Overthinking: Surprisingly helpful advice from an internet meme

Lauree Ostrofsky on real-life monsters

This post is part of our Stuck Together series, where guest writers explore the ways we all get stuck each and every day. 

I’m a chronic overthinker. So much so that the thrill of the new year and new beginnings can quickly turn into searching for the right choice and worrying about getting it all wrong (classic Waffler).

Leave it to Facebook for a funny-but-true sign I’m not alone. When I saw this the other day, I thought, “Yep. Pretty much.”

It helps to laugh at yourself, right? This meme provides surprisingly helpful advice on how we overthinkers can start getting out of our own way.

Three quick ways to stop overthinking

  1. Look around. When feeling stuck, we can miss the obvious — sometimes really obvious — answer right in front of us. If the boy in this meme (or, as I like to think of him, the Spirit Animal of Overthinkers) had just looked down, he probably would have stood up on his own. Applying that lesson in real life can mean admitting that the answer may be right in front of us; we just need to give up the search. Consider the easiest, most obvious solution and start there.
  2. Test a theory. The little boy could have held onto the rope while reaching for the bottom of the pool with his toes. If the water had been too deep, the rope would have kept him safe. It’s possible to test out theories without losing everything. What it takes is the belief that you can choose again, and again if something doesn’t work. This meme inspired me to post a reminder on the bulletin board by my desk: “Try Something.”
  3. Find a friend. I laughed when the boy’s feet had to be physically placed on the bottom of the pool in order for him to finally get that he was OK. Sometimes I need the answer to be that obvious, and I need a friend to help me see it. Who do you trust to lovingly put your feet on the ground? You’re gonna need them as you go after big goals this year. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Speaking of, I need your help! What breaks your cycle of overthinking and waffling? Email me at lauree@unstuck.com. The best suggestions may be featured in next month’s column!

Lauree Ostrofsky helps people love their lives, work, and each other more every day. She is chief hugger and coach, and the author of “SIMPLY LEAP: Seven Lessons on Facing Fear and Enjoying the Crap out of Your Life.” Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @SimplyLeap.

More Unstuck Advice

Escape from overwhelm Work. Life. The news. It can all seem too much sometimes. And let's face it, the overthinking fatigue brought on by being a Waffler can make matters ...
Say no in the best possible way Do you say yes when you mean to say no? Maybe you don’t want to hurt people's feelings. You’re afraid no one else will do it (or as well as you wil...
What to do when you wake up in the middle of the night Little kids aren’t the only ones suffering from nightmares. I wonder sometimes if it’s scarier as an adult, because the things keeping me awake at 3 a...