In golf, they say that when you walk up to the ball, you should have one swing thought. That thought may be different for everyone, but you should have one thought. Why? Because too many things going through your mind at once will have an impact on your swing. And not in a good way.
For me when I walk up to the golf ball, my mind begins to race. My thoughts move through my head at breaking speeds. “Keep your head down.” “Eye on the ball.” “Turn don’t sway.” “Swing toward your target.” “Don’t break your wrists.” “This could go into the sand trap.” “I could hit a car in the parking area.” This goes on in rapid (super sonic speed) succession until I swing the club.
The fact that I’ve never once broken 100 in the game is the clear result of over thinking. It’s also a possible lack of skill, but I’m going to stick with the overthink concept for now. I like golf too much to give up.
Over Thinking In Your Career
Often this same thing happens to us at work. You finish a project that you’ve worked on for months. Your boss doesn’t comment. Not positive, not negative. Nothing.
You begin to create a million reasons why there was no comment. “He’s going to fire you and doesn’t want to say something positive right before he does it.” “He completely hates the work but his mother taught him if has nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” “The work was horrible, you spent months and it was horrible; how embarrassing.”
Before you know it, you’ve spent two hours ruminating on nothing. It’s only your ego that has you believe that the lack of response had everything to do with you.
I mean, it could be that…he was busy. Or preoccupied. But our ego won’t allow that to be the focus. Instead, we’re sure that we screwed up.
And here’s the rub. During that two hours of rumination, we aren’t focused on the work we should be doing. It’s a prime time for making mistakes. Thus the self-fulfilled prophecy. You screw up. Your own overthinking created the perfect storm and now you have something real to worry about.
How To Gain Control
The good thing is there are things we can do to regain control. It isn’t easy (proven by my golf scores)…but you can do it.
Here are five tips to help you get started.
1. Write down your obsessive thoughts. Full-scale brain dump on paper. Get it all out there. Then look at each statement, and ask yourself if it is 100% true. If the boss said nothing about your work, do you have PROOF that it means he didn’t like it? Did he say that? Were you reprimanded in some way? Are there other possible realities that you’re not considering? Like, is he busy? Could he have a lot on his mind?
Every worry that you can’t back up as 100% true, cross it off. It doesn’t get time in your head. There’s enough going on in there without false statements.
2. Choose one thought that serves you well and make that your focus. It works the same way here as it does with my golf game. If I choose ONE of those millions of thoughts that consume me as I stand over the ball, one that serves me, I can succeed. When I stand there and choose a positive swing thought the ball does exactly what I’d envisioned it doing. Plus the stress goes away, and I’m able to focus.
When you’re dealing with a negative situation at work, look at all the thoughts that are consuming you. CHOOSE one that is positive and will serve you and focus all your energy on that thought. You can’t think of a positive and a negative at the same time. Be self-aware and focus on the positive.
3. Create a concrete anchor. This will serve to remind you to (and reward when) you refocus your thoughts. It could be adding a marble to a jar on your desk every time you refocus your thinking pattern. This is a great tool because your brain sees adding the marble as a reward. It’s the same as that little reward you get when your exercise ring closes on your IWatch. It helps you ‘feel’ the success.
While this anchor may seem unnecessary, it’s actually helping you reprogram your brain. When you worry or over think, your brain gets a rush, adrenalin. It’s not a good reward, but it is a reward. When you take control of the thoughts and reward yourself in another small way, you can break the cycle.
4. Don’t talk about your worries with your co-workers or friends. I know this sounds counter-intuitive. After all you’re looking for someone to tell you that you’re wrong. But remember, your friends like you. They want to console you. And in doing so, they provide validation.
We all do this. At least those of us who have over thinking tendencies. We tell as many people as we can about our dilemma. What we’re worried about. And every single time we say it, we give the thoughts more power.
5. Remember that worrying isn’t going to change it anyway. You can’t change a situation by overthinking it. You can’t change it by worrying.
Accept the fact that even if your worst fear becomes reality..you will survive. You’ve already survived a bunch of things, and you’ll continue to survive. You’ve got what it takes; so relax.
Implementing these five tips can help you keep your career on track. Allowing you to focus on the good things and stop letting the unknown take away your power.
Try it, and let me know how it goes!