Overthinking a problem causes anxiety and depression as we stay stuck focusing on the problem. What if we learned a different way to be, to help ourselves out of problems, difficulty?
This morning I sat down at my desk. My beautiful desk, currently adorned with my daughter’s flower headbands, giant candles, and a little messier than I usually like. Papers, pen boxes, matches, paper. It’s wild outside, the dog has been running away from the thunder.
I sat and thought for a bit about what to write today. Nothing came. Have you ever tried to think yourself out of a problem? You think about the best thing to DO, in any particular circumstance.
What to do, what to say, what to write, what to photograph, what to share, it’s all the same. Then we think about everything we should have said differently or could have done differently.
Then you go around in circles. You know, when you are overthinking. Perhaps you have a habit of overthinking everything. I know I used to.
So this morning I sat and wrote about how I have nothing to write about. Even though my office is filled with many minor magical things to spark inspiration and joy. I tried to think myself out of it. But actually I realised by thinking about it, I was focusing more on the problem and talking myself INTO the problem, rather than out of it. That’s what overthinking does, but we are actually taught overthinking!
We try to think ourselves out of problems because school teaches us that’s the right thing to do. THINKING is rewarded.
Action based from a place of thinking is the gold star, the prize.
Thinking is useful. But not when you stay caught in your thoughts and overthink everything until it drives you crazy.
So sometimes, feeling is better.
Feeling Vs Thinking
Feeling gives us compassion for someone else, compassion for ourselves. Our feelings can be a compass into brighter truth, deeper wisdom, deeper connection with ourselves and the whole world around us.
But we bury our feelings, our thoughts, and our words simply because we do not see them as valid as thinking.
I’m sat curiously today. What if we all built businesses, lives and relationships, purely on how we felt, rather than thinking about them?
Have you ever set your prices, just priced based on whatever felt good, vs thinking about what ‘the industry/ competition’ is doing?
What if we just chose clients based on how well you resonated with them, and turned down the ones you didn’t resonate with? The ones that didn’t feel good to take on, but you do anyway because you ‘think’ you need the money?
Have we considered about how the world might change – how we might change- if we created and built things that only ever felt fun and joyful to do?
What if we solved problems not from a place of thinking, but from asking what decision would bring you the greatest joy?
Sounds good, doesn’t it. Everyone can do this, only we convince ourselves that thinking is always the answer. Our dominant paradigm of thinking convinces us that only thinking can ever be the possible solution, indeed it’s hard to think – or feel – outside of that.
This Questions Helps Prevent Overthinking
I’ve changed the questions I ask my business coaching clients now.
I used to ask well, what do you think? Now I ask, well, what do you feel.
Of course people say that feelings don’t produce results, or that they’re just part of therapy culture in which we all need to talk at length about our feelings but that never really got us anywhere.
So we have come to see feeling something as something that keeps us stuck where we are, but feeling your way through a problem is nothing to do with dwelling upon it.
Actually, that’s what thinking does.
Thinking about the problem keeps you stuck in the problem.
Allowing yourself to feel your way through the problem is what breaks down the first barrier to moving through it.
Then you reach through to the next feeling. What will help me to feel one step brighter here? What will take me one tiny step closer to feeling ok, or feeling happier about this? One thing. Or maybe, actually, you need to stay where you are, with that feeling for a while. That’s better than trying to think your way out of it too.
Focus on how you feel, not on what you think is going to get you there, and you move forward one step at a time, and with each step you ask how you feel at each place.
Grief Stops You Overthinking
Some of you know I lost my Gramps at the end of the summer.
One day he was there, and we were all planning Christmas together. I sent him photos of his great granddaughters to look at on his ipad. Then one morning in August I dropped my phone on the floor and it smashed. At the exact same time, his watch stopped ticking. And that day, that morning, he was gone.
You cannot think your way out of grief. There is nothing you can do. It sits in you and it rots and twists because you don’t know where to place it, and the people sabotage themselves. Or you just allow yourself to feel it and you cry daily like I am doing currently as Christmas draws closer.
Grief is brutal. But you cannot think you way out of it. You can’t overthink it either – grief jolts you out of your head and deep into the visceral experience of your physical being.
It’s impossible to overthink grief. You can’t because every time you do you’re put back into your body and you cry or ache or get sick or hurt or whatever else comes out in your physical knowing of grief.
I know because I’ve tried. My default state is thinking, like we are taught. I used to overthink everything. But last night I told Rob I wanted to just stop feeling it for a while, I’m tired of always crying. But he told me no, this is not bad, this is normal, keep crying and feeling whatever you need to.
So, I feel I am doing what is needed for me. Everyone grieves differently though.
Is It Possible To Shift From A Thinking State To A Feeling State
But what I was thinking about today, in the dark of the storm and the blankness of my paper
Is not about death, but about life. What if we all thought a little less, and felt a little more?
What would be needed, to make that happen. How would our lives, change for the better?
Is it even possible, in a world that teaches us that thinking is the most prized gift we as humans have?
Is it even possible, to allow ourselves time and space to feel?
To change the question from ‘what do I think about that’ to ‘what do I feel’ and ‘how do I want to feel’
That would simply take up too much space in minds that are always so busy, so consumed by thinking how we should do X, or buy Y, or watch Z, or be, or achieve.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking it 😊
But as I walk another day with grief as my companion, however soft her shadow may be today
What I’m feeling, is that our feelings are gems we keep hidden, as we work towards the prizes that thinking gives us.
But maybe the riches would be far greater, if we were guided by how we feel.
What do you feel today?
How can you feel through a problem or issue?
How can you use feelings to guide you through your work, purpose, and take you into deeper leadership?
A true leader perhaps isn’t just about strategy, or gameplan, or working towards a well-thought out goal
But who acts upon what they feel is the right, good, and joyful thing to do.
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