You could say I’m a triple threat… to myself, that is. I’ve been labelled a perfectionist, a future thinker, and I have an overactive mind. Even though I’m working on breaking free of these identities, they may help explain my tendency to ruminate.
I procrastinate when I should be getting stuff done. Especially when I’m out of my comfort zone. I think of all the consequences of future events at a micro level, imagining everything that could happen. Then I strategize contingencies for the gazillion possibilities.
During a conversation with my accountability buddy last year, I was discussing my plans to start posting regularly on Instagram. Lauren and I both work from home and I look forward to our weekly motivational chat. We plan our week around the goals we want to accomplish (work, health and well-being), we exchange advice and monitor each other’s productivity.
‘I’ll open up my Instagram to the public soon.’ I said.
‘Why don’t you do it now?’ Lauren replied in an abnormally demanding voice.
Lauren is my benchmark of a beautiful soul. Whenever I come across a kind hearted woman, I say to my husband, ‘she’s a Lauren.’ He understands the code. The difference in her tone was obvious. I knew she meant business.
‘I’ll let you know when I’ve done it. I’m not quite ready… um… and I just have to look through to make sure there’s nothing I want to delete.’ I said.
The truth was I was scared to take the initial step. That would mean opening myself up to judgement and criticism. Even ex-perfectionists don’t like that kind of exposure. It made my hands a little clammy. Maybe I knew once I boarded the train, I wouldn’t be in charge of the brakes. I began pacing the room with my phone in my hand. I was searching for a better excuse that would satisfy my friend. How am I going to get her off the phone?
‘NO. Do it now. I’ll be here. You can just listen to me breathing into the phone for hours if you like. I’m not going anywhere.’
We both laughed, but mine was more of a nervous giggle. I sensed she wasn’t going to accept my ‘no.’
I’d heard Tony Robbins say something along the lines of… ‘don’t leave the scene of setting a goal, without taking one step towards achieving it.’
The blood rushed to my cheeks. I went into the privacy settings and flicked the switch from private to public. Done. Just like that. All the preamble seemed like an over-reaction once the fleeting moment had passed. My shoulders dropped further away from my ears.
It’s a simplistic example but it represents how we can overthink just about anything in our lives. From the trivial to the momentous. It’s our own thoughts that get it the way. Sabotaging us by replaying the ridiculous beliefs that we hold onto from a lifetime of conditioning. I have devoted too much time on pre-emptive anxiety when I could have been taking positive action.
We all need to have a healthy amount of thinking and planning in our lives. It’s when it has you spinning in circles, that something needs to change. If you resonate with this pattern of behaviour, I’d love to share some techniques that have helped me. Hopefully they will serve you too.
My Three M’s to Switch Off Overthinking: -
MEDITATE — The only way I can slow my mind, is to focus on my breath. I sit with the silent moments between my thoughts. A place where magic happens. Meditating is now an essential part of a productive day for me.
MOMENTUM — I move towards what I am resisting. We are never really ready to do anything until we start. Even a tiny step is better than being stagnant. I push through the initial fear instead of being blocked by the debilitating imagine if’s. This helps me gain confidence and propels me forward.
MONITOR — I have become conscious of when I spiral into unproductive thinking. As it’s happening, I break my habit by focusing on the word ‘calm’ (you can create a word or action of your own). Then I breathe deeply into the present moment. I welcome whatever it is meant to happen instead of attempting to predict the future.
The most satisfying times in my life have been when I’ve run towards the things that scare me. Where there’s no second guessing. When I’m not living in advance. That’s when I’m free.
Take a moment to sit with these thoughts. You may be surprised to discover how much time you spend in conflict with yourself, anticipating outcomes that never eventuate.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you want to hear more from me, please like my ‘Lisa Benson Author’ page on Facebook or follow me (lisabensonauthor) on Instagram.