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How to Stop Being an Over-Thinker

How to Stop Being an Over-Thinker

As a rule, thinking is a good thing and while some people don’t do it enough, some over-think everything. Both genders can fall into either category – today we’re going to chat about the one who does too much.

Some people think themselves into stagnation, frustration, exhaustion, anxiety and even illness. They have an aptitude for making the simple, complex, the easy, hard, the minor issue, a major drama and the pain-less, pain-full. They are adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and also at wasting their time and talent through age-old art of over-analysing everything and everyone; analysis paralysis. They are experts at misinterpreting what people are saying and if there is a way to have their feelings hurt, they’ll find it. Even go looking for it. Not only do they have a history of almost doing things but more often than not they are obsessive, compulsive with perfectionistic tendencies. They worry too much. About nearly everything. They are people-pleasers who want change (different) but the change process scares them. They don’t need other people to sabotage their dreams or goals, they can do that all by themselves. They are highly skilled in the art of self-sabotage and if anyone will get in their way, it’s them. They are… the Over-Thinker.

So, if you identify with any of the above, then you probably inhabit the cerebral landscape somewhere between casual Over-Thinker and chronic Over-Thinker. Here’s a few tips to help you deal with your Over-Thinking-Ness (a word). (Now).

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1. Stop waiting for perfection (perfect timing, perfect conditions) before you do what you know you should have done long ago. Being ambitious is great but aiming for perfection is unrealistic, impractical and debilitating. Aim for constant improvement and consciously and methodically work towards positive change where you need it most.

2. Don’t assume. Don’t act on hunches, act on facts.

3. Be more proactive; do stuff! Get out of the theory and into the practical. Now! Do at least one thing each day every day that will get you closer to where you want to be. Even if it scares you. Especially if it scares you. To steal someone else’s book title, “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.” Don’t let fear hijack your potential or run your life (into the ground).

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4. Ask yourself the right type of questions; the ones which will put you (mentally) in a positive, practical, productive and solution-focused head space. Acknowledge the problem but be all about the solution. Consciously find the good.

5. Have a sounding board (coach, friend, mentor, relative); someone who will provide you with relevant, meaningful, specific, unemotional feedback – you can’t be objective about you. Make sure it’s someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

6. In order to consistently and consciously move from mediocre to amazing, create a plan and totally commit to it. Don’t give yourself an escape clause. Identify and commit to your non-negotiable behaviours.

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7. Stop rationalising, justifying and explaining what you’re not doing. Try honesty, it’s quite effective. And liberating.

8. Keep a Success Diary (wanky name but great concept). Journaling your thoughts, decisions, behaviours and results is a great way to keep perspective, stay focused and motivated and to de-emotionalise the change process. It’s also a good way for you to learn what works – for you.

9. Get out of your thoughts. Eckhart Tolle talks about finding that very quiet, relaxing and beautiful space beyond our thoughts. The place where peace, calm, joy and freedom live. This is something which needs to be worked on but with practice you’ll be able to do it almost anywhere at any time. We don’t know how hard it is to stop thinking until we try. And the irony is that moving beyond our thoughts is not really about trying but about letting go. Of the chaos. The mind can be an exhausting place and sometimes we need a holiday from it. If you struggle with this concept, start by losing yourself in some of your favourite music. Step out of your mind and into the music; away from the cerebral and into the creative. The spiritual. The non-thinker. If you’re interested in exploring and understanding this concept more, check out Eckhart Tolle’s book the Power of Now. It’s kind of heavy going (possibly weird depending on where you’re at) but well worth it if you can persevere and digest his words thoughtfully.

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10. With all the thoughts traveling around in your head, some of them should be evicted, others are stuck and are too scared to come out. See your brain’s thoughts as one massive Apartment Block. Let’s look at Level 2 of your Apartment Block … as you walk down the corridor, you hear the ol’ crazy woman behind Apt 22 “you should have done it this way stuuupid…”. Further down is the chatterbox in Apt 28 who always has her door open and jumps out and distracts you, just as you’re trying to get somewhere. At the end of the corridor is Mr Gotnothingbettertodo who without fail stops you dead in your tracks “if you only saw how silly you looked you’ve never do that again!”. These trouble-making tenants are in fact those thoughts that interupt your driving forces and freeze you with guilt, anxiety and reasons to keep us still. These tenants are really easy to spot, haven’t paid rent in years, are up to no good and are causing trouble to all the other (good) tenants. These tenants must be evicted – effective immediately!

Start right now – select the most disturbing tenant you know is doing you no good and hand deliver your notice NOW! Get in that elevator, press the button to the floor that you know you keep avoiding.. and march to their door with confidence and hand deliver that notice. If they don’t co-operate, grab them by the ankles and toss them out. These tenants have been settled for a long time and know how to persuade you – so don’t give in! Remember, you have other fantastic tenants there that will be right by your side to support you in this mass evacuation.

This will make room for new, inspirational tenants. Make this Apartment Block your own – bring it back to life, create activities for your community, put in groovy carpet, bring in leafy plants, put in a bar upstairs with 24/7 feel good music (next to the brain spa and indoor pool) – even renovate a complete level and turn it into a brain haven where your tenants can go to put their feet up and recuperate. It’s your Apartment Block – the possibilities are endless!

More by this author

Craig Harper

Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

1. Know Thyself

One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

An unexamined life is not worth living.

I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

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None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

2. Figure out What Matters to You

What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

3. Play to Your Strengths

Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

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If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

4. Listen to Yourself

It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

“If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

6. Make Time for Reflection

It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

  • What went well today
  • Something you’re grateful for
  • What would make tomorrow even better

Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

Arguably the most important step of all:

Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

“I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

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Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

Reference

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