Overthinking is when what you think gets in the way of what you want.
It’s one of the most expensive things in the world because it wastes time, creativity, and productivity. It’s an epidemic of inaction.
Essentially, overthinking is when your brain spins on a thought or an idea for longer than you anticipated. Unfortunately, overthinking tends to lean toward the negative. Left to its own devices, it will naturally gravitate toward things you don’t want to dwell on.
I have to constantly ask myself things like, “Do I want to donate an afternoon of brain space to churn over something dumb I said to a friend three months ago?” What’s worse is if I don’t give it the space to process during the day, it finds a way of creeping into my brain at night and the cycle of insomnia continues.
Thoughts are something you have, not something you hone. We can’t control them, right? That’s why whenever we talk about thinking, we describe it as something outside of us that operates on its agenda:
- “I got lost in my thoughts.”
- “My thoughts got away from me.”
- “She got carried away by her thoughts.”
We treat our thoughts as something we have no control over. If we don’t control our thoughts, then I guess our thoughts control us.
Our brain likes to believe the things it already believes. We’re magnets for information and experiences that confirm the things we already think about ourselves and the world.
If one of your beliefs is that you’re the most disorganized mom ever, then being three minutes late to the after-school pickup line will confirm that.
Even if that morning you got both kids to school on time, worked a full-time job, planned dinner, and scheduled the carpool for soccer this weekend, your brain will still convince you to ignore any new evidence that doesn’t agree with that engrained belief.
Now that you know your brain can be a real jerk, do you want to leave your thoughts to chance?
Think about all the opportunities and adventures you’ll miss out on if these sabatoging thoughts, AKA limiting beliefs are in charge of your actions.
How do you know which thoughts to listen to?
Ask yourself these 3 quick questions.
Question 1: Is it true?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is assuming all your thoughts are true. We believe that if it’s in our head, it must be accurate. If I think it, it must be real.
I promise you’ll be shocked by how many lies you have cluttering up your head.
Question 2: Is it helpful?
The question “Is it true?” won’t be enough to smoke out the lies in your head. Asking yourself is this thought helpful? Does it move you forward or keep you stuck? Does it lead to a decision or limit a decision? Does it generate action or apathy?
A client of mine, let’s call her Sarah, told me she will never be able to get rid of the clutter in her house. She was raised in a cluttered house and she doesn’t know any other way of living.
Well, that is not entirely true. Yes, she grew up in a cluttered home. But what is not true is that she will NEVER be able to get rid of clutter in her adult home.
It is also not helpful. It stops her from taking action. She’s already made up her mind by listening to this thought.
She can choose another thought. “I can figure this out and ask someone to help me.”
She can make a choice to take one small action of cleaning out one drawer, one closet or one cabinet.
Question 3: Is it kind?
Is the thought you’re listening to kind to yourself? After listening to it a few times, do you feel better about yourself? Are you encouraged about your life and opportunities?
For Sarah, her thought of “I’ll never be able to get rid of the clutter in my home,” is not kind. It tells her she’s not capable.
Mike Peasley, PhD, asked ten thousand people how overthinking made them feel, 73 percent responded “inadequate.” When asked if overthinking left them feeling drained, 52 percent of people said yes.
Do you know why overthinking makes you feel inadequate and drained? Because you’ve been listening to unkind thoughts about yourself on repeat.
If you’re still stuck figuring out which thoughts to tune into ask this last question:
Would I say this to a friend?
If you liked this, grab your free guide:
The Habit of Self-Doubt: Crush it and Build Real Confidence