The Overthinker's Quick Guide to Taking Action
“Take a risk, take a chance, make a change, and breakaway.” – Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway
Sonya lived in a trailer park. Worse than living in a trailer park was living in a small cattle town trailer park. Because in a small town where the only source of entertainment was driving your car back and forth on Main Street and making out in the backseat of a boy’s pickup truck, Sonya was hell bent on keeping herself from getting pregnant before graduating from high school. The only thing she wanted more was to breakaway.
So she lined up all the reasons to help her stay the course. She shared them often enough with me that they are still vivid in my mind.
“Hell if I want to end up a single mother and raise my children on a waitress salary or go on welfare.”
“Hell if I want to marry a schmuck who still lives with his mother.”
“Hell if I want to end up waiting tables at Kelly’s while fending off some old fuck.”
As you may have gleaned, along with a sharp intellect was an even sharper tongue. Anyway, she knew intuitively that if she focused on the “whys,” providence would take care of the “hows.” Unlike me, she was not an overthinker.
If you are an overthinker, here is how you can stop obsessing. You only need to know two rules of change.
The first rule of change is to understand your motivation. Action without purpose is nothing but motion. My friend understood this. She wanted to escape a confining environment and “go places.” That meant understanding what motivated her, and those things were getting into a good college, landing a promising career, traveling to faraway lands, and being around others with big dreams.
The second rule of change is to test the merits of your passion. Fear of judgment, fear of failure, or perfectionism under various guises, has kept us rooted in our comfort zone. Your dream has to outweigh your fear.
For the overthinker, this next point cannot be overemphasized. If you want to jump into action, don’t get too hung up on the “how.” The question of how is the biggest hiding place for our fears.
Most of the time what stops us from doing something is not our ability but the belief that we can’t. In other words, have a compelling “why,” and you’ll always be hungry enough to seek out the “how.”
Are you ready? Use this short list to stop overthinking and instead “take a risk, take a chance, make a change, and breakaway.”
1. Get out of the rut by taking a different route home. Our brain values novelty, so the simple change in scenery will make us more alert and force us out of auto pilot.
2. Break your shyness by complimenting a stranger, or smile for five seconds before breaking eye contact.
3. Stop indulging in negative self-talk by asking, “Would I dare speak this way to a small child or to another person whom I respect?” It’s likely you wouldn’t. Simply asking this question interrupts the pattern.
4. Lift your mood by singing a song that you know the lyrics to. Bob Marley nailed it when he said: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
5. Become a difference maker today by volunteering in your community. It’s a lot more empowering and do-able to take responsibility for a small corner of the world than to sit and do nothing and feel helpless by the weight of the entire world.
6. Perhaps there is no such thing as a stupid question, but if you want better answers, learn to ask better questions. Tony Robbins wrote that quality questions lead to a better quality of life. So instead of asking, “Why do I keep screwing up?” Ask: “How can I make better decisions in this area?”
6. Allow only positive influences into your life. I have but all eliminated violent TV shows, movies and other negative news coverage from my mental space.
7. Work on ridding yourself of toxic people and build on your ability to make good judgments about the quality of people you want in your life. Practice drawing boundaries by introducing this in your language: “That’s unacceptable to me. I would like for you to stop.”
8. Each time you shift into negative patterns, write yourself a better story. I mean this literally. Write a narrative of how you want your perfect world to look, taste and feel like. Leave out the “how” by suspending a little bit of your current reality.
9. Seek out mentoring. You can definitely push yourself on your own, but take it from me; every Tom Brady needs a Bill Belichick. In other words, every star player needs a great coach.
Inspire others. Got ideas for #10? Then please comment below.
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