In times of change, difficulties are bound to arise. Psychologically and emotionally there are then three main reasons why we can sometimes find it difficult to decide how move forward. The first of these is called overthinking.
Overthinking is paralysis caused by too much analysis: endless flipping back and forth between the alternatives, wondering which one is best, but never actually doing any of them.
The classic example of this comes from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. In that play it is clear early on that Hamlet’s uncle has killed his father and married his mother. But instead of taking action, Hamlet overthinks what to do: “Is it nobler,” he wonders, “to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?” If he did take action would he succeed? Or would he fail and his death become an endless time “to sleep, perchance to dream”?
As he dithers over whether “to be or not to be,” events move on around him until suddenly, oops!: “I am dead, Horatio.”
A wasted opportunity.
We all recognise this, which is why we love the play. But the living death that Hamlet achieves by not taking action is worse than the actual death he eventually suffers anyway. By choosing to dither, he accomplishes nothing and the play is a tragedy in the truest sense.
In times of change, all ways forward will be difficult and the outcomes will be unpredictable. So our priority becomes not to predict what is going to happen (which is now impossible anyway) but to find out what is most important to us, most inspiring to us, and then to do our best to make that happen. Our priority becomes less “To be or not to be” and more about whether we attempt “to become or not to become.”
The solution to overthinking, then, is to get clear on what we most want to become, and then choose our best way forward to achieve that.
If Hamlet had known the tools of Inner Leadership he could have centred and grounded himself, understood his situation more clearly, identified more opportunities for moving forward, and then chosen the one that was best for him.
We would have lost a famous play but Hamlet would have gained a more life-filled ending.
Adapted from Inner Leadership. Buy the book