… or should I say, “Racing Thoughts, Ruminating and Overthinking”?
… or perhaps “Ruminating, Overthinking and Racing Thoughts?”
As someone who considers himself a proactive person, it is well within my nature to think things through before acting.
Not only do I want to avoid making mistakes, but when I make a decision, I’d like to think that I have been responsible, thoughtful, balanced, sensitive and kind.
I admit it, I don’t deal well with surprises. Getting blindsided sends steam shooting out of my ears. Getting pressed for quick decisions and reactions without the proper time to process the situation sends my blood pressure through the roof.
While I think others have more confidence in my handling of things than I do myself, perhaps it is a sense of not wanting to let people down by appearing unprepared, that I try to eradicate surprises before they happen.
But that’s exhausting. Anticipating every possible outcome is next to impossible and developing an action plan for every negative scenario is hard on the mind, body and spirit.
This is not to say I can’t be impulsive or spontaneous. I have a pretty good sense of what works for me and what doesn’t. Over 52 years, my gut has rarely steered me wrong. I just need to trust that instinct.
When I trust my gut, my thought process, and I am comfortable knowing that there is little ripple effect from a spur of the moment decision, overthinking is not a problem.
But it is the decisions that impact others that stretch out my thought process. Depending on the situation, that process can be painfully stretched out to the point of not being able to shut it off. It is in those times that I wish I had the control, alt, delete buttons for my brain.
Where does this feeling come from? Is it a need to be extremely cautious to avoid making a mistake, of letting someone down, or accidentally hurting someone? Do I fear the cascading effect a bad decision of mine might have on others? Do I fear someone else’s negative reaction like anger or distrust if I chose incorrectly?
Am I putting too much pressure on myself in not trusting in other people’s resilience in the face of adversity? Do I not trust enough in my own skills and resilience if things don’t go as planned?
But when life gets so busy that I don’t have enough time to process decisions as quickly as they arise, that’s when the rumination train leaves the station and headed for a bumpy ride toward Analysis Paralysis. That is when things stall. Rolling with the punches becomes more and more difficult.
When I see myself trapped in my thought process, the obvious answer for me is to write. Even if the writing takes the form of just rambling thoughts, in point form, with no particular order, I know the thoughts are out of my head and safely on paper. In most cases, it takes more than one writing session to get it all down and out of my system, but that’s OK.
Just reviewing my thoughts, committed to paper, is a huge step forward in viewing the situation more objectively and getting the wheels turning again.
Where I go next depends on the situation. Sometimes organizing the thoughts to break down the problem and its symptoms is helpful. Sometimes breaking down the steps to completion like an action plan, and not seeing the problem as a huge mountain is the way forward. Sometimes, scribbling out different ways to address the problem and then evaluating each for its pros and cons, is the key.
Another approach that has helped me the most has been to write out the best case scenario, the worst case scenario, and expect something in between. Then if I can write out my contingency plan for the worst case scenario, in theory, I should be prepared for anything. And once it’s written down, it’s like I’ve got my own “Standard operating procedure” ready, just in case.
However, the approaches are not without limitations. Some situations just don’t lend themselves to this kind of treatment, like certain catch-22s when you are darned if you do and darned if you don’t. Another such scenario is being caught in the middle of two people who are depending on you to act, but both have completely opposite views to how a situation is to be resolved and are not destined to meet in the middle.
Even though my strong sense of tact, diplomacy and respect have been immeasurably helpful in situations that really stretch the boundaries of conventional problem solving, it also takes razor sharp communication skills to play referee in tough situations.
I often ask myself if I am too sensitive to everyone’s needs. Am I forcing myself to carry the weight of the world to make sure each decision is tailor-made to everyone’s expectations and specifications?
Can I possibly make everyone happy if I think a decision through hundreds of times?
… Is that realistic?
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Have a great day,