How to stop overthinking

When it comes to thinking, less is more.

In the early years of life, our thoughts are simple and focused on the present:

  • “I’m hungry.” 
  • “I’m sleepy.” 
  • “Give me that iPad.”

The average adult, however, has 50,000+ thoughts a day.

A good 95% of these thoughts are redundant, the same ones they had the day before.

And many of them revolve around anxiety and worry.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are more like children: They minimize unnecessary thinking.

🧠 “Ouch, that’s hot, I won’t touch that again,” thinks the five-year-old.

🧠 “This client is asking lots of questions. I’ll find out what their real concern is,” thinks the emotionally intelligent leader.

This is functional thinking – intentional and proactive.

🚫 “Ouch, that’s hot, why do I keep touching that? I did that last week too, what’s wrong with me?” thinks the adult

🚫 “This client is asking too many questions, what did we do wrong, I can’t afford to lose them,” thinks the ego-driven leader.

This is emotional thinking – automatic and reactive.

You can’t control or repress your thoughts, but you can manage them.

How?

By getting them out of your head:

  1. Schedule a time to worry, e.g. 3:00 pm.
  2. Make a list: “Things I’m Worried About.”
  3. For each item on the list, ask: Is there something I can do?

If not, tell yourself: “We’re not going to think about this right now.”

If there is: come up with one micro-action you could take.

Do this every day, and watch your thinking change. 

p.s. Optimizing your thinking is a major focus of my Evolving Faster leadership program. If you’re ready to level up as a leader, see if the program’s a good fit here.

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