notepad. There may, however, be times that your thoughts are too personal to share with anyone or to write permanently, but it is still important to think through the issues and then get the thoughts out of your head.
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