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Breaking Free of Overthinking

Key Takeaways:

  1. When we over think scenarios of what may happen, we exchange our present moments for a future that will never occur.

  2. Telling ourselves, “I don’t know” breaks the cycle of scenario creation and shifts our attention to the present moment.

When our minds list endless scenarios involving future outcomes, we waste emotional energy planning and preparing for things that will never occur. This hyper-vigilant focus on the future prevents us from full participation in present moment experiences. It distracts us from doing things that will move us toward our goals.

We exchange the present that’s happening right before us for a future that will never occur.

Everyone reflects on their surroundings, draws conclusions and plans. We step outside for our morning commute, notice the stormy skies, and grab a raincoat. It may rain or it may not but we’re prepared.

The challenge occurs when we continue processing the possibilities. In this example, as we get our raincoat we begin thinking about wet roads and slippery conditions and possible accidents and being late for the third time this week and getting fired and needing a new job and having to relocate and on and on. Each of these scenarios generates a list of possible responses all of it within our minds and many times without our awareness.

I’m not sure why some of us do this type of thinking more than others. Maybe those of us with experiences of chaotic times developed this hyper-vigilant thinking as a survival mechanism – a way of seeming to gain control over the chaos. My role as coach focuses on my client’s present empowering them to develop action plans that will move them toward their preferred future. I let therapists explore why people think and do the things they do.

I see you as a whole and complete person right now capable of overcoming your challenges and achieving your goals.

I Don’t Know

The first step in reducing hyper-vigilant thinking is recognizing that you are doing it. Remind yourself that the scenarios you have created in your mind’s eye are fictitious. They have not happened and probably won’t. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Hold for a one count. Exhale whatever emotional energy these story lines are causing you.

Second, remind yourself that whatever comes your way you are fully capable of responding to it when it happens. After all, that’s what you have done your whole life, right? You will respond to whatever challenges arise so you don’t need to create an exhaustive list of fictional scenarios.

If you continue struggling with over-thinking, try telling yourself, I don’t know. If you are worried about a presentation and find yourself thinking, What will happen if my boss doesn’t like it? respond with, I don’t know.

I don’t know keeps your mind from churning out one scenario after the other. You may not know what will happen but you do know whatever happens you will meet the challenge.

You will meet the challenge. Believe it. Reach out if I can support you. Until then,

Keep Thriving!


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