All week you prepare for the opponent. From the time you dissect your last performance until the opening kick off, you’ve studied the team you’ll face. It starts in the film room. The last couple of games they play show where the strengths and weaknesses are and what areas of their team have momentum or could be exposed. Hours of film work before you ever take the practice field. Each rep in practice gives you a feel for the timing, not exact, but close enough to visualize. New plays are installed to take advantage of what the opponent is expected to give you. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
Game day. Time to put the plan into action. First play, completely different look. Might as well be a different team out there than the one you’ve been preparing for. In your mind, you’re trying to piece together a plan, any plan than what you have, because what you have isn’t working. There’s so much going on that you can’t think. You freeze. Bad decision.
Just like that you went from prepared to utterly lost in a game that you have been looking forward to for days, and preparing for all year. It happens, it’s football. And when it does, this is how you feel….
In the football world, you hear the saying often. Paralysis by analysis. In the most general sense of the term, overthinking leads to inaction. And usually, inaction leads to bad news on the gridiron, and in life for that matter!
Whether you’ve experienced this phenomenon in sports or not, I bet at some point in your life, you’ve felt it. “I know I need to make a decision about (this), but I just can’t.”
I’m guilty of this often. It’s one of the curses of being a deep thinker that tries to examine and predict, rather than go out and try. And honestly, the inability to make a decision has created problems in my own life. I wish I could say it was limited to a small quadrant of life decisions, but I’d be lying. Overthinking has been present ever since I left college and entered the “real” world.
Decisions about football, life, relationships, jobs, and long term goals have taken up more effort and time than necessary. I want things to come out so perfect. To make exactly the right decision and weigh every potential factor and make sure I’ve thought of every possible scenario so they’re no surprises. But, almost always, once the decision is made, I come to find out that it wasn’t nearly a big of deal in my head as I was making it.
If you’re like me, hopefully you at least can admit it. Because just like AA, admitting you have a problem is the first step to fixing it. Not going to lie, I’ve known about my problem for a long time. But I never made the decision to make a change. I kept relying on the old adages, “Everything happens for a reason” or “In due time things will come.” Blah, blah, blah.
Excuses. That’s what I had been practicing. Making excuses for why I can’t make a decision and simultaneously dwelling on the past. No more.
If you search for ways to avoid overthinking, you’ll find a never ending list of self help websites and blogs. Take each of the steps in all of those lists and your days would be constantly checking off list items instead of moving beyond over thinking.
I prefer short, sweet and direct. Amy Morin, a Forbes contributor, put together a list of 6 Steps to Stop Overthinking, and I think her suggestions are on the money.
- Notice When You’re Thinking Too Much
- “Awareness is the first step to ending over thinking.” Didn’t someone else suggest that? 😉
- Challenge Your Thoughts
- “Learn to recognize and replace thinking errors, before they work you up into a complete frenzy.”
- Be honest about negative thinking when it happens and don’t compound the situation. Remember, don’t let yourself make excuses!
- Keep The Focus On Active Problem Solving
- “Instead of asking why did this happen? Ask yourself what can I do about it?”
- Shit happens. It’s not what happens to you, but how you respond. What is the first step towards a solution? Do it.
- Schedule Time For Reflection
- “Incorporate 20 minutes of “thinking time” into your daily schedule.”
- As Amy points out, thinking about problems or decisions is ok. Planning, researching or even worrying about decisions is fine, within reason.
- Let your mind go during your thinking time, but when time’s up, move on and make a choice.
- Practice Mindfulness
- Be Here NOW! Live in the moment. You can’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow if you’re too busy living in the now.
- Change The Channel
- “Busying yourself with an activity is the best way to change the channel.”
- When I get stuck on a problem or thought, I find the best, most natural solutions come when I finally free my mind from it. The gym, a run, or even a good book can ease the stress of making the decision and let the answer come from within.
- Bonus Addition* – Don’t Ask City Council
- What I mean is, don’t ask every person you’ve ever talked to for advice. In reality, you’ll get a hundred different opinions from a hundred different people. None of which have the insights you have about your life to make a decision for you.
- Keep your circle small and elicit advise from those that you’re closest too and have your best interest in mind. They will give honest feedback that you can consider. The rest, just adds noise to the circus.
*If you’d like to read Amy’s full article click here.
Keep in mind that there’s no cure-all for our problems. Each of us are our own works in progress. Each day we can chose to grow or wither, there is no stay the same. Stay at it.