Stop Overthinking: Give Life a Try

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I’ve written about the crippling business challenge posed by analysis paralysis. Fortunately, I don’t tend to get stuck in never-ending decision cycles, either at work or at play.

At work, I feel reasonably confident in assessing all the parameters of a decision, looking at the possibilities from multiple angles, getting trusted advice when needed, and moving forward.

In my personal life, I don’t endlessly mull decisions, either. Instead, I have a problem with what I’ll call “the knee-jerk no.”

In other words, when it comes to personal-life options, I can reason my way out of any given new area of interest, potential activity, or dating prospect:

  • Interest: I wouldn’t have any talent in that. I have too much on my plate to try something new. Focus, Leslie, focus. I’ve never liked that type of activity before, so why would I like it now?

  • Activity: When? Tuesday looks exhausting. I won’t have the energy that night. And I won’t know anyone there. I don’t want to go by myself to something where I don’t know a soul.

  • Romance: I can’t date him. It would never work. We don’t have enough in common. His life complicates my own far too much. He won’t understand my world, my goals, my passions.

Yet sometimes you have to leap outside your comfort zone. Try something.

So what if you don’t like the new interest? You tried it. And if you don’t enjoy an event, don’t stay. No one forces you, after all. What’s risking an hour if it could turn into a really fun few hours? And so what if dating him doesn’t work? You only live once—and you’ll never know for certain if you don’t chance it.

Have faith.

Don’t throw all reasonable concern and caution to the wind, but don’t overthink things, either. If you do, you stop living.

How do I do better?

  • Take small steps. See how they go. If it feels right, take a few more steps. If it doesn’t feel right, stop or change direction.

  • Change the thinking. Instead of mulling over all the things that won’t go well, refocus the lens on what could go right and what life will look like if it does. Get over the fear of change and remember the excitement of something new.

  • Phone a friend. Someone you truly trust can provide a sounding board and outside perspective—especially if you let her know you’re working on taking reasonable chances. I have a couple friends with whom I can talk through anything, from improving my eating habits to fears and sadnesses to dating.

How else can we avoid overthinking and take reasonable chances?