Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

LIFE TIP: Making Really Big Life Decisions - Don't Overthink Things

If you tallied all the decisions you have made, say, in the past few months, you'd probably have a list of thousands of decisions. Yet some decisions you make will be bigger than others, meaning that the decisions will have a longer-lasting impact than others.

For example, the decision to go back to school to get a particular degree will have a major impact on the rest of your life - and probably a positive one, too. If you make this decision, there will be moments when you feel like you're in over your head, too tired or too old to finish the degree, and so on. There will be bumps in the road.

When it comes to your big decisions, don't overthink them. Deep down, when you start to question whether you made the right decision and those awful, negative voices in your head tell you to just give up or go back to your old ways, remember the most important rule about making big decisions: you cannot overthink them. You have to trust yourself and the fact that, in your heart of hearts, you know what's best for you.

A lot of people believe that change is what we all have a hard time with, but it is actually the transition periods we dread. Once we have actually gotten through the transition and reached the point of change, we operate from the place of acceptance. And by the time we get to a place of acceptance for something we have been struggling with, we have a new identity.

Let me give you an example because the point isn't simple or easy to understand. When a smoker decides to quit smoking, she doesn't dread the time when she becomes a non-smoker; instead, she dreads the transition period during which she must stop smoking! She'll be just fine once the change has solidified, and she has crossed past the transition period to the other side where she doesn't see herself any longer as a smoker. At that point, she will have a new identity, that of someone who doesn't smoke.

If you are struggling with behavior you want to change, think more about the difference between transition periods and the period of actual change. Remember that transitions are the hardest periods of all, so talk out loud to yourself or write notes to yourself that offer support through the transition. I love using affirmations that I repeat out loud in a sort of meditation ("I'm giving up fast food because there is absolutely nothing good about it") or writing notes to myself that soothe me and keep anxiety in check ("Stressing out while stuck in traffic doesn't change a damn thing").

After doing a lot of reading on the subject of change and writing endlessly in my journal, I have realized that, for the past couple of years, I have been in a transition period of my own and have finally emerged from it to a place of solid change. That's the craziest part about change and transitions, I think: Sometimes we are unconscious of what exactly is happening with us; sometimes we can only see the present for what it is by looking at it in hindsight. (Actually, I guess I'm staying on message because the name of my blog for Psychology Today is "Insight is 20/20.")

Now, any good therapist will tell you that the more discipline you have about feeling your feelings, the more conscious you will be of whatever you're going through. Well, easier said than done, right?!

No comments: