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How to Stop Overthinking

Many people struggle with overthinking. We can see so many options and so many sides to a problem, that the solutions are endless. We are most comfortable when we can narrow it down to one thing, but sometimes this feels impossible.

The pain of not knowing

A few years ago I was living in the Midwest with my parents. I had been laid off from a job about a year and a half prior and had had a very difficult time finding a good job. There just weren’t very many opportunities in the small town that they lived in for someone who works in marketing, like me. I knew that I couldn’t stay there and get the kind of job that I was used to. So I had to move. But where to?

I spent weeks considering all of the options. I’m not married and don’t have kids, so I could literally move anywhere in the US that I wanted to. I realized that having too many options was just as bad as not having enough options. I was overwhelmed by the size of the decision and the desire to make the right decision.

I felt like if I moved to the wrong place I would fail, yet again, and that would be terribly embarrassing. Isn’t a 31-year-old woman supposed to be able to support herself? How had I failed so badly that I couldn’t do that one simple thing?

When I got to the point that I thought the decision was going to crush me, I had an epiphany: you just need to make a decision, any decision. That was it! All of my suffering would stop if I could just pick something. So I did. I decided to move to Boston. And, as Gabby Bernstein says, “And so it is.”

The problem

The main problem we have that causes all of the overthinking is the desire to be right, to be perfect, to not make a mistake or face embarrassment. When you recognize all of that, you can put it down and make some things actually happen, rather than just thinking about them.

Do it scared

The hardest part is actually making a decision. But remember, we’re not concerned about making the right decision anymore. We are just making a decision, the one right now, the one that works best in this moment.

“Make a decision and then make the decision right. Line up your energy with it. In most cases, it doesn’t really matter what you decide. Just decide. There are endless options that would serve you enormously well, and all or any one of them is better than no decision.”

This is a quote from Abraham-Hicks that I absolutely love. It’s my new life motto.

  1. Make a decision - It doesn’t have to be the thing you do for the rest of your life. It’s just right now.

  2. Make it the right decision - Stop thinking and questioning. Commit to the decision that you made.

As soon as I decided to move to Boston a weight lifted off of me. I knew all of the arguments against it: it’s expensive and far away and cold and the people are rude. I knew that. But I still made the decision and I made it the right decision. That simple shift from questioning to being committed gave me the permission to stop overthinking and start planning.

Do it messy

The second step to stop overthinking is to be a C student. We were all taught in school to get good grades. If you’re anything like me you were obsessed with getting good grades in school. I was the straight A student, the teacher’s pet, the good girl who did everything right the first time.

As I grew up and got out of school I held onto that concept of doing things right the first time, of everything being perfect straight A’s. But life doesn’t work that way. You can’t think things through enough to get them perfect. I could spend years thinking about moving to Boston, but I wouldn’t really have solid answers about everything until I actually did it.

When you let go of the idea that you have to be perfect all of the time you give yourself permission to do things messy. Be a C student. Just get things done rather than worrying about them being perfect. Figure it out as you go along. Be proud of yourself that it’s finished rather than fussing over it being perfect. Done is better than perfect.

Do it over and over again

The last step is to take action right away. If you’re not overthinking things then you have no reason to delay the action. Take action and make it a consistent part of your routine.

When I decided to move to Boston I started applying for jobs the next day. Within 6 weeks I had a job lined up and I bought a plane ticket to move. I rented an AirBNB and took off. I knew that it was going to be rough for a while trying to figure out how to ride the train to work and what was the best neighborhood to live in. But I also knew that if I didn’t take action that I never would have gone.

The same was true for starting my blog. I decided to start writing and I sat down to write a new blog post. Then I made a commitment to myself to write a new post every single week. It was messy and imperfect. I was certainly scared, but the more I did it, the better I felt about it.

Write yourself a permission slip

What did you come here to hear? What permission do you need? What answer did you need? Right now, while you’re thinking about this thing that you want to do, give yourself permission. Write yourself a permission slip.

Dear Sarah,

I give you permission to be messy.

I give you permission to make mediocre things.

I give you permission to just show up.

And sign your name.

What decision are you overthinking right now? Write it down.

What messy action could you take today? How can you schedule that into your day or week? It’s time to take action. It’s time to do it scared, messy and right now.

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