By Bob Miglani, Author of Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living
[Does any of this ring true for you? Do you find yourself with “analysis paralysis,” unable to move forward because you are not sure which way to go?]
One of the reasons we have a difficult time moving forward in life sometimes is this nagging voice of self-doubt in our head. Whispering nothing but debilitating thoughts into our subconscious, we get nervous about taking action and delay . . . and delay. Until it’s too late.
As I reflect at my own experience of trying to deal with uncertainty in life, I realize that no matter how hard I think, some new surprise always comes out of nowhere, causing me to rethink all over again.
What I learned over these last few years is that my overthinking did not help me to ‘figure things out’. In fact, it had the opposite effect of confusing me further when it was supposed to provide me clarity.
I believe we are all meant to be DOING not overthinking. Sure, some sort of rationale thinking should always take place but our society today has become so risk averse about everything — from what restaurant we visit to the flights we choose to the person we marry — that we get lost in our overthinking mind which leads us to nowhere in life. And time slips by faster than ever.
Here are 4 reasons why I believe action trumps overthinking:
Reason #1 to move forward in life:
1. Action gives you more certainty
One of the reasons we over analyze and overthink our future is because life looks so uncertain. Our mind tries to develop a series of scenarios so as to try to predict what will likely happen if we take action. If I do x, then y will happen. But the reality is that we absolutely cannot predict the future no matter how we overthink it. The world is so complex these days that any overthinking we do about the future is futile and sends us into a spiral of anxiety.
The good news is that by taking action, no matter how small, we get certainty immediately. We get to know the consequence of taking action- right away. It’s immediate. Even if we’re thinking of starting a new business, quitting our job or starting a new life goal or entering into a relationship, we get a feel for it — right away.
If it’s right or it’s wrong — at least we get to KNOW it . . . not THINK about it. No matter how much we overthink, we won’t really know unless we put one foot in front of the other and DO. And if we made a bad choice, then we can at least change direction and do something else. If it looks good and feels like we did the right move, then we just keep going forward.
Reason #2 to move forward in life:
2. The hole of self-doubt can get deeper with overthinking
Overthinking is a slippery slope because you never have “enough” information. Thinking about marrying someone? “Need to know more about him.” Want to make a career move? “I’m not sure how nice of boss she is.” Once we’re in that hole of self-doubt and over analyzing everything around us, it’s hard to get out and break free.
Our mind wants more and more because in some sense, it’s trying to protect us from getting hurt. But in reality, our own mind holds us back from actually living in reality. Ever meet an older person who is really stuck in their ways? We all get this way over time because we’ve dug a deep hole for ourselves over the years that we cannot get out of. The sooner we move forward in life . . . taking action on our ideas, our love, our career, is the only way out. The sooner we do it, the less we’ll have to dig. Action is our ticket to freedom which breathes in fresh air to a stagnant soul.
Reason #3 to move forward in life:
3. Action forces your mind to be in the present
We miss the best time of our life when we are overthinking about what bad thing could be lying out there in the future. “I won’t have enough money”, “how will I manage?”, “I hope I can do this” are some of the thoughts that come into our confused mind. While we’re lost in thought, we don’t realize how fast life goes by. Our kids grow up. Opportunities pass. Jobs change. We get older and more risk averse. Someone else opens up that business we always wanted to get into.
[box type=”success” align=”aligncenter” ]By taking action, we force our minds to focus on the present because we have given our mind no choice. And that’s a good thing to be in the present because that’s what we can control . . . the here and now . . . not some distant future. That’s the only reality . . . the only truth . .. . the only certainty we have in our life: the present moment.[/box]
Reason #4 to move forward in life:
4. Action brings HOPE back into your life
Sometimes it isn’t about the end or the outcome of taking action but the POSSIBILITY of one. So many times in my life I achieved a big goal and thought to myself, “Huh. Is that it?”. And became a little let down afterwards. That’s either because my goal wasn’t big enough or I missed one of the most important things that drove me . . . HOPE.
Our mind and body are meant to be actively pursuing something to feel alive. Maybe it’s part of the Maslow hierarchy of needs but as I get older, I realize that the outcome of success is not as important as the process. It really is about the journey and that’s what makes it so powerful when we align our goals with something we love to do. I think I’ve been the most happiest in my life during the earliest stages of creating something new . . . a relationship, a new business or you know the day before a vacation to an awesome place? The day before a trip out of the country . . . that feeling of hope is priceless. The idea of achieving something is a powerful way to break through the trance of overthinking and can make us feel so great because it gives our life a purpose to pursue.
I believe that while life is in chaos for so many of us during our uncertain, modern times, it is still worth living to the fullest. Time is so short and our life with our family, friends and colleagues so precious. By making a proactive choice to take action and just try something . . . however small, we can begin walking forward filled with hope and feeling good despite the craziness all around us.
© 2013 Bob Miglani, author of Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living