Overthinking Things

I was a terrible test taker during my undergraduate days.  It’s not that I didn’t study and prepare enough, because I definitely did that. By the time I was ready to take my test, I knew the material inside and out.  Yet the same pattern repeated over and over; if the test was multiple-choice, I ended up spending way too much time on each question.  After much analysis, I would be able to make a case for choice a, b, c and d all being the valid answers to the question.


I guess you could say that I was a deep thinker.  To put it another way, I was guilty of overthinking on a pretty consistent basis.  This enabled me to receive B’s and C’s on my tests when I really should have aced the exams.  I grasped all the concepts, but I just had a way of making the tests much more complicated than they had to be.


Many years later, I went back to receive my Masters in Social Work.  I was a bit worried about my Social Work Exam looming over my head since I had Post Traumatic Stress from test taking many years before. The test had a reputation for being extremely difficult and I didn’t know anyone that was able to get above a 75%. For two months I studied and studied, determined to pass the test.  I knew the material inside and out. This time, it was going to be different. I had a strategy— I was not going to overthink the test. I was going to go with the first answer that popped in my head and then quickly move on.  I repeated this to myself like a mantra as they read the instructions to us the day of the test. You see, my habits were quite ingrained and I knew that my only shot at passing was to intensely focus on this objective.


I whizzed through two hundred questions and didn’t go back to check my answers. I knew if I analyzed, it would be the kiss of death.  I was the first one to finish the test and leave.  When I stood up, everyone in the room shot me a look of terror.  They couldn’t believe I was done! I heard later that the next person left an hour after me. Of course, true to my overthinking, I spent the whole way home in the car thinking I most certainly didn’t pass the test.


If you’re wondering how it all turned out, I ended up getting the same passing grade as my friends that were there an hour after me.  My strategy worked and taught me a valuable lesson.


Women excel in the area of overthinking.  At some point, you’ve probably made a problem or situation in your life much more complicated than it truly had to be.  Your mind may work overtime, weighing options and searching for the absolute perfect answer.  You can even reach a point where you have “analysis paralysis”— overanalyzing a situation or decision to the point that no action is even taken.  It’s professional consensus that it’s healthy to take time to have a better understanding of self. However, there’s a fine line between attaining more self-knowledge and moving into rumination or thinking in circles.


Who doesn’t remember having deep conversations with your girlfriend about why the guy you were crazy about wasn’t calling you back?  I remember going on forever, analyzing the situation. Yet, looking back, the answer really didn’t need to be so complicated.  If he were really that interested, he would have called you back…end of story.


Overthinking takes a lot of energy. It can be exhausting, frustrating, and a pretty poor use of your valuable time. So maybe it’s time to find a different hobby— one that yields better outcomes. Keep things simple and give the overthinking a rest.

Cultivating Creativity

I’ve worked with women in the past that are quite insistent that they don’t have a creative bone in their body. When I hear this nonsense, it becomes my mission in the coaching process to help them uncover their creativity.  The truth is that every woman is creative-she just hasn’t uncovered her creative gifts yet.  Often, these women have a very narrow definition of  “being creative”.  They view creativity as being expressed through art, when actually your creative sense can be expressed in numerous ways.


Even highly creative individuals hit a dry spell now and then. Just ask me. Lately, the process of writing my weekly blog had become tougher and tougher. Developing new ideas and being able to focus on my work became extremely difficult.  I would literally sit at my computer waiting for an epiphany— the more I wanted this to happen, the less inspired I became. After much thought, I realized that there were changes that I needed to make to get my “creative juices flowing” again.  So here are a few tips to either uncover your creative genius or get your creative “mojo” back!


Give yourself permission to slow down.  Is focusing on one thing at a time a foreign concept to you?  Is your schedule packed and do you run from one place to the next? Repeat after me: creativity is never going to thrive in a frenzied lifestyle. You need to slow down and give yourself some space to relax.  Do you know what mindfulness is? It’s the ability to be completely in touch with the present.  It’s the skill of accepting the thoughts that pass through your brain in a nonjudgmental way. Don’t analyze, don’t evaluate, just let the thoughts stream through your consciousness. When you can slow down and focus your attention on your thoughts, feelings and emotions, you are more inclined to have a creative sense.


Find what environment is conducive to your creativity.  We all have places that work better than others for our creativity.  Some women like to be with talking with their girlfriends.  Others feel creative when they are relaxed and having a cup of coffee in Starbucks.  I have found that some of my best ideas have arrived when I’m surrounded by nature.  I wrote 50% of my book, 31 Days to Finding Your Inner Sass”, sitting outside on my chaise lounge.  There is something about being outside, feeling the light breeze, and hearing the bird’s chatter that stimulates my creativity.  I know this works for me so it’s my “go to place” when I’m feeling stuck.  Try out different venues and see which ones spark your creativity.


Get your body moving to find your creativity. Now, you’re probably thinking this is just crazy. How is that supposed to help? But here’s the deal— when you’re exercising, your brain is busy wandering from thought to thought.  This is exactly when the best ideas happen. Also, exercising helps control your stress and anxiety, which are toxic to any creative thinking. On top of that, exercise improves your brain activity, which can only help your creativity. I can honestly say I’ve developed many ideas for blogs and projects on the elliptical in the gym. It certainly works for me.


Get outside your comfort zone.  Routine and monotony breed unimaginative thinking.  How to break out of your rut?  Change up the routines in your life and do something out of the ordinary, even if it’s something simple like going a different way to work. Try a new class, take up a new sport or go on an adventure.  Just be sure to do something that challenges you and puts you outside your comfort zone.


If the creativity has been missing from your life lately, give thought to some of the tips I have mentioned. I firmly believe that you are truly capable of being a highly creative genius.