I want to watch my life like an action movie: sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. No overthinking allowed.
A friend and I were recently discussing an action movie we had just seen. When asked what she thought, she went into a long dissertation about how the characters should have been this, and the director departed from that. There was too much of one thing, not enough of another. It would have been better had…
I can’t really give you the details of what she said because, although I love my friend dearly, I honestly stopped listening halfway through.
My review of the movie- I liked it. Very entertaining. Would recommend it.
And that’s about as much thought as I wanted to give it.
Not because I’m a bad movie critic or an uninterested friend. But because it felt way better to stand back, suspend my disbelief for a few hours and just enjoy the ride. Going all ‘Comic Book Guy’ on it and picking it apart would have totally ruined the experience for me.
That discussion with my friend was a metaphor for something much bigger.
I realize that I want to watch my life like I watch an action movie.
Brush off the details if they’re not pleasing to me.
Ignore my critical thoughts and don’t let them ruin my experience.
Focus on feeling good, relaxed and entertained.
Allow the sad and scary parts to come and go without getting attached to them.
So why am I not living life like this?
The same reason most people aren’t.
We over think things.
We analyze and apply logical conclusions to what’s happening and we get critical of what we don’t like. If it’s not pleasing to us, we talk about it. We focus on it. Just like my friend giving the 20-minute critical review of what she didn’t like (and literally giving a 2 second ‘but I liked it’ at the end).
We focus on what we don’t like.
We think that’s how change is made – by noticing and pushing away what we don’t like.
The problem with that is it leads to focusing on the unwanted.
Which, quite often, means we over think the unwanted.
Overthinking it ruins the experience.
There’s nothing wrong with seeing something you would like to change. But overthinking it turns a simple situation into a something more involved.
It changes a piece of pie into glaring evidence that you don’t have it together.
It changes one binge into three days of obsessing and saying “screw it” around food.
If you don’t catch yourself, you will buy into what your inner critic is saying about the experience.
From that buy-in, things can escalate quickly.
When one critic slams a movie, there are times when people all follow suit. It’s a mob effect full of half-star ratings.
Which is exactly what happens with our thoughts.
We give a bad review to something that happens in life. We believe our criticism is the absolute truth. And we find more and more ways to prove its truth and bolster our critical stance.
In other words, we over think.
At this point, we over think without even much effort because there’s momentum behind it.
The opposite of overthinking is not disengaging.
Our options are not to over think it or take a back seat and not think about it at all.
We also have the option of simply noticing and being aware of our thoughts.
When we step into a role of just watching our thoughts, like we watch a movie, we can take control over what we believe.
When we can step back and notice that we’re thinking a piece of pie means certain failure, we’re able to make the choice to not believe it.
We’re able to see that it’s just a piece of pie.
Just as we’re able to read a bad review and enjoy the movie anyway.
We may feel like the critic ruined the movie for us.
We may feel like we believe everything we think.
But in reality, we’re in control of if any of that actually happens.
The payoff for understanding we can choose not to believe our thoughts is being able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the remarkable show of our lives.
We can choose to enjoy this payoff because we are not our thoughts.
We are the ones watching our thoughts and choosing whether or not to engage.
This is a practice and a choice. But as you practice, you’ll be able to move beyond what upsets you faster and faster each time.
Things will roll off your back like never before.
You’ll gain all the time and energy that was previously spent in the criticism of what was wrong with the picture.
And you can sit back and enjoy the show.
Doesn’t that sound like a movie worth watching?