Do you find yourself agonising over decisions? Spending weeks deliberating over which paint to use in your hallway, what colour gravel to put on the drive, whether to move to the country, or how to start that healthy cake baking business alongside everything else you already have on your plate?
You know you want to Do The Thing. But then in jumps the part of your brain that wants to keep you safe, small and comfortable (note, comfortable does not always mean nice or easy.) It tells you that you don't know enough to Do The Thing. You tell it to stop overthinking it and just do it. But then... you start to waiver.
You begin to spiral. Before you know it you've gone from wondering if you should leave your job to imagining that you've not only left your job, you've also been fired from the one you left to do, you've become financially destitute, your family and friends have been completely let down by you and you'll never be employed again.
WHOA THERE BETTY. This is starting to feel like an episode of Grey's Anatomy. You know the ones I mean. In the space of 20 minutes someone has gone from having a slightly numb foot to full on head-to-toe paralysis and needing an emergency operation by Dr McDreamy. It's a catastrophe.
Let's take a moment to check in on reality. Much like in Grey's, the ending is rarely as terrible as we think it's going to be.
So what makes us go on this mad adventure into worst-case scenario land, when we know rationally it's unlikely to end up that way? Why do we forget that we know ourselves? That we have a multitude of strengths and experiences that will keep us off the path of rack and ruin?
What makes us spin off into the far future, think the worst of ourselves and put off making the decision?
One word. Fear. You get scared of not knowing what is out there waiting. What might or might not happen. What will happen if you fail. What will happen if you succeed. There's a whole lot of fear in the unknown and it can trap you. Your brain presents you with a scenario that is so terrible and awful that it makes you think, nope, no thanks. I'll stay right here where it's safe.
In her book 'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway', Susan Jeffers says;
“IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD HANDLE ANYTHING THAT CAME YOUR WAY, WHAT WOULD YOU POSSIBLY HAVE TO FEAR? The answer is: NOTHING!”
So how do you go from not believing you could deal with whatever is thrown at you, to knowing that you could. And from there, taking the next step to actually doing the thing?
Here's a technique that can help you to take control of those thoughts. Give yourself some space to do this thinking as an exercise, rather than letting your imagination run riot while you are doing the washing up.
Set a timer for 20 minutes.
Think of the worst case scenario of making this change. Or scenarios if you are really up for some disaster movie style thinking.
Then ask yourself - and then what would I do? And then ask yourself again for every roadblock you come up against.
Instead of just thinking about the terrible outcomes, begin to have a conversation with yourself about what you'd do if that did happen. How would you handle it? Chances are, you won't have to, but it helps to prepare your mind to think about what if.
And then, when the 20 minutes are up? Close the door on that thought process. Remember, it is up to you which thoughts you let in and which stay on the outside.
So how does this help you to actually make the decision?
If you know you can handle anything, you have nothing to fear. If you have nothing to fear, you are braver and more confident. You will be able to make the decision from a place of calm and in a shorter amount of time.
Catastrophising, thinking about the worst-case scenario and spiralling aren't going away completely. You need a bit of the fear to work out if the risk is worth taking.
But if you can notice the thoughts and catch them before they sabotage you, you'll find that you'll be ready to make that big decisions with ease.
Let me know how you get on with your controlled catastrophising!
Side note; I've just started Grey's Anatomy. From episode 1, 2005! I've definitely not overthought this decision, as imagining myself watching all 356 episodes is somewhat daunting. So I'm living in the moment... no spoilers please!