Turning things around is not bad. But when we turn things around too many times, so many times that we get dizzy making a mess of ourselves, we have a problem. And it’s not exactly small.
Imagine that you need to get from point A to point B but instead of get going, you start to circle a tree that you find on your way. You go round and round… At first it may even be fun, but you won’t get anywhere.
The same thing happens with our thoughts. We go around and around them without looking for a way out that allows us to meet our goals. It happens to us when we want something, but we don’t dare to take the first step, when we know that a situation is hurting us, but we can’t get away from it, or when life doesn’t go according to our plans.
The problem of overthinking things
Our brain is programmed to go around things. Before taking a step, we need to think and measure the consequences. We imagine the possible scenarios, weigh the risks, assess the benefits and finally draw up a plan.
The problem is that we almost always end up deviating from that ideal mental scenario, especially when emotions come into play. So we end up thinking too much about things. We crush ourselves and generate anxiety. We repeat the same story in our mind. Again and again. To infinity. We make a thousand illusions about what could happen, and each one more catastrophic than the last.
And we do all this with the intention of finding solutions. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves, because in reality that procrastination doesn’t help us move forward, on the contrary, it keeps us paralyzed, generating more confusion. Going around things makes us specialists in complicating life.
And each of those laps consumes valuable cognitive resources. That incessant carousel of worries exhausts us physically and mentally. It generates frustration and makes us irritable. So in the end it will generate discomfort and lead us to make worse decisions.
Fear, the emotion behind procrastination
We can invent a thousand and one reasons to turn things around. But when the turns become a merry-go-round and generate more and more confusion instead of providing the long-awaited clarity, generally the reason that is at its base is fear.
Thinking about something without deciding to take action indicates a latent fear that we do not want to acknowledge. When we think too much about a project, for example, it usually means that we are afraid of failure. We are afraid of making mistakes and failing. It may also be because we are afraid of losing hopen, because as long as a project remains in the sphere of plans to be carried out, we can take refuge in that dream, without risking bursting the bubble.
In other cases, this tendency to turn things around contains a fear of uncertainty. All plans, even the most exciting and positive ones, carry some degree of uncertainty. If we feel that many variables are beyond our control and the path is not clear or we doubt the results, it is likely that we prefer to turn around to avoid launching ourselves into the unknown.
In fact, many times all those fears are juxtaposed to create a paralyzing fear. In these cases, thinking about things too much, with the excuse of having more clarity, waiting for the conditions to be more propitious or being able to better control the results is usually a rationalization mechanism for not recognizing that it is fear that is dictating our behavior.
How to stop turning around things?
Stop thinking about things is a decision that is made consciously. When you stop that whirlwind of worries that clutter your mind, you can shed a little light on what is happening to you. Then you will be able to identify the fear that is paralyzing you.
Instead of denying that fear, which is what you do with procrastination, you must accept its existence. In fact, fear is not a negative emotion, it is just warning you to be careful or slow down. The goal is not to eliminate fear but to reduce it to an acceptable level that allows you to stop dwelling on things and continue to progress on your path.
After all, in life the normal thing is to move in some direction. Or you decide to go for it because you are confident that you can achieve it, even though you still have doubts and fears. Either you decide to let go of the idea because it does not fully convince you, you are not ready to take that step or it is not the right time. In one case or another, the important thing is that you get out of that phase of stagnation in which you have plunged yourself by incessantly thinking about something.
Feysi, R. & Ferrari, J. R. (2022) Exploring 40 years on affective correlates to procrastination: a literature review of situational and dispositional types. Current Psychology; 41: 1097–1111.
Schouwenburg, H. C. et. Al (1992) Procrastinators and fear of failure: an exploration of reasons for procrastination. European Journal of Personality; 6(3): 10.1002.