I’m an overthinker.
When trying to put a positive spin on my often unsavory personality trait, I tell my husband I’m only being ‘logical’ or ‘practical.’
I make lists, sometimes written down and other times detailed in lengthy discussion with Jeremy, about the pros and cons of a pending decision. But, there are unknowns to every issue, and sometimes those unknowns can keep me from making any decision at all.
Don’t get me wrong. My ‘process’ is rarely a frustration in day-to-day living. Jeremy and I will discuss all the various eatery options on our way to Waycross – including the most recent health scores for those establishments – and make a game of it before settling, yet again, on the restaurant we frequent most often. Yes, my decision-making process typically yields the same results.
But, indecisiveness is coupled with overthinking, and together, those traits can wreak havoc on folks, torturing them with regret over past decisions and rendering them incapable of making future decisions.
I’ve been there and it’s a crippling feeling.
I’ve often mused that spontaneity must be exhilarating and found myself feeling jealous of a friend who easily made a big decision and didn’t seem fearful at all. But, I’ve also thought how irresponsible they must be for taking that leap of faith too!
A true overthinker like me can be very conflicted, you see.
I’ve spent years frustrating myself, vacillating back and forth, weighing all the pros and cons and accomplishing little except for new gray hair sprouts and elevated blood pressure, but I have finally reached a point with some decisions where I don’t make a list and don’t discuss the issue to death. I’ve learned to take NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ advice instead: Go with your gut.
When we bought our first home Jeremy and I didn’t know for sure if it was the right time to take that step for our family. We certainly didn’t know all the responsibilities of homeownership. We still don’t, but the move seemed like a wise financial choice and so we signed the dotted line and leaped. And, it was just as exciting as I imagined it would be.
How did I finally push past my doubts and all the unknowns to be able to take such a leap? I realized overthinking is a learned behavior, and you can teach yourself how to overcome it.
At the crux of the matter, a true overthinker is motivated by fear – either fear of repeating a past mistake or fear of making any mistake at all.
I fell off my bike when I was 10 and broke my arm, but I didn’t quit riding the bike. As a novice driver, I rear ended a car in the rain, but I didn’t quit driving. I’m sure you can recall similar instances.
Those things did not cripple us and the next big decision to be made won’t either.
So take heart my overthinking friend in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
In my case, living a life free of regrets is that “something else,” and it’s worth shredding the pros and cons list from time to time.
• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.