The end of 2020 was a period of intense internal assessment and growth for me. I know the repercussions of that time will continue to flow through my entire life, as the knowledge I gained provides me with a foundation to build myself upon.
Through that time my ambitions around personal growth shifted significantly. I want to share some insight on my new outlook as I believe it can help others as well.
I am definitely in the ‘over-thinker’ category. I previously called myself a ‘thorough’, or ‘deep thinker’ so that it sounded less like an issue, but in recent months I have recognised it as a habit that doesn’t serve me.
On a daily level, the plains of my mind can be full of thought without detriment to my emotional state or activity. It will often present itself as a divide in my concentration as my mind wanders through considerations of myself, situations, or decisions while I carry out tasks.
But, when I am emotional charged, the plains of my mind become more than just full – they become turbulent.
This is where the challenge exists. If my mind is full when I am emotionally rested, the crowd of thoughts don’t disappear when I’m emotional drained and unable to handle them. Suddenly I’m throwing stones at myself with thoughts I’m incapable of dissolving.
I have found two strategies which I am currently implementing into my life that have aided me in better managing my mental space.
The first, and more well-known approach is: mindfulness.
I meditate in the mornings to practice mindfulness. Yet, I find that regardless of how mindful I am during my practice I am still better at managing my mental headspace during the day – both, overall and when triggers arise.
torrent of thoughts that occupy my mind. As I have recently come to appreciate, we are not really in control of our thoughts. Our thoughts occur just like our external environment, so I am learning to refrain from fuelling or fighting my thoughts.
The second approach has been inspired by my own self-awareness of my thinking patterns: accepting the ordinary.
In recent months I have become hyper-aware of the self-generated expectation I have of myself to perform (in my personal life and career). It is a significant trigger for my over-thinking, and often leaves me paralysed with indecision between what is the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ choice. It sends me on a thinking pattern where I expect myself to know where I want to be in not just twelve months, but ten years.
When you contemplate decisions at that duration it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.
And, when you’re contemplating what colour duvet cover you want, and are struck in a long-winded decision because you must find the ‘right’ one, that’s when you know that your over-thinking habits are hindering your life.
But it was my expectations that were the real antagonists.
The expectations I placed on myself to be ‘successful’ – which translated to making the ‘right’ decision in other areas of my life – stopped me from acting and surrendering to mistakes. This trigger demonised my tendency to ‘over-think’, all because I had to strive for more, be more, achieve more.
That’s when I realised (with the insight of some great books, mentioned at the end for your interest) that it was okay – even better – to accept the ordinary. Ordinary activities, like having an easy weekend watching a movie, reading a book, taking a walk with the dog, and ‘achieving’ nothing without doubting my worth or my ambition can also be an ‘achievement’.
The head space to accept that I still have value when I’m not working or progressing in my goals is a challenge I am rising to. But I have found the decision to accept the ordinary and not expect myself to have to be the ‘best’ or ‘first’ is the freedom I had been seeking by aiming for ‘more’.
In accepting the ordinary, I am finding more joy in simple daily experiences. I believe that is true success, because, in the scheme of life, the simple, repetitive daily or weekly activities we undergo are as truly remarkable as the feats of humans climbing mountains and winning gold medals. Probably because those end successes are a result of the small, daily mundane tasks that we carry out repetitively.
This joy has aided me in being more present, taking me away from the over-thinking that barricades me from experiencing life. Overall, I am a better person for it – both for myself, and for others.
Let me know in the comments whether you practice meditation, mindfulness or have any of your own strategies to manage your mental space. I’d love to learn of different approaches!
Two books that have aided me in my self-awareness are:
- The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, by Mark Manson.
I highly recommend both!