I’ve been thinking about thought and how not to think or rather how not to over-think! We are all skilled thinkers but do we use this skill to support us in our lives or keep us stuck?
Coaching clients often turn up feeling completely overwhelmed by their thoughts. The really good thinking processes that help them navigate the present moment, contribute and communicate effectively and achieve in their personal and professional lives have gone into overdrive.
How do we get pulled into the spiral of over-thinking?
It happens to us all and it seems to me there are a couple of things going on that pull us into the spiral of over-thinking.
- Our focus moves from the present moment to the future (or the past) and starts to make connections and stories about things that we actually have no control over. (We cannot change the past nor can we accurately predict the future).
- This lack of control prompts a feeling of anxiety and so we try to work out, through more thinking, how to best control or deal with the situation. As we consider all the “if onlys” and “what ifs” our mind races to find more and better solutions – and we feel increasingly anxious or depressed about the situation.
I was in this very situation at the beginning of the year when I was struck-down with flu and my, oh my, did I have lots of time to think and most of it wasn’t particularly useful or life enhancing!
The difference between thought and thinking
Then I had this idea about the difference between thought and thinking. I wondered what would happen if I was able to see a thought as it was coming into view, from a distance, as it were and then choose to let it go. To say to myself “that’s a thought” and just let it pass. This is like a strategy I used to employ with the kids when they came up with some crazy (often potentially dangerous, in my view) idea for a new “adventure”. I knew that if I acknowledged it and then let it go they could be distracted by something else pretty quickly. However if I didn’t acknowledge it and tried to pretend I hadn’t heard, or something like that, they go on and on and on about it.
A strategy to manage over-thinking
So it’s just a thought, but I’ve put my best thinking to use on this one and here is my strategy:
- What is this coming over the horizon?
- Is this a thought I want to think?
- Am I using my thinking stills to enhance my life or keep me stuck?
- Is this thinking taking me from fact to fiction?
- If I choose not to think this thought it will pass.
What’s your strategy? Is it time to use your thinking skills to come up with one?