June 18, 2018 – Guarantee Failure: Overthink It – Grow Great Daily Brief

June 18, 2018 – Guarantee Failure: Overthink It – Grow Great Daily Brief

June 18, 2018 – Guarantee Failure: Overthink It – Grow Great Daily Brief

I’ve learned quite a lot since I became a grandfather. If you want to learn some valuable things, pay close attention to the little kids in your life. 

They’re learning everything. Lots of firsts. No experience. 

It’s interesting to see how their personalities impact their actions. You can watch them approach something they’ve never done before and figure out what you’re doing to foil your own success. Well, you can do that if you’re not so quick to judge them. And their hesitations. 

Some of us are prone to not give things much thought. Others of us are prone to think too much perhaps about things. But it’s not a binary thing where people always avoid overthinking or where others always overthink it. Some things are attempted without hesitation while others things cause almost paralyzing hesitation. Because some things are more fearful than other things. Some things make more sense than other things. It’s this ever-sliding gray scale of emotions that we all have to figure out. And manage. Somehow. 

I’ve got five grandkids. Among them are two brothers, Easton and Cason. Easton is the oldest, 5. Cason is the younger, turning 3 in July. It’s summertime so swimming is a big activity. They spend quite a lot of time in our pool every summer. Clearly, Easton is the more experienced having spent twice as many summers than his younger brother. But compared to his younger brother, Easton is more fearful of the water. He learned to swim a few summers ago. Took lessons and learned all the proper ways to protect himself, like relaxing and flipping over to float on his back. Around water, he’s timid. Almost never relaxed. There’s nothing in his experience to create this. It’s hardwired. It’s just who he is. 

Cason has had 4 swimming sessions. FOUR. Ten minutes each. Just a week ago. This past weekend – Father’s Day 2018 – Cason was jumping in even though he clearly doesn’t quite yet know what he’s doing. We’re watching him (and all the kids) like a flock of hawks! We almost have 1 adult per child keeping a watchful eye on this beggars. This weekend we remarked that we wish Cason had a bit more fear, but he doesn’t. He just goes for it. 100% of the time. 

Meanwhile, older brother (over twice his age) will often stand near the pool debating on whether to even get in. No amount of coaxing, cajoling or persuading seems to matter. He’ll get in when he’s ready, but if you wait for him to get ready – you’ll be sunburned. You can see him overthinking it 8 ways to Sunday. Internally he’s talking himself out of it instead of looking to see all the other kids have fun. Even his success – he knows how to swim – doesn’t seem to affect a quick repeat performance. Sure, some days he’ll get on a roll and be fine, but we’re all guaranteed to experience him halt and hesitate pretty regularly. We’re hoping this summer will be his breakout performance, but we also know it’s up to him. He could have broken through at least 2 summers ago. Two whole summers!

Yesterday, we had a combo-celebration – my wife’s birthday and Father’s Day. All the grandkids were over. The pool was a tidal wave of frolicking. Easton was doing his usual thing and I was watching him carefully, as I always do. That fear is real. We know it’s in his head, but we also know whatever he’s imaging is his reality. He’s physically, mentally and emotionally afraid. It’s guaranteeing his failure to relax and enjoy what he already knows to do. He’s missing out. And he’s the only person who can change it. 

Easy to see when we’re watching a 5-year-old. Way more difficult when we’re looking at ourselves. 

It’s Monday. A new week. 

You’re afraid of something. It’s highly possible you’re overthinking it. Like Easton, you’re thinking about it too much. It’s WHAT you’re thinking that’s killing you. 

I hate the simplification of overthinking because it implies that thinking about something is hazardous or detrimental. Thinking should be prized. I’m using overthinking the way we generally use it, to mean we magnify our fears. We dwell on them. We let them dictate our behavior rather than getting past them. It’s less about overcoming our fear as it is doing what we fear anyway. Overcoming fear is a process. It may take Easton many attempts before he finally conquers whatever fears he’s got about swimming. 

This week – and every week – if you want to guarantee your failure at something, then embrace dwelling on your fears. But there’s a problem. Easton’s fear is easy to see. That is, we can see what he’s afraid of. We may not understand what he’s afraid of, but the fact that simply getting into the pool is fearful displays his fears. Our fears aren’t so clear-cut. As adults we can be good at masking our fears, making them see like something else. 

We need more information. 

We need to let things play out a bit more.

Today isn’t a good time. 

We can come up with reasons that sound good, but until we face the reality that we’re overthinking because we’re dwelling on our fears of what can go wrong. 

I’ve tried reasoning with Easton. Just yesterday, I’m in the water, attempting to get him to swim to me – about 15 feet away. He says I’m too far away. I ask him if he’s ever seen anybody hurt at our pool. Nope. Has he ever seen all of us (the adults in his life), let anything bad happen to any of the kids? Nope. Can you tell me what you’re afraid of? Nope. 😉 

It just is what it is. 

I’m learning that our fears aren’t always based on anything other than how we feel at that moment. But I’m also learning that focusing on those fears just amplifies them. Over a year ago, author Mel Robbins released her book, The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage

Back in 2014 he released this video presentation on her 5-second rule. But go back to 2011 and you’ll be able to watch her TED Talk which currently has over 14 million views. That talk was entitled, “How to stop screwing yourself over.” She was the 1st person I heard mention the scientific research that revealed the odds of you being born – the when of your birth, the to whom you were born – at 1 to 400 TRILLION. The fact that you’re YOU is remarkable. Why let your fears rule you, or sabotage this one thing you’d like to do, you need to do.

Mel talks about why we put things off. It’s kinda sorta the same thing as overthinking, but maybe not entirely. I point to her because the single message she preaches is that you’re never going to feel like it. So you do it anyway! 

Easton isn’t going to drown. We’re not going to let that happen. He’s a kid. We’re watching out for him.

You’re an adult. You feel nobody is watching out for you. Maybe not. And that’s stopping you? 

Nothing horrible is going to happen. And even if it does, you’ll able to recover. 

So be afraid. Just stop halting. Hesitating. Do it anyway. Force it. At first. Then force it again. And again. Over time, it’s like lifting weights. It gets easier to lift the same weight the more you do it. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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Grow Great a public sector leadership podcastAbout the hosts: Randy Cantrell brings over 4 decades of experience as a business leader and organization builder. Lisa Norris brings almost 3 decades of experience in HR and all things "people." Their shared passion for leadership and developing high-performing cultures provoked them to focus the Grow Great podcast on city government leadership.

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