The Key to Stop Overthinking

Autopilot On

Have you ever found yourself needing to stop overthinking but struggling to get clarity? You know you need to make a decision and start taking action, but which way to go?

Our emotions act like the autopilot on a plane and yet when we are feeling anxious or stressed we can often feel a need to take control manually.

While this might feel like what's needed, it can also lead to overthinking and the endless what-ifs, circular thoughts, muddled logic and brain fog, which can all conspire to hamper clarity and decision making. As the time pressure and anxiety intensifies, how can we break the pattern and stop overthinking?

In my early career my ability to perform well was severely hampered by anxiety. In order to cope, I learnt to suppress my anxieties and fears and push through them.

That doesn't mean those anxieties and fears weren't there - it's just that I wasn't consciously aware of them. They still affected my decisions at a deeper level and how I reacted moment by moment, even to the point that under certain challenging circumstances I would physically shake with adrenaline, but have no idea why.

We all suppress emotions to a greater or lesser extent. In my case it was enough to impair my ability to rely on the intuitive guidance our emotions provide, which resulted in guess what?...

I couldn't stop overthinking.

That's not a recipe to perform well.

The result was that I had to work long hours to get the job done. It was like wading through treacle.

To perform well, we should have a full range of emotions. Just like the autopilot on a plane, our emotions guide us by doing all of the complex decision making under the covers. We only see the simple adjustments to the throttle, pedals and other controls that keep the plane on course.

From time to time the autopilot signals to the pilot for input. If the pilot isn't aware of the signal and the type of input required, the autopilot isn't going to function well. How can the pilot then trust the autopilot to do its job?

If the pilot can't trust the autopilot, he's going to have to do a lot of checking and run what-if scenarios to check the plane isn't going off course. There's going to be a lot of manual calculations. In high stakes situations that might be too many to cope. And that just leads to more stress, anxiety and often irrational fears.

The major problem with overthinking for executives and athletes is that productivity slows, presentations stumble, negotiations fail, interviews go off track, management meetings lack clarity, relationships suffer, etc... And overthinking fails to provide a solution. That's not to mention the emotional pain and turmoil one suffers when emotions like anxiety run out of control. 

How do we stop overthinking?

To make the most of opportunities and give a good account of oneself, we need to trust the autopilot to do it's job. That enables us to react and respond instinctively in the moment and frees up our limited conscious awareness for the things that really matter. Emotions are the key.

How often do you find yourself needing to stop overthinking and take action?


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TEDx Paul Burden Sport Psychology RHS

Paul Burden MSc

Performance Coach and Anxiety Specialist

With 25 years experience in coaching, Paul’s passion is assisting high performers to overcome setbacks, rise to the challenge and create success where it counts most.

His own experiences of anxiety as a young athlete and during his early business career started his journey into high performance psychology.

This personal experience and passion for helping others is underpinned by training with masters in the fields of coaching, performance psychology and personal development.

He's helped thousands of people overcome fears, control anxieties and perform at their best. 

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TEDx Paul Burden Control Anxiety RHS

Paul Burden MSc 

Performance Coach & Anxiety Specialist

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We'll talk about what you want to achieve and how I can help. 

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