I can’t count the number of times I find myself with thoughts so big that I get paralyzed. My thoughts are so great: the difference I want to make, the things I want to create…. The thoughts flood in and….. Zap! I soon feel anxious, overwhelmed, and somewhat empty inside.
There’s a sense of urgency about me that is not rooted in the desire to do something greater, but rather arises out of the fear that I’m not advancing fast enough, high enough.
I’m afraid things may not always be this good. I’m afraid I’ve fallen behind. And so, my constant doing, this busyness about me is not so much about reaching my desires, my dreams, or even out of a sense of obligation, but rather simply a reaction to my fear. This feeling that I am not in control of my future haunts me and makes me feel anxious, afraid, and empty. And that leaves me pondering the meaning of my life. That I stand here without The Answer leaves me in a tailspin, feeling out of control.
Note to self:
Slow down. Take a moment-by-moment view of things. Instead of constantly, focusing on the end goal, focus instead on the small steps that get you there. If you want to grow faster, slow down. Know that you are moving towards all that you want. So Smile and keep going – Breathe. You are making that difference; you are advancing; you are making a difference – and you will accomplish greater things simply by continuing to do what you’re doing, moment to moment. Small steps – small actions!
Never again will you submit your power to your fears! You will know that you are right where you are supposed to be. You are enough!
Great, Successful People say, “Dream big!” “Don’t think small!” “Be, limitless! “Go, go, go!” Naturally, it makes you believe you’re not doing enough. After all, you think, look at all they are doing! You wonder how it’s been so easy for them to get it all together. You wonder, how can I get to where they are…. Like now?
Remember that this rat race is false and destructive. Yes, they may have all that. But you must realize that they were not always where they are now. And even when these Big Shots share that they, too, had their struggles they’re perceived as being not so far away from where they were then, it’s easy to imagine that their struggle was extremely short-lived. Or maybe, they’re exaggerating their obstacles.
Of course, your subconscious brain tells you this to justify the fear that controls you, keeping you safe from change. But this too is false. You must recognize this destructive train of thought and knock it out – kill it – by identifying it as lies.
You learn that “dreaming big” and “thinking big” are two very different things. Let me elaborate.
When you dream big, you’re in the safe realm of imagination. Imagination does not allow for judgment. The imagery simply flows in a daydream.
When you switch gears from that unconscious daydream to the conscious thinking big you enter an analytical state that will push you back. Followed by an obstructing, resistant thought like “that will be too hard,” or “how can that work?” or perhaps, “that will cost far too much.” You thereby allow your thinking to be fear-driven.
What if you allow yourself to dream big, but think small? Is this possible? Let’s take a big idea you might have and see.
Maybe you want to open your own restaurant. You daydream about the flow, the people there, the smiles, the accolades, and the great reviews on how delicious your food is and how great your service flows. It all feels so warm and natural that it’s as if it’s already a reality. And then you snap out of “dreaming big” and enter the realm of “thinking big.”
Now, you start asking yourself questions: How will we get all the food there? How and where will we advertise? Where will we locate it? What about the tables? Colors? Chairs? Glasses? Licenses? Employees and insurance? Logo? And the list goes on and on, so long that it freezes you! This is why thinking too big hurts you. You need to think in small, piece-by-piece, action-by-action steps and slowly put things together.
When you think small, you’re thinking of the little actions, the small things that lead you to your dream. These are the things that lead us to the finish line. Too often, we are at the finish line before we’ve trained and then you’re overcome with the fear, Oh, shit! How the fuck did I get here when I haven’t even begun to train, practice, rest, repeat, and didn’t even show up to start the race? You can’t be at the finish line if you never were at the starting line; it just doesn’t work that way. Focusing on the finish line will only make you feel off, empty, frustrated, unworthy, less authentic, and as if you’ve missed something important – and you have.
So what if you started off thinking small? You decide I will visit two new restaurants this week. Next week, I will meet with a successful restaurant owner to learn about his/her journey. Perhaps you will start to host weekly dinners at your house and serve what you think are your best meals. What if you hired a chef for a week to prepare different meals for you, and you ask that chef how they source their best foods? Maybe you decide to take a class on the restaurant business, restaurant management, or cooking simply to take the class. These little pieces – action steps will not make you feel overwhelmed. They will make you feel and become more productive as you accomplish them.
Think of these as something small and enjoyable you are going to do. Decide to take some notes on things you want and things you don’t want in your restaurant, things you feel you must have, and begin to think about where you will obtain them. So, you see that thinking small entails completing an action and focusing your energies on just that action without thinking about the end dream because if you approach every action while thinking of the end result instead of completing that action for its own sake, to do it as well as you can, you will be left in a frazzled state of worry with so many questions that you will be incapable of action. What about this? What about that? There is always more that can be done, but you can’t do it all at once and if you think of all of it at once, you end up overwhelmed, paralyzed, frustrated, and unsuccessful because you’re thinking too big!
Beware of fake control as well. Overthinking is another version of thinking too big, which is fake control. Fake control feels a lot like fear and you know that when you’re busy in fear, you lack productivity. Again fear will freeze you. Thinking too big will freeze you. Overthinking will freeze you.
Imagine jumping off a building that’s only 2 stories high with a soft pad for you to land on. You can jump, but you will not get hurt. You stand on the street, looking up and daydreaming. You imagine that you will land with ease and with a big smile on your face. But once you are on the rooftop, you walk over to the edge and look down. Wow! This distance down looks far greater than when you were daydreaming on the street. You begin to overthink it. You think about your fear, how you could land on your stomach in pain. How uncomfortable it will feel to actually jump off the ledge. But if you were to think small, jog forward, and jump it would be over in seconds. If you just do it. At that moment, just think small. Think, “ready, go!” That is it, “Ready go!” And jump. That’s how you will successfully reach your goal. Once you start to overthink you become frozen.
What is freezing you up in your life? What are you overthinking? What is something you want, a goal you have that you are thinking way too big about? Chop it down into bit-size actions.
Here are some tips to avoid the overthinking pitfall:
- Write out small actions so you can cross them off on a piece of paper
- Set appointments, and dates, get specific on when you will approach those small actions, and give yourself wiggle room to adjust and improvise. Remember there is never the “right” right way or the wrong way. You will just find your way.
- Think about your small actions and make a list: must do within a week, must do within the month, must do within 3 months, must do within 6 months. This may help if you feel the need to lay out more than just a few small actions.
- Allow your daydream to be a joyful place for your mind to go, with no judgment, no voice telling you that you have way more to do.
- Enjoy the process of small actions. The end goal will come but then there will be another. Know this truth: Things are always evolving, and you are always evolving, give yourself time and space to do this in a joyful space.
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-Anna Marie Frank
Author of “Stop Bullying Yourself!”