Just make a decision already!
Have you ever had to make a decision and hesitated?
Even when your friends / colleagues offered suggestions or pointed out the obvious solution you still found yourself struggling to move forward with a decision?
There is a 30 second video doing the social media rounds at the moment called What overthinking looks like.. It features a small pony hesitating to go outside because of a small step down he has to take in order to get there, he eventually decides to jump off the tiny step, when he lands outside unscathed he kicks up his heels and celebrates his victory.
For the pony this is a natural fight / flight response to something he hasn’t yet learned is safe. Horses has some depth perception struggles so that small step may have seem to him to be a giant cliff and so his hesitation and eventual leap, while cute to watch, were a natural fear response, his playfulness afterwards is actually a response to burn off the excess adrenaline so he can start to calm down and relax again – Humans go through similar emotions when overthinking this little video an absolute representation of how it looks and feels to overthink things.
In life, we are faced with decision every day, what to eat, wear, which route to take to work, some are simple and easy to make, yet others challenge us, and we start thinking so much about what to decide that we get literally stuck and begin to question our abilities to adult, let alone run a business.
As a solutions consultant, many of the people I am called in to help are in their minds behaving much like the dilemma faced by the pony in this video. This behaviour often come from the same emotional place. Fear.
This could be fear of making the wrong choice and either appearing stupid, trying something new, or perhaps losing everything (yes some decision are that big). The fear could also be based on past experiences that didn’t turn out so well. Maybe that all sounds extreme, but our fears can be challenging and confronting.
We make so many decisions each day that often we don’t notice we are making them.
Here’s a little exercise:
Take a moment to think about a simple decision you were able to make recently.
Think first about the decision - easy right?
For example - Maybe you considered whether to wash your hair this morning and decided against it.
Now think about WHY you made the choice you did – a little more difficult.
For example - Did you decide against it because you don’t have time to dry it before you head out to your meeting and didn’t want to have to deal with wet frizzy hair (the pain is real people).
Here’s how overthinking sounds in our head..
Should I wash my hair – yes or no?
Dilemma: I have a meeting to get to and won’t have time to dry it before I leave and it always looks yuk if I don’t style it, and I did just wash it there other day and it looks fine, but does it have that dirty hair smell to it? I do have to go to that business meet up tonight and they always take photos and post them on social media and I might not have time to come home and deal with it before then, maybe I could wash it now and style it later, but that means I have to go to this meeting looking like a drowned rat and that so not professional, so should I wash it or leave it, I don’t have time but I probably should wash it.. agghhh why is it so hard to make a simple decision! 10 minutes later, now you are going to be late for your meeting, so you give up and get out of the shower.
Overthinking such a simple question now has you rushing and stressed when the answer and outcome were quite simple – Don’t wash your hair because you don’t have time this morning.
Sometimes in business we focus so much on worrying about the actual problem that we forget to consider the outcome.
So how to do we overcome this?
Here are a few tips that have worked well for me in my business, sometimes I use just one of the options, others may need a combination.
Take a step back, stop, rest and review.
- Write it down, on paper
The process and act of writing down a problem can often present its own solution by releasing some of the emotion attached to the problem. Physically writing down your problem and the desired outcome opens up the visual processing and creative areas of the brain which in turn enable you to see the issue from a different perspective.
- Look beyond the decision to the solution for a moment and look to the next step.
When you start with the desired outcome, the solution often becomes a lot clearer.
- Ask for help - Phone a friend, or colleague, ask social media if appropriate, or speak to a professional.
Choose any reliable, trusted person who is not involved in the problem, or likely to enable your overthinking, which is where hiring a professional can be beneficial. Often an outside perspective can offer clarity to the problem and see solutions where those involved cannot.
- Sleep on it!
If all else fails, take your grandmothers advice let it go for a night or two and sleep on it.
Sleeping resets, the brain and allows us to process our subconscious thoughts. When we stop thinking, our thoughts have time to collect themselves and Many problems have been resolved with a good night’s sleep.
When you focus on the problems, you will have more problems. When you focus on the outcome you will find your solution.
Next time you find yourself overthinking something, remember Stop. Hit the reset button and look at it from a different perspective or call someone who can. It is much easier to review the benefits of the outcome (solution) than it is to keep focussing on the actual problem.
Have an awesome week!