Here's a short litany of thoughts that often take up residency in some of my favorite over-thinkers and worriers.
"This job is the worst."
"My husband/wife is being insensitive."
"My manager is clueless."
"The world's gone to shit."
"Where does the time go?"
"I can't deal with my life right now."
We're a society of over-thinkers and worriers. I get it. If over-thinking and worrying was a degree, I'd have a double PhD. A million years ago, while visiting my parents during a college break, I sat in their living room staring out at their tree-lined back yard in McLean, VA, listening to the cicadas and picking the cuticles off my fingers. It was evening, the lights were off and my mom's figure appeared in the hallway:
"Tatyana, what are you doing?"
"You think too much," she snapped and walked away.
It wasn't the first or last time I heard those words. But on this particular instance I reacted with: "What's the problem with thinking?" And I promptly decided to call myself a thinker and be proud of it. The problem is, I went on to listen to and believe my thoughts--even the negative ones. Even--okay, ESPECIALLY the doubt-iest ones.
What's so insidious about an insecure or doubtful thought is how it multiples. Doubt has babies, and good god those doubt-babies spread like wild fire. THEN, we feel like those doubts have reason behind them, and we should listen to them. Sometimes, we even beat ourselves up for our thoughts; or for not having better thoughts.
Doubt babies in action
Let's say you're having a conversation with a colleague who doesn't support your great idea. Your line of thinking could go: Well screw her! That was a great idea. She's so negative. But then maybe she has a point. My manager wasn't a great fan of that one part. Am I losing perspective here? Oh I know what her problem is ... she wants my job. Maybe I'll go talk to Pat, see what's going on. What am I doing here anyway? This job doesn't reflect who I am. Oh gawd I hate my life, how did I get here?
What anyone in the above situation could do is receive the feedback and not hang a story on it. Instead say, "Thanks for your feedback." or "Hmm, I'll consider what you said." And not spin an existential funk of a story.
And now, let's get right to a salve for over-thinkers and worriers. Here are 9 perspective tips to free you up from the clutch of worry and trouble-making personal thoughts.
YOUR NATURAL STATE IS ONE OF WELL BEING
You’re not here to suffer. Look at babies and toddlers, their natural inclination is toward joy--and bouncing back from distress pretty quickly. Have you ever seen a two-year-old hold a grudge? What if you lived as if your default setting is well-being?
- CIRCUMSTANCES ARE NEUTRAL
Events, the news, people’s actions and responses--it's all information; just data. Not a lick of meaning. Until our minds get a hold of them! It's the way you think about each piece of data that creates a feeling and experience. Sometimes it really seems like the person, place or thing is causing you pain. It’s not—it’s your thinking about the person, place or thing. (And that’s good news.)
- YOUR THINKING CREATES YOUR EXPERIENCE
Humans are thinking machines, kicking up 70,000 thoughts a day. Personal thinking is like weather passing by. It's transient and it's not the truth. Sit back and watch it go by.
- YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING
Once you’re aware that personal thinking is causing your experience, feeling or mood, you don’t have to go to work on yourself or the thought. You don’t have to feel bad about having a negative thought. Don’t make a story out of a thought storm. Avoid big decisions when you’re experiencing a low mood. Take a deep breath. You’re having a human experience. Breathe. Slow down. Love yourself, accept yourself for being in the human experience force field.
- WE'RE ALL TAPPED INTO A WISER INTELLIGENCE
(Sometimes we forget.) You're tapped into an intelligence system that brings you flashes of insight, creative bursts, gut instincts, the right answers, warm human connections, moments of awe. Worrying, fretting, obsessing gets in the way of this natural wisdom that wants to come through.
- YOUR PAST DOESN'T DEFINE YOUR PRESENT. OR FUTURE
Oh, how the pull of past events and history informs us. It doesn't have to! Every moment of every day you can be whoever and however you want to be. The past is a memory--powerful, seemingly real--but you can step out of it any time you want. Letting go might feel like a process, but it’s there for the taking. A fresh start ad infinitum!
- OUR SYSTEM IS DESIGNED TO HEAL AND REPAIR
We heal not only from physical injury, but our emotional ass-kicking as well. We have an amazing human repair system—a natural intelligence always working in our favor.
- A FEELING IS NOT THE TRUTH
You might feel like the last five years of your life were disappointing; you might feel like the company doesn't respect you; you might feel emptied of all creative inspiration, or scared of the earthquake predicted any second now--but it’s just a feeling. Don't confuse a feeling for the truth. You don’t have to let a feeling direct you. A feeling is simply a sign of your thinking.
- DON'T BUY INTO UNCONSCIOUS AGREEMENTS
It’s easy to take on what I call, our unspoken communal agreements (and moods). Such as: Mondays sucks. Marriage is hard. Growing old hurts. Being single is lonely. Starting a business is tough. There’s not enough time. Our world is in a horrible place. Maybe you think it’s irresponsible to think otherwise. Says who? If the thoughts connected to these unspoken communal agreements don’t support your well-being, why not take a vacation from them, see what it’s like?
Approaching your experience with a new understanding isn't a magic wand. I'm not saying that practicing any of the understandings listed here means you'll feel great most of the time and if you don't there's something wrong. But sometimes, just being aware of and awake to the reality of your existence (it's your thoughts, not the circumstances creating your experience; emotional health is your birthright), then there could be pockets of relief and a bit more space for that natural intelligence to come in. And enjoying all aspects of your life more.
Play with it, see what you think. No pun intended :). XO
If you want to talk more about any of this, or learn more about how coaching might shift your relationship with your over-thinking, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org . I offer complimentary discovery coaching sessions.