I have been pondering about what is the best subject to start the 2016 posts (the most uplifting, the most funny and helpful, the most whatever) for a week now – actually, for a month. I started ten different texts, discarded them all, and started other ten. And repeated the process all over again. I was, in fact, on the verge of beginning a new text, when I suddenly remembered this one, and the topic on it seemed to be the perfect advice to myself: don’t think too much.
So I decided to post it. Read it and judge for yourself =)
I am an anxious person. As such, it is very easy and even automatic, in some level, to overthink. Each interaction that I have with another human being triggers instant visualizations of potential eternal friendships, deep relationships or great opportunities to live something new.
Maybe not all of it is overthinking. I am creative and love coming up with stories for everything. I guess that pretty much rules the way I pass the time inside my head. A simple song, for example, or something as elemental as a landscape, and I am already creating whole stories that I may or may not write about.
Whatever the motive for so many thoughts in my head at any point in time is, the result is that I hesitate more times than I care for. There are a gazillion opportunities that I lost because I thought about it too much. And there are another billion people that I avoided getting to know better because I was overthinking their words and actions and judging their character based on assumptions that I made.
I can’t even begin to explain how crazy that is. And the worst of it is that I realized this because of a strange sort of impulse: out of the blue I decided that I would reread some old conversations on social media. What I saw were people happy to have met me, asking me out or inviting me to parties or get-togethers, and I always declining the offers either because I didn’t know them enough or because I thought that I already knew too much and wasn’t interested in what I supposed they could offer me. How silly is that?
That’s why I set a new goal in my life: to avoid overthinking. I know that an action as instinctive and innate as that won’t go away from one day to the other, but I am patient and I know how to shape myself into what I want to be. So I created three baby steps to measure and control how I change myself and become someone who does not overthink all the time.
The first of these steps is to block all thinking about past deeds. Like if I send a message to someone that is not intimate to me; my natural reaction would be to start freaking out that maybe I crossed a line that I had no right to cross, or that I am annoying the person, or that I was inconvenient or, worse, rude. Now, when I realize I am freaking out, I block all of it and say to myself: “I have every right in the world to send a message to whomever I please. I am not responsible for what they will infer from my words. And whatever their reaction is, I am sure that I can deal with it.” The immediate effect: slower heart rate.
The second baby step is to nurture the effort to not judge and never assume. Let me give you an example, so you can understand what I mean: before, when I saw a handsome man, my first thought was: “he’s a heart-breaker.” I would avoid him because of that, and distrust him from the start. Now, when I realize I had this kind of thought, I backtrack and think to myself: “as every other person in the world, I bet he has an interesting story, and I am willing to hear it before forming an image of who he is.” Because of that technique, I got to know a whole bunch of new life stories that fascinated and inspired me.
And the third baby step is that, unless I already have plans, I won’t refuse any invitation. I started following that premise a month ago, in December, and what a change! I go out more often than ever before, and have fun every single time. Ok, not always. Sometimes I feel awkward or realize that I am not in a festive mood. But even when that happens, I am still glad I went out, because at least I won’t have to wonder what it would have been like if I had gone. Besides, I already know how it is to stay home, tucked safely in my bed, and what’s the point of it all if you just do what you already know how to do?
Please, don’t think this kind of change is instantaneous: that I woke up one day and was suddenly extra open to everything, following the baby steps with religious dedication. Like I said, they are baby steps. There are days when they work and days when they don’t. But I believe they are worth it, so I don’t give up on them, and don’t intend to in the future neither.
So my first advice for you this year is: Don’t assume. Don’t overthink. Don’t refuse invitations (unless it’s from a stranger in the middle of the night in a deserted place – then you should definitely refuse it). Trust your instincts.
Let people surprise you. Open yourself to opportunities to have fun. Go out. With family, with friends, with lovers, with yourself. Even if you are tired or think it won’t be that interesting; that’s exactly when you have to go. The night will almost surely blow your mind because you weren’t expecting much of it.
If my baby steps inspire you, all the better. I am not jealous, thanks God. You can use them too. You can even say to people they were your idea. As long as they work and make you happy, I’m satisfied.
Happy 2016 =)