What Can Go Right?
Many current societies raise their young to plan ahead and prepare for whatever problem or obstacle is to come.
Many current societies raise their young to plan ahead and prepare for whatever problem or obstacle is to come. As a result, many people spend quite a lot of their hours submerged in a yet uncreated future, devising ways to respond to non-existing threats. All those hours consume a lot of energy and resources and result in plans that very rarely apply, as reality has the strange habit of turning into quite the unexpected.
As children, our parents do everything they can to teach us to plan and prepare for the future. They try to convince us that not doing it will unavoidably result in great chaos and dire need. Not planning for what is to come is considered pure thoughtlessness. We then go to school and our educational systems focus on the same principles all over again. By the time we leave school, most of us are constantly worried and, as a result, terribly stressed.
How useful is this approach, though? How many real situations have we been able to handle better by spending uncountable hours planning and devising? Not that many, let me say.
Overthinking can be as negative as not thinking enough.
We plan, yes, but then something completely unexpected happens and our carefully scheduled solution becomes useless. We worry and try and foresee all posible complications in a given situation to later discover that things sorted out themselves or took a surprising turn that we hadn't contemplated. All those wasted hours!
Furthermore, as we muse and ponder, stress and frustration grow in us. We can never be certain that the line of thought we're following is the right one because we're still not in the future that so much consumes us, so it can't be tested. We therefore look for more possibilities, just in case. That constant search feeds on our energy and drains us, leaving us feeling exhausted. Overthinking can be as negative as not thinking enough.
Overthinking can be so negative!
Today I'd like to propose a different approach to you. What about setting a fixed amount of time aside for worrying and plotting? By devoting a LIMITED amount of time to trying to find a solution to the problem or to planning whatever needs to be planned, we usually manage to focus completely on the issue at hand. We know we won't have the whole day so we usually spend those minutes more wisely on really doing what needs to be done. Once the time is over, we need to stop worrying. Why? Because worrying for longer doesn't necessarily result in finding better solutions. If no solution was found in the time allotted, very seldom is a better one found just by stretching that period of time for ever.
So, what do we do?
The idea is then to let the subject drop from our minds and then devote the same amount of time to thinking about what can actually go right. Why? There are many reasons. Let's see...
- We feel more motivated, hopeful and happier, which results in our brains releasing feel-good chemicals like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.
- We disconnect from stress-causing thoughts, which stops our brains from releasing an excess of worry-chemicals like adrenaline or cortisol. This prevents stress.
- We sometimes find unexpected solutions to the problem at hand because we open our minds to new possibilities and relax and give ourselves a chance to breathe.
- We end up creating a constructive habit that makes the planning and worrying processes more pleasant and hopeful, as getting to the "what can go right?" phase is right around the corner.
- The process might even spark some smiles in you and who doesn't like to smile?
If the problem persists or more planning is needed, we can start again by establishing some more "what can go wrong?" time followed by some more "what can go right?" time later. Alternating and using both gives you the best of both efforts.
Next time you find yourself worrying too much or spending too long planning your future, give yourself a break and start thinking about what can actually go right. You will be surprised by the results.
Enjoy life... ALL of it,
Jessica J. Lockhart - humanologist
© 2018 Jessica J Lockhart