A high-achiever who processes the world more deeply than others is also known as a sensitive strive and susceptible to overthinking. Studies show that sensitive people have more active brain circuitry and neurochemicals in areas related to mental processing. This means their minds not only take in more information but also process that information in a more complex way. Sensitive strivers are often applauded for the way they explore angles and nuance. But at the same time, they are also more susceptible to stress and overwhelm.
Deliberation is an admirable and essential leadership quality that undoubtedly produces better outcomes. But for Terence and others like him, there comes a point in decision making where helpful contemplation turns into overthinking. If you can relate, here are five ways to stop the cycle of thinking too much and drive towards better, faster decisions.
1. Leave Perfectionism Behind
Perfectionism is one of the biggest blockers to swift, effective decision-making because it operates on faulty all-or-nothing thinking. For example, perfectionism can lead you to believe that if you don’t make the “correct” choice (as if there is only one right option), then you are a failure. Or that you must know everything, anticipate every eventuality, and have a thorough plan in place before making a move. Trying to weigh every possible outcome and consideration is paralysing.
In order to curb this tendency, use the following questions:
- Which decision will have the biggest positive impact on my top priorities?
- Of all the possible people I could please or displease, which one or two people do I least want to disappoint?
- What is one thing I could do today that would bring me closer to my goal?
- Based on what I know and the information I have at this moment, what’s the best next step?
After all, it’s much easier to wrap your head around and take action towards a single next step rather than trying to project months or years into the future.
2. Use Your Intuition
Intuition works like a mental pattern matching game. The brain considers a situation, quickly assesses all your experiences, and then makes the best decision given the context. This automatic process is faster than rational thought, which means intuition is a necessary decision-making tool when time is short and traditional data is not available. In fact, research shows that pairing intuition with analytical thinking helps you make better, faster, and more accurate decisions and gives you more confidence in your choices than relying on intellect alone. In one study, car buyers who used only careful analysis were ultimately happy with their purchases about a quarter of the time. Meanwhile, those who made intuitive purchases were happy 60 percent of the time. That’s because relying on rapid cognition, or thin-slicing, allows the brain to make wise decisions without overthinking.
3. Limit the exposure to decision fatigue
You make hundreds of decisions a day — from what to eat for breakfast to how to respond to an email — and each depletes your mental and emotional resources. You’re more likely to overthink when you’re drained, so the more you can eliminate minor decisions, the more energy you’ll have for ones that really matter.
Create routines and rituals to conserve your brainpower, like a weekly meal plan or capsule wardrobe. Similarly, look for opportunities to eliminate certain decisions altogether, such as by instituting best practices and standardised protocols, delegating, or removing yourself from meetings.
4. Getting the right tools
Knowing how to stop overthinking isn’t an innate gift. It isn’t genetic, or set-in stone during your childhood. Many people who are able to control their emotions and avoid getting stuck in a spiral of overthinking and anxiety have developed these skills over time. It takes determination – but it also takes the right set of tools. Discover your personal blueprint and how to align your choices with your ultimate purpose in life. Learn how to navigate pain and anxiety, rather than avoiding or suppressing it. Transform your thought process to crush negative behaviours – and any obstacles in your path.
5. Distract your senses
Overthinking and worrying are mental activities, so if they start to take hold, do something physical.
You can essentially “shock” your senses by taking the power away from one area of your body and giving it to another. Sounds confusing? It’s not.
For example, if you start to feel fearful about the uncertainty of an upcoming event, splash some cold water on your face, or smell some calming lavender oils. Your brain will start to react to the sudden change, and you’ll have less of an ability to focus on the worrisome thoughts.
Find whatever works for you to shock your senses, and keep it handy whenever possible.
Busying yourself with an activity is the best way to change the channel. Exercise, engage in conversation on a completely different subject, or get working on a project that will distract your mind from the barrage of negative thoughts. Remember that your mental depth gives you a major competitive advantage. Once you learn to keep overthinking in check, you’ll be able to harness your sensitivity for the superpower that it can be.
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