My grandmother once said, “Most of the things you worry about will never happen while you worry and overthink.” However, the habit was difficult to resist. I used to overthink every aspect of my professional life and focus on the “worst-case scenarios” to protect myself against the feeling of facing disappointment.
The consistent overthinking led to non-stop worry and constant perfectionism in my career. Following my graduate studies, I refused to apply for career opportunities that I viewed as a risk, due to the fear that I would not meet the expectation and be terminated.
The most difficult part of over-thinking is paralysis. Chronic over-analyzing will cause you to focus on the obstacles and delay taking the action necessary to grow. It is a cycle of repetitively finding and creating flaws within your own plan. “Women are significantly more likely than men to fall into overthinking and to be immobilized by it: 57 percent of women and 43 percent of men are over-thinkers,” psychologist and author Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema writes in Women Who Think Too Much.
There are six key elements to recover from the urge to focus on perfection, rather than progress, which will help you overcome the need to continuously over-think your value.
1. Stop comparing yourself to others .
According to Psychology Today, ” …we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others.” In an age of instant gratification, comparison leads to over-thinking in a world that rewards perfection and limits the value of progress. Measuring your qualifications and qualities against others will endorse your own fears and insecurities.
Focus on highlighting your strongest qualities, rather than believing in the false narrative based on who you compare yourself to.
2. Surround yourself with leaders who believe in you .
It is easy to say “believe in yourself,” but an over-thinker requires the validation from a qualified, unbiased support group/system to emphasize their unique value. As a recovering over-thinker, my inner circle consistently challenges me to stop questioning my thoughts and silence my inner critic, which creates a level of unwavering support and confidence.
The key is to ensure that you are not choosing more “over-thinkers” to join your inner-circle of support. To succeed as a leader, you need unbiased support from others who recognize the value of your potential in the world.
3. Read .
Worry and doubt are self inflicted patterns of behaviors. Another great remedy is to avoid all of the distractions and become a study of great leaders, who will inspire you to live your best life and believe in yourself.
I often find myself reading the work of great thought leaders such as Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Malcolm Gladwell, Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peale, Gabby Bernstein, Gaur Gopal Das and many others throughout the year. Reading relaxes the impulse to negate your value and provides actionable strategies for unlimited growth.
Create the habit of reading when you feel the impulse to self-indulge in over-thinking.
4. Stop working on your backup plan .
Planning a backup plan is a recipe for disaster. Rather than working on “plan B,” work on “plan A(1).” If you’re a chronic over-thinker, you’re also an over-planner–which allows you to attempt to forecast potential problems. I can attest that most of the problems you plan for never happen as planned.
When I started my company, my “plan B” did not have a disclosure regarding partnership disputes, contract terminations, net 180 or 360 accounting with corporations, and more. In addition, my “plan B and C” never happened. Instead, adjust your first plan to pivot when faced with obstacles.
5. Simply try .
The best way to overcome the habit of over-analyzing and doubtful thinking is to take the risk and try. The best way to win the battle of overthinking is to test the market and gain feedback for improvement.
6. Rehearsing makes it worse (in most cases).
For my first TED Talk, I spent days practicing, memorizing, standing in front of mirrors, and listening to the recorded version of my talk. It caused me to over-think, and change the theme so many times that I talked myself into a panic.
The morning of the talk, I scrapped my script and decided to speak from my heart, rather than my notes and slides. It was one of my proudest moments in life, standing in front of hundreds of attendees and streamed live over the world on social media, and I nailed it without rehearsing.
Remember, the best moments in life are rarely choreographed. They just happen because you are ready.
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