We all overthink. It’s a normal and natural part of being human. Relieved?
The issue is not that we might sometimes overthink things, it’s when our overthinking becomes detrimental to our well-being. Big over-thinkers will experience heightened levels of anxiety and stress, the loss of sleep, fear, self-doubt and even relationship and career dysfunction.
Overthinking creates many negative vibes in our world including: distortion, distraction, delusion and detachment. These, to varying degrees, will lead to anxiety, self-doubt, hopelessness, dysfunction and fear.
Distortion: when we overthink, we distort reality. We make an issue bigger than it is, or create a reality in our minds that doesn’t actually exist. We distort what is reality and create a picture in our minds of something far worse than it actually is.
Distraction: when we overthink it also distracts us from our purpose, values and vision. We become side tracked by unhealthy and often untrue thoughts that lead us down a lonely and destructive path.
Delusion: when we overthink we can become delusional, which is when we firmly hold on to a false belief despite clear evidence to the contrary. This is very limiting to our relationships, self-love, emotions and general well-being.
Detachment: when we overthink we can also detach ourselves from our feelings, the truth, other people and the real issue at hand. This can easily lead to isolation, self-hate and denial.
So what can we do to stop this destructive and debilitating pattern in our journey? Four things to consider: awareness, focus, perspective and meaning.
Awareness: Creating and developing genuine awareness around overthinking will start a journey toward deeper levels of freedom, fulfillment and fruitfulness. This will radically transform your leadership, relationships and life. You need to ask yourself a few searching questions, and be honest with yourself. What will be the consequences if this pattern continues? What am I pretending is OK? Where am I hiding? What decisions will best serve my future? Who would you be if you did not fear judgement, rejection or shame?
Focus: Transformation doesn’t happen accidentally, it happens on purpose. What you focus on, is what you get more of. When you focus on all the problems and frustration, the irritation and everything else that comes with it, what are you excluding? You are excluding all the solutions. Think about it. If you focus on gratitude, solutions, opportunity, etc. then that’s what you’ll start experiencing more of in your life. What are you choosing to search for? Where are you placing your focus? What do you seek out in your life? Ask yourself what you keep getting more of and if it’s negative, unhelpful or un-resourceful, then shift your focus. Focus on what you can control and influence, rather than what you can’t. Focus on what you want to experience in life, where you want to go, who you want to become and how you’re going to get there.
Perspective: The stories we create can be very damaging to us, and to our relationships. We see something, hear something or experience something and we write a story about it, without all the facts, truth and insights needed to really know the real story. So instead of allowing the real story to influence us, we make one up, which we convince ourselves is true. The thing is, even if it is completely untrue but we believe it as truth, it has the same power over us as if it were totally true. Then you get your outcomes based entirely on a made up story. Crazy isn’t it, but we do it quite often, and it is totally un-resourceful and unhelpful to us and our relationships. The “what if” is another trap, along with the joy sucking pattern of comparison. We write stories based on “what if”, which is a massive limiter for the results and outcomes you desire. What if I fail, what if he says no, what if I don’t get the job, what if the roof caves in, what if the plane crashes .. etc. Our overthinking creates stories based on the fear of the unlikely, instead of freedom. We therefore make decisions that move us away from the fear we have imagined, instead of moving toward the pleasure we can create. We live in the worst case scenario, that 99.9% of the time doesn’t happen. If we’re going to write stories, at least make them empowering, exciting and positive ones.
Meaning: Nothing has meaning except the meaning we give it. It’s not just big events that derail a person, it’s often the meaning we give small events that dictate and shape our actions. Ten people could all go through the same experience, let’s say they fail an important exam, and all of the ten people could give that experience a totally different meaning. One form of meaning might be: I am stupid, I am not good enough, I will never understand this, or I can’t do this. The other might go like this: I really didn’t study enough, need to put in more effort, this has shown me some areas I need to work on or I really need to get some help in this area. These meanings will determine the response and outcome of your experiences. We are the ones who decide on the meaning; it’s totally our choice. I have had clients that have walked through the most traumatic experiences, but have experienced beautiful freedom by applying a new meaning to the same experience. We do choose the meaning we give to our experiences and what I have noticed is that the meaning we often give a hurtful or difficult experience, is negative and un-resourceful. We tend to hold onto the negative emotion and make it about us, instead of the positive learnings, and there are always both in every experience.