Monday, February 02, 2015

Are you an over-thinker?

I have a friend who loves to analyse and evaluate all aspects of her life. This habit has served her well in many ways and has led to good, well thought out, weighted decisions. Indeed I admire her measured way of thinking things through before acting. However in the last few years she has realised that her analytical skills sometimes limit her and get in the way of reaching a decision, even leading to the situation of “no decision is better than the wrong decision”. She has become one of life’s over-thinkers and in so doing she magnifies problems so that they becomes bigger and more frightening than they actually are.

Over-thinkers can end up holding themselves back and just doing nothing. They analyse and deconstruct things in order to create meaning and make sense out of the world. They even over analyse positive parts of their lives so they don’t seem so good anymore! So they end up self-sabotaging the good news in their lives which results in a spiral of negative thinking, inaction and then beating themselves up. And so it goes on…..

So here are some strategies to help.

Recognise you can’t control everything. If something doesn’t work out in the “best” way (whatever that means) at least you have had a go. And had the opportunity to learn.

Disrupt your thinking – when you are in a spiral of over-thinking, break the pattern by moving into another environment, changing the scenery, filling your senses with different stimuli.

Practice the third person technique – pretend you are your best friend observing your over-analysis as if they were a fly on the wall.  What would they say to help and coach you? Hear their voice, take their guidance.

Be more in the moment – don’t think about the possible mistakes of the future – remember the future hasn’t happened yet!

Set yourself a rule for quick decisions – when you catch yourself over analysing allow yourself say 30 seconds or 1 minute to get to a decision.

Teach yourself a simple analysis technique to guide your thinking – something like a SWOT box (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). With practice, you can “speed-SWOT”, trust the method, get to a quicker conclusion and move on.

Don’t let previous mistakes fuel your over-thinking. Remember yesterday’s failure could be today’s opportunity. Today is a different day with a whole new context.

Think of the bigger picture – say goodbye to the minor things – will it really matter this time next year or even next month? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Over-thinking is often a strategy to stop us moving out of our comfort zone. But there will have for sure been times in the past when we dipped our toes in the water of something new. Being an over-thinker can stop us enjoying the possibilities that the world can offer us if we let it. Over-thinking limits us, doesn’t allow us to progress and we end up standing still. So practice the ideas above and in the words of Disney’s frozen “Let it go”.

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