Worrying. Ruminating. Cogitating. Analyzing. Considering. Mulling. Noodling. Pondering. Reflecting. Scrutinizing. Contemplating. Deliberating. Speculating. Wow… we’ve thought up a lot of words for thinking!
Those of who are thinkers tend to pride ourselves on that trait. We look at things from all sides before acting. We’re careful and thoughtful. Our thinking serves us well… we think. But thinking can easily cross the line into overthinking, especially when it comes to relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
I’m aware of my tendency toward overthinking and my ability to create problems that weren’t there in the first place. I can fill in the white space of silence with a complex story of my own imagining, when the reality is often far more simple or just plain different from what my brain invented. That’s because my story comes from my own perspective on how the facts of a given situation fit together.
I can see this so clearly with people who I am coaching. They invent explanations for behavior that fit their perception of reality. They believe that others have intentionally disrespected them, undermined them, or are purposefully testing boundaries. And they have completely and utterly persuaded themselves of the certainty of their rightness through a series of conversations that have occurred completely in their heads.
Sometimes insight can be found by stepping into a different perspective on a given situation. Simply asking “could there be another explanation that is consistent with the facts that might be true here?” or “why would a reasonable and rational person do what this person is doing?” can bring about a change in our conclusions and can begin to transform a challenging relationship. Even better is when we can have the courage to get out of our own all-knowing heads and have an honest conversation about the situation with the person that is driving us crazy. By inviting them to tell their story from their perspective, we may discover new truths about ourselves.
Next time you find yourself overthinking and lost in wondering about the past or the future — “why did that happen?” or “what does it mean?” — try to let go of speculation and pull yourself into the present. What will you do today to let go of your stinkin’ thinkin’ and have the courage to step into a different perspective?