How to Stop Overthinking And Get Unstuck
By Maria Niles on February 07, 2010
BlogHer Original Post
A good friend is someone who will call you out on your stuff - kindly, lovingly and, most of all, honestly. A good friend did this for me the other day. She pointed out that I seem to be overthinking and that it was leading me to inertia. Inertia is a fancy word for being stuck.
Stuck sucks. But sometimes, no matter how painful, stuck can be easier than unstuck. Being stuck can feel safe, rooted, and grounded. It provides a false sense of security though. There is so much we miss in the unknown. Hibernating in our little caves feels familiar no matter how dark and dreary they might be. But outside the cave is a great big world of unknown. The unknown seems scary but trust me, there's a lot of fun and crazy and exhilarating. I do know this to be true even if I forget myself sometimes.
Someone once told me that I am one of the most grounded people they know. Down to earth, solid, firm. She meant it as a statement of fact and as a compliment. But being so tightly tethered to the ground means that I have a hard time flying and soaring. I don't want to get Icarus-like, float so high above the clouds that I lose my sense of perspective, burn up in the atmosphere and lose the feeling of what the grass feels like underneath my feet. But sometimes I want to fly.
In order to find that freedom, I have to find a way to shut off my racing mind and stop overthinking every little thing. Before I shut off my brain and get to doing, I surfed the internet for some suggestions. Here are a few that I found:
1. Make decisions
The first bit of advice comes from me. And that is to make some decisions even if they are small ones and even if they are risky. This encourages the habit of taking action rather than analyzing everything to death in a futile attempt to manage all risk and guarantee only good outcomes. Life isn't that mess-free.
I can always tell when I've fallen out of practice. Even five minutes a day of emptying my mind, observing thoughts and letting them go makes a big difference in setting a tone for my day or preparing me for sleep and slowing down the overthinking.
3. Get input
Getting some outside perspective often helps me kick into gear. If it's striving for perfect that is keeping me thinking and stuck, I often find that other people can better see when something is good enough, when I've reached an 80-20 tipping point, when what I'm working on is better than I realize or when continuing to re-hash and re-work something is only making things worse or more jumbled. Some bloggers have found that they can ask the internet and get great input that helps them move forward.
4. Shut off the internet
The blessing and the curse of the internet is that you can find anything, turn over endless rocks, and fall down infinite rabbit holes. All that information make us feel powerful and like we can be in control. But the seduction is false. All it does is chain us in place, thinking we can find an answer to every question. I need to spend less time reading, researching and reacting and more time doing.
5. Be patient
I like immediate gratification which is one of my many weak spots (or realities, if I'm being kinder to myself). This is another mind game that never plays out the way we think or hope it will. If only we just solve for every possible X we can find the quickest route to Y. Unfortunately life doesn't work that way. Paths wind. Starting at one hoping it will magically get shorter and that we can cut out the time and work necessary to travel it never works. Walking does.
6. Stop worrying about what other people are thinking
A big reason why I twist my mind into a pretzel is because I don't want to hurt people's feelings. And, because I want them to like me. And, because I don't want to disappoint them when they find out that I am simply a flawed human and not a robot. I'm a girl. We are conditioned to be good and nice and to not ruffle feathers or rock boats. This is an insidious form of perfectionism. I am not immune. I can wrestle my brain into indecision and inaction with the best of them because I convince myself that whether I do or I don't, I suck. I need to let go of the absurd thought that other people are as obsessed with me as I am and recognize that they have their own junk to worry about.
Do you get caught in the overthinking trap? How do you get your mind to slow its roll? What are your best tips for stopping overthinking and getting unstuck?
carole epp at musings about mud: I think i'm overthinking it too much... or maybe not enough...
Alex at Piebald Life: Finding Grace For Us Over-Thinking Types
This death by over-analysis is a critical problem for many of us over-achievers and over-achiever wannabe's. We feel that we get to where we are only by virtue of our ability to figure everything out and to decode situations be they social, academic, religious, or whatever--decoding them gives us power over situations.
Jodi Chromey at I Will Dare: I hate meek
It makes me angry because I know I’m over thinking it, and my over thinking is making me meek. I hate meek. I know that 90% of blogging is bravado and acting like you’re the bomb digs regardless of your actual bomb diggetyness.
Fluid Pudding: Internet? You're going to think I'm crazy.
And suddenly, I was struck with hesitance. What if that whole story about the wife taking the hat was his (very clever) way of telling me not to expect him to wear that stinking hat to school every morning?! He covered himself the same exact way I often cover MYSELF. But maybe he wasn’t covering. Maybe he really did dig the hat.
Wait a second. Can we take time out for me to sing that Paul Simon song with the “Maybe I Think Too Much” lyrics?
Nanny Goats In Panties: It's My Blog and I'll Cry If I Want To
The real reason I called you all here today was to talk about how I can never seem to find the perfect balance between over-thinking and under-thinking.
Aki and Alex at Ideas in Food: Don't Worry
Hugh MacLeod at Gaping Void: don't worry if you don't know "absolutely everything" before starting out
They don’t know enough about what could possibly go wrong. They don’t know where EVERY SINGLE LAST POSSIBLE LANDMINE is buried.
So instead of getting on with it, they spend the next few years keeping their Nowheresville day job, whilst spending their evenings surfing the web, scouring the trade magazines, researching everything like crazy, trying to get a thorough, small-time Outsider’s view about what the big-time Insiders are currently up to....
They want to have ALL the answers, before ever risking getting their feet wet. Hell, before even getting their little toe wet…
BlogHer CE Maria Niles can also found trying to think less at PopConsumer
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