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Mmmm, so the other day, as I worked through my Business Continuity Plan for the seventeenth time: adding more, making things clearer for the reader/readers, colouring in the blank spaces left by the Ministry’s faint lines …. Trying to cover the bases of each and every scenario that my simple mind could imagine, I came across a random thought.
Had I become the ultimate over thinker?
I mean, I’m pretty notorious for being an over thinker already. I’ve done this in what I like to call my “think more, react less” mode of operandum. It works well for the kids that I work with too …. Your reaction shouldn’t be longer than the thinking you put into your reaction. It’s a peach of an idea really, well, sort of, until it’s not.
For a kid who is has just thrown a chair, or a fist, and has taken off down to the end of the field with a colourful array of expletives flying from his, or her, tongue – the energy taken to diffusing this reaction is, to put it mildly, sapping. Better if the “thinking” part had taken longer than the reaction part on their behalf.
However for planning in a pandemic we seem to be stuck in a perpetual loop of thinking and writing up plans.
David was spot on last week when he quoted Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, – “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”
And yet here we are. Planning, planning, planning. Thinking, thinking, thinking. And yes, we do need to do this. I’m not arguing for throwing your BCPs out the window and instead heading off to your local coffee shop or pub and whiling the afternoon in the sun with your feet up.
Planning is intrinsic in ensuring that we all get through this alive – metaphorically speaking I hope.
But the issue arises when we find ourselves starting to overthink the overthinkers who are going to be reacting to our plan.
And here I’m beginning to wonder if I’m becoming the King of the Overthinkers – those who feel a need to keep ahead of the overthinkers. Maybe I’m in a whole new class altogether – the Uberthinkers!
It’s a miserable place to be.
If the ‘Rona experience has taught us anything, it’s that the scenarios, the forever list of blah blah blah blah, blahs are so big and expansive that it’s virtually impossible to have all that information stuffed into the little brains that sit in our heads. Therefore keeping one step ahead of the overthinkers in your community surely has to be a bridge too far.
Don’t do it. Don’t even try.
Why do we do this?
Maybe we do it as a form of competition? But your leadership is not a competition. It’s a reality.
So thinking that you’ll get extra points for keeping ahead of a fellow overthinker is a lost cause. Reality is that things change. They change fast, and you get taken down paths that you need to follow, not because it was on the plan written last Monday, or even because it was on your to-do-list written in the weekend, but because the new reality has dictated it. Trying to keep ahead of your fellow over thinkers is a recipe for disaster.
Maybe we do this through fear. Fear of being caught out; the ultimate unmasking of the fake Principal! But fear is something that you can control, and in this case it comes down to an element of confidence, and some good old fashioned bluff. Knowing that everyone you work with is also in fear of the ultimate unmasking helps a lot too.
When I’m overthinking I commonly do the following things:
I double my efforts to please others
I become overly self-critical
I get angry and resentful because I’m wasting my time thinking about things when I could be playing my guitar, mowing my lawn or talking with my beautiful wife.
And because of this I fail to master normal useful things like having a great relationship with my loved ones, and sleeping properly.
When I’m trying to overthink the overthinkers this list is multiplied by a figure that shouldn’t be underestimated.
What you do as a result of your own overthinking may be different to my list (ironically I’ve tried not to overthink this list!), but the end effect I’m sure is the same – a complete depletion of energy. And when you have no energy, well, you’re stuffed really.
Occasionally my overthinking will pay dividends. It’s like a massive pay day! Especially if my overthinking had over thought some other overthinkers. It’s this gambling like approach that quite possibly has me coming back for more.
So maybe we do this overthinking because we get some perverse adrenalin like buzz when the gamble pays off
But at what cost?
If overthinking the overthinkers is a gamble then, let’s be honest, you actually don’t have time to do it. It’s just a habit after all. Get your adrenalin buzz elsewhere.
Instead back yourself that you do have the power to “find out more” about any given scenario you are met with. Don’t give into that desire to have everything on your lips, ready to go, if someone comes calling. Sometimes you will of course. And other times you won’t. End of story.
Back yourself that you can and will make decisions based on the information you have today and that these decisions can and will change. Yes changing your mind can be viewed as a weakness by some – but that’s their problem not yours. Changing your mind should be seen as a positive, that you’re open, that you listen and that you are adaptable and flexible.
Avoid social media sites that will promote overthinking – the major one I know is the Teacher Facebook page. Yes, by following it you are forewarned – but forewarned of what? How do you know that whatever is the flavour of the month will become “something” in your own context.
Finally, be open. There’s a lot written about leaders being vulnerable. I get that. But the overthinker in me leads to me thinking I’m just opening up myself to be judged. Well welcome to the job Steve!. That’s what we get paid the big bucks for. So be open to anything, to it all.
You can help yourself by following the wonderful Maya Angelou quote: “Do the best you know until you know better. Then when you know better do better.”
And it’s that quote that I think we should all face the next few weeks with. Be prepared to get it right, and be prepared to get it wrong. But give up on the overthinking, and definitely don’t get involved in the Uber Thinking class.
It’s simply not worth thinking about.