How to Fight the Curse of the Overthinker

A period of ‘overthinking’ quite often precedes my conversations with potential coaching clients.  It’s rarely been an impulsive decision.  Coaching is something many clients have been considering for some time but have reached the point where something must change.

People often justify overthinking, as the time they need to assess their situation.  They want to attempt to solve their challenges as they currently know best.  Unfortunately, this strategy delays or even stops them from taking action to improve.

Fear of failure and worrying about all possible outcomes, prevents people from reaching the goals they’ve been thinking about for so long.  They can only kick themselves as opportunities pass them by and get more and more bogged down by the volume of information available.  It’s a real energy drain!

Breaking the cycle of what’s called ‘paralysis by analysis’ can be done relatively easily.  It just needs some slight tweaks in behaviours.  You can even start relatively simply by targeting some day to day decision making tasks, like choosing what to wear or what to eat.

Here are a few ideas and questions to help break the overthinking cycle.

1. What’s your deadline?

If you find yourself working on an open-ended task with no real deadline, it’s no surprise that you start to overanalyse the endless possibilities and scenarios that might result.

Get into the habit of setting yourself strict time limits for both the small and the more critical decisions you face at work and at home.  Integrate this principle into your daily life.  Once you get the hang of it, look to challenge your deadlines even further.

And if you begin to waiver with your key decisions; reassure yourself that the action taken within your drop dead deadline will gain you momentum and prevent frustrating periods of inaction.

2. What would a first small step be?

When you’re feeling completely stuck and fearful of the complexity of a situation, it can be liberating to think in small steps rather than the overall outcome at the end.

Turning your attention to taking ‘just one small step’, removes the desire to overthink.  It removes the fear and makes the task at hand much more manageable.  As your steps progress and gather momentum, your confidence starts to grow.  You reach a point where you feel you can make ‘good enough’ decisions rather than seeking perfect solutions.

3. What’s the worst that could happen?

Overthinking is dangerous.  Our brains have a habit of creating disaster and catastrophe when given the opportunity to run wild.  We tend to dwell on all the bad things that could happen rather than the potential successes of the decisions we make.

So, before you let yourself get lost in your own imagination, spend a moment to get real clarity by asking yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?”.

Is it something you can handle?  How likely is it? Would that stop you from taking action? What can you do if the worst does happen?

By getting a bit of a reality check and looking at the facts, frees you up to focus on what you can achieve rather than what might prevent you.

4. What’s happening right now?

Spending too much of your time overthinking what might happen in the future disconnects you from what’s important in the present time.  By focussing on what’s happening for you right now, you’ll make the best possible decision with that information.

New information will always come to light you and it’s important to acknowledge and anticipate that.  But make decisions based on the best of your knowledge at any one time.  Have the flexibility and courage to change and adapt as new information arises.  There’s no such thing as the ‘perfect decision’.

What matters is that you stop yourself from stalling, commit to a decision and a suitable course of action will follow.

5. Who can help?

Don’t keep your thoughts to yourself.  Engage with the people you trust and respect the most and talk through your options to accelerate decision making.  Gaining their viewpoint may trigger alternative options for your consideration or more appropriate ways forward.  The final decision is yours though – and you need to OWN it.

When a situation is time and business critical, expert coaching is invaluable to make sure you’ve considered the wider perspective and impact of your decisions.

 

These tips will help you move from contemplate to action – it only takes small changes to see real progress.  Let me know how you get on!

Tammy Windsor

Tammy is a professional coach, trained at post-graduate level and also holds Ph.D in Pharmacology. She spent 14 years in the pharmaceutical industry leading global clinical teams as well as supporting strategic and culture change across these organisations.

Tammy founded InnovaCoaching after seeing the significant and positive impact of change on individuals and organisations which coaching and mentoring provides,.

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