Years ago in grad school, my counseling professor said to me, “Renee, stop thinking so much. Allow yourself the ability to react authentically in the moment. Trust your emotional response.” I had two reactions to that. First, this was graduate school; I thought I was suppose to be thinking! Secondly, I was studying to be a therapist; I thought I was already at trusting my emotions because I knew how to express my emotions. Apparently, nope.
Hello, my name is Renee and I am an overthinker.
I was listening to a For the Love podcast in the car recently and the guest was the Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr. He is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. Being non-Catholic and not a regular church-goer, I had never heard of him, but he said something that struck a chord with me. As he was discussing taking action in our lives, he said, “We don’t think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” That thought was a fun little puzzle to play with as I made my way through D.C. Beltway traffic. I know, I know…I was thinking about not overthinking. I’m learning and it is a process.
Over and over again, I could see both in my life and in the examples I have seen in others’ lives, times when we become frozen even in the face of something we are sure we want. Why? Because we fear taking the first step before we have plotted out the full course of where we are going. Not just plotting the main road of our journey, but down to the Cheese-Doodle to healthy granola ratio of the snacks we’ll need along the way. Stall much? Yes, we have to start with the end in mind, but we can’t get caught up in knowing needing to know about/prevent every pothole we will encounter.
How does this fit into the practice of resilience? I will share my own little story. I wanted to start honing my skills of gratitude and optimism. My worrisome squirrel brain sometimes has a hard time quieting itself to do that naturally, so I work on being grateful and optimistic. Almost before I could even begin, I stalled out. I got hung up on one thing: getting a gratitude journal. *Everyone* said it is imperative to have a gratitude journal. One of my many spiral bound notebooks wouldn’t cut it, clearly. I’d have to go purchase one. Should it be only for gratitude? Am I allowed to write other things in it? Maybe I could start journaling more often? What time of day would be best? Oooh…I kind of like this floral one, but maybe it looks too “precious.” Why are journals so expensive?? And suddenly, I wasn’t grateful AT ALL that I burned through half the morning on getting a damn journal. Guess what? I don’t use it.
Instead, I decided to simply start living the life of a grateful person. Right there in the moment without thinking too much about it I started living into new ways of thinking. I tell colleagues, friends, and family members I am grateful and appreciative of them and tell them specifically why. When something challenges me or frustrates me, I allow myself to be frustrated, of course, but I also ask, “what would a person of gratitude do in this moment?” When I notice something that pleases me, makes me smile, or teaches me a lesson, I say it out loud. I say it out loud when I am alone in my office and I say it out loud when I am in front of a room full of people. Saying something out loud is a powerful thing. For me, it works better than writing it in a journal that I keep in the back of a drawer.
The same can be said for any tool we use to build resilience: grit, collaboration, health. Start doing the thing. Start living a resilient life one wobbly step at a time and resilient thinking will follow. If you need help along the way (and you will), ask. That is part of being resilient, too.
We don’t think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.Fr. Richard Rohr