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Don't Overthink It

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

I stood there considering my options. I looked them all over carefully, reading about each one, holding each one. I circled back to where I started and began the process all over again. I thought about how I might feel about it when I got home, how Joe might feel. What if I made the wrong decision?

I am, of course, talking about the monumental choice of which Wallflower scent to purchase at Bath and Body Works.

If you're sitting there thinking ANNA. COME ON. Well ... you'd be right.

I am a classic and chronic overthinker. I overthink what I'm wearing, what I'm packing, what I'm writing in an email, what someone said to me six years ago, what I might say in a conversation before I say it.

For years I thought that was just my personality (if I even thought about it at all). But I recently read a book that gave me a new perspective on overthinking. That book is Don't Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel, commonly known as Modern Mrs. Darcy.

I forget when I first began reading Anne's blog -- I know it had everything to do with my love for Jane Austen -- but I have been doing so for a number of years. She recommends great books and creates helpful reading challenges like the one I'm participating in now. She's written two other books, and I was fortunate enough to join the book launch team for her newest book, Don't Overthink It (which means I got to read an advance copy -- yay!).

I knew this book was for me early in the first chapter when I read one of Anne's definitions of what overthinking looks like: "Sometimes it looks like worry. We might feel stuck reviewing something we've done in the past or imagining something that might happen in the future. ... We might lie awake at night wondering what our friends think of us or if a loved one seems tired of us or if our library fines are getting really and truly out of control." After reading this, I immediately wondered how it was possible for Anne to have looked inside my head! In this book, she offers a truly helpful perspective on overthinking plus concrete suggestions on how to stop doing it.

One suggestion I particularly like regards making sure your decisions reflect your values. She recommends putting this in practice in small decisions as well as large ones. Anne writes,

"Our lives should reflect who we are and what we care about. We may think we know what we value but find that those values don't actually influence our decisions."

At first I was like um, yes, my decisions do reflect my values, don't everyone's? But the more I thought about it, I began to question if I was really making value-driven decisions. For example, last Friday our church had its first Fish Fry of the Lenten season. Joe and I talked about going, thinking about Bert's bedtime, our eating out budget, and our desire to drive 30 minutes on a Friday evening. We decided to go. Come Friday, Joe came home from work early so we could leave for dinner early,  but even that afternoon we continued to debate whether or not we wanted to go to that dinner, going through all sorts of reasons as to why we might or might not like to go. We ultimately decided to go, but in retrospect, our decision could have been made quickly and easily if we had originally just said to ourselves, "We value our church, we love it there, and we value supporting church events, so we're going." Bam. Done.



My most favorite thing about Anne's book is she reinforces an idea I have been learning about over the past year from my therapist, Sharon: that our thoughts have a huge effect on how we live our lives, and we must "learn to tend our thoughts with care." This directly relates to  what is called "schema." Psychologically speaking, Schema is "an outlook or assumption that an individual has of the self, others, or the world that endures despite objective reality. For example, 'I am a damaged person' and 'Anyone I trust will eventually hurt me' are negative schemas that may result from negative experiences in early childhood." (Source.) Sharon is a big believer that schema is everything. For a lot of people, myself included, schema is negative, meaning thoughts that automatically come to mind in many situations are negative ones. These automatic negative thoughts (or ANTs as Sharon calls them) must be actively fought against. As Sharon says, your schema fights for survival and one must work hard (trust me, I know) to essentially retrain the brain. As I read the chapter in Anne's book devoted to this idea that our thoughts affect everything in our lives (Chapter 7 -- "Tend Your Garden"), I found myself nodding along so hard because I already knew this was true because of my own life, thanks to Sharon. I'm not even sure that Anne is aware just how spot-on she is, psychologically speaking, with her words on thoughts. I mean, read this:

"It's a mistake to give all your thoughts equal weight. Some thoughts do not deserve to be taken seriously, so don't dignify them with a response. That only serves to empower them, because the effort you use to combat the unwanted intrusive thought only serves to strengthen it."

Amen, Anne. Amen.


If, like Anne and me, you have found yourself losing sleep at night over a short email from a colleague or boss; stood in an aisle at Target for an inordinate amount of time trying to decide between two brands of granola bar; or put flowers in your cart at the grocery store, then put them back, then picked them up again all while debating their $5 price tag, then your life will be changed for the better by reading Don't Overthink It. I'm super excited because I get to meet Anne and have her sign my copy in less than two weeks!

 And, #buytheflowers



1 comment:

  1. This is great Anna (as I type and erase this line three times). I will have to get the book and read it. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete

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