Does your mind ever stop? Do you think too much? Do you want to know how to not overthink? When this happens, we go over the same stuff over and over, and can lose perspective. Then it turns into worry and stress. That is not good!
Overthinking is a big part of the reason so many people get stressed. If you can’t stop your mind from going around and around, it limits your ability to control your life. It uses up a lot of energy and brain matter, so much so that it can crowd out other thoughts. You have no room left, no spare capacity for other thoughts, or more important things.
The Theory Behind This Challenge
There are three challenges presented here to give your mind a break – and help you to not overthink. If you try them as suggested, your life will improve, and you will have more control over your life.
These challenges will train your mind to give you more control. They involve automating some of the daily decisions you have to make. This removes the inability to make decisions by overthinking it, or by paralysis from analysis.
There are so many tips and articles around on how you can create a better life, and every one of them hinges your total commitment. If you overthink it, you will fail. When you feel you have no capacity for new things, any resolution will fail.
To succeed in establishing new habits, or making changes in your life, you need the desire and discipline to follow through. Changes y will only happen if your will power is up to the task. Whatever strategy or technique you intend using is less important than this.
If you aren’t committed, then it won’t happen. There is no silver bullet.
Why do Most Resolutions Fail?
Most people fail with their resolutions. It might be a gym program, a better diet, reducing your alcohol intake, losing weight, having a better relationship, or being a better person. The list of things people look to change is long and varied, yet many people have been promising themselves the same things for decades without success.
So why can’t you achieve what you set out to? What gets in the way? I’ll give you three reasons:
- Lack of conviction – There’s no real urgency or imperative to make the changes. Your thinking goes something like this – “it’s a good idea, but I’m not convinced about it. Deep down I don’t think it’s that important. Yes, I could make some improvements, but really, it’s not that critical.”
- Going outside your comfort zone – When this happens you feel scared or unsure about it. You might be able to go there for a day or a week, but it’s a bit scary to make it permanent. There are risks to consider – it might mean a different take on life; you could lose friends or miss some of things you enjoy.
- Lack of self-belief – You don’t believe you can make the changes you are thinking about. You decide to give it a little push, but don’t have a lot of confidence in your ability to complete it. You don’t expect to succeed. It’s a relief when you give up and don’t have to try any more.
If you want to get past these thoughts – or this way of thinking, you need to train your mind first. Take on a short-term task. You don’t need a deep-rooted conviction about this, and the risks associated with it are less, so it’s less scary. Success will boost your self-confidence and give you the belief that you can make the changes you want in your life. You will have trained your mind to be more amenable to change. You will be in more control.
My challenges demonstrate this. They give you a way to get you into the groove a bit tighter. They also give your mind some breathing space, and will reduce your overthinking.
The challenges I propose aim to give your mind a rest by automating some common decision points. They are an easy way to prove to yourself that you are in control of your life. Strangely this occurs when you take your foot off the throttle and put your mind on autopilot.
When you overthink things, you focus on and dissect the changes you are looking to make – and get in your own way. An example of this is giving up smoking. If you tell yourself that you are giving up, you continue to define yourself as a smoker. Your attempt to give up won’t work because of this mental disconnect. It is more effective to stop thinking about it and train your mind to accept it as a done deal – i.e. “I am not a smoker, I don’t smoke”. By not overthinking it, you achieve a new reality more quickly.
There are three challenge exercises. Each of these calls for an automatic response. They each give your mind a break, a bit of free time, so it can focus on other things. Try each one for a month (you can’t do all three at the same time), and see how your brain processing has altered. It will surprise you!
You’ll feel liberated and more in control of your mind. The secret to a more efficient brain is to give it less work. As an example of how full our brains can get, Einstein had a terrible memory. He couldn’t remember his phone number or street address – the filing cabinet of his mind was full of more important data. Stop overthinking, and give your brain a bit of spare capacity.
Automating a part of your life can be fun; it will open new doors and give you a whole new perspective on your life. It may feel risky, but you do have ultimate control.
Of course, taken to the extreme, this can be dangerous, which is why I recommend a one-month trial of each. The results will surprise you! At the end of the month you will most likely incorporate some of this approach into your daily life.
The first challenge is to say yes to everything. The second is to always select the 4th item from the top of a list from which you must make a selection (for instance, a restaurant menu). The third challenge is the opposite of the first – say no to everything.
You can do the first and the second at the same time, but it is better to do them one after the other. It is also important that you do the third challenge (saying no) last.
Challenge # 1 – Say Yes to Everything
Jim Carrey’s popular movie “Yes Man” follows on this concept. The plot involves a recently divorced man who has become withdrawn and negative. He builds a new and more positive life through a series of events where he says yes. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look.
Of course, if taken to the extreme, this can lead to bizarre and dangerous circumstances, but it’s worth a try for a month. Use some prudential judgement if needed.
By analysing situations less, you open yourself up to new experiences and people. This one-month challenge gives you a taste of what is possible when you let yourself go a little. It is liberating, and could become the start of a new life.
Being more adventurous not only opens your mind, it gives you more confidence and readiness to tackle the world. Your social circle will welcome the new, more approachable you.
Challenge # 2 – Choose 4th From The Top
My second challenge is to choose the 4th item from the top of any list where you have to make a selection. The classic for this is a restaurant menu. Rather than studying it, and worrying about how to make the right selection, choose the 4th item from the top. Your dinner companions will see you as decisive and informed.
I’ve been using this technique for over a decade and a half now, and on only one occasion did it fail me. This was in a French Restaurant in rural France. The menu was in French, a language I do not speak. My plate of offal, enjoyed by the locals, was no to my taste! But only one fail in 15 years is a pretty good statistic! One fail does not ruin the system.
You have to trust the restaurant – they are not going to put something on the menu that patrons are not going to enjoy.
The reason for selecting #4? Well, it won’t be the cheapest and it won’t be the most expensive. There will be no embarrassment by looking either cheap or a show –off. This is very useful for wine lists.
I have applied this to almost any list. If the selection doesn’t make sense you should look immediately above and below for other options. One of those selections will work just as well.
If you discover new tastes – congratulations, you have expanded your horizons, and that is not a bad thing.
Challenge # 3 – Say No to Everything
Most time management books or self-help guides will suggest that you learn how to say no. They mean this to be selective, but it’s easier said than done. Like most things in life, it takes practice.
This exercise gives you that practice. It trains your mind (and friends, associates and so on), to not expect you to do everything asked of you.
I propose that you train yourself by saying no to everything for one month. This could include party invitations, a dinner date, a movie, or assignment at work. If you need to come up with an explanation for this from time to time – make something up. But say no unless you have no choice (which can be the case at work). Use your personal judgement, let common sense rule the day.
By the end of the month you will be surprised at how easy it is to say no. When you realise this, you will see how liberating this can be. This will give you more control over your life, and free up an enormous amount of time.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by agreeing to do too may things, or by agreeing to do things that we don’t enjoy or want to do. Learning to say no is a very powerful tool in your arsenal to control your life. In practical terms it is not easy, which is why this exercise is for a one-month trial only. Think of it as a Dry July type of challenge.
After a month of this, you’ll find it easier to say no selectively in the future. Take back control.
How To Not Overthink After The Challenge
Completing these three challenges will train your mind and give you more confidence in taking on new things. They will broaden your horizons and give you more control over your life.
After you have completed these challenges, you will have trained your mind to accept or deny requests, and you will have learnt how to trust others. The lessons from these three exercises are applicable in other ways as well. They provide an important lesson and training in learning how to not overthink.