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Get out of overwhelm and survival mode and make a bigger positive impact on those around you. You can thrive as a relevant, sharp influence on your world, personally and professionally. Here’s how.

Get out of overwhelm and survival mode and make a bigger positive impact on those around you. You can thrive as a relevant, sharp influence on your world, personally and professionally.  Here’s how.

Are you overwhelmed, exhausted, in survival mode, and trying to keep everyone happy?  Would you rather have a measured lifestyle that positively impacts your work, family, community, and friends?

You can develop a lifestyle that moves beyond overwhelm and survival mode to life with a reasonable pace, healthy rhythms, and a more positive impact.  But, this does not happen haphazardly. Making reasoned decisions about commitments, priorities, and boundaries takes intentional, deliberate effort.

Here’s a foundational principle that will help.

Think before, during, and after action.

Your first response to my offer of this principle may be, “Thank you, Captain Obvious! That’s just common sense!” and stop reading.  Please, don’t stop yet!

A coaching client once said to me, “Why do I pay you to help me do things that are common sense?”  My response included “Common sense is very uncommon” (Horace Greeley) and “Common sense is not commonly used.”

If you are overwhelmed and in survival mode and want a different lifestyle – reasonable pace, healthy rhythms, and positive impact – and you believe my principle is obvious and common sense, then you have illustrated the truth that “common sense is uncommonly used.”  You are not doing what you already know makes sense.

Some things that can get in the way of your taking time to think.

  • You have over scheduled your activities and didn’t schedule a regular time to stop and think. If it’s not on your calendar or to-do list, it won’t happen.
  • Your critical thinking ability is greatly diminished because you are overwhelmed and in survival mode. You are reacting instead of reasoning.
  • You see time spent acting as more acceptable than time spent thinking. This can lead to jumping into action before adequate thought is given.
  • You are overwhelmed by information, stuck in your head, and drowning in your thoughts.
  • Thinking is hard work. It consumes more energy than any other activity.
  • Your critical thinking skills need sharpening.

A few things you can do that will help:

  • Manage your stress using excellent self-care practices and some mindfulness work. If you are more relaxed, you’ll have a better capacity for rational thought.
  • Slow it down.
    • Do only what you must do as described in your personal mission. Set your priorities and boundaries accordingly.
    • Make timely decisions but avoid rushing or acting impulsively.
  • Schedule a regular time to still yourself and think critically about your thoughts and actions. This works well if scheduled alongside calendar planning.
    • Plan future actions to align with your mission and priorities.
    • While in action, think about what you are doing, how you are doing it, and how you can improve your performance or behavior “on the fly.”
    • After you act, think about what you did, what you would do differently next time, and how you will act on this new awareness.
  • Write out your thoughts in bulleted lists. Since working memory is limited, making lists serves as extra storage. This can help you sort thoughts and frees up brain space so more thinking can happen.
  • Give time for thoughts to develop. Think about the issue(s) for a while, then lay it aside and return to it later.  You’ll likely see things differently and perhaps more clearly as time passes.
  • Think out loud with another person. Set some rules first.  It would be best to have them listen, reflect back to you what they heard you say, and ask questions for clarification only.  Their role is to help you hear what you have said and help you reflect on your thinking, not give advice.
  • Sharpen your critical thinking skills and learn to “think about your thinking” by working with a coach or taking a course.

If you adopt these practices, you can develop a lifestyle of reasonable pace, healthy rhythms, and positive impact. You can also avoid making the same mistake twice or making many mistakes at all.

What holds you back from taking time to think?

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