When Overthinking Leads to Doing Nothing After 50


Although many of us women after 50 continue to juggle life’s roles and are content doing so, we find ourselves reflecting on what we might want to do for ourselves as we move forward in our next phase of life. All of the women with whom I work, have expressed:

As I work with them and we start to reflect on what their ideal day and week might look like, what they’ve liked and not liked about past roles, and what barriers might be standing in their way, we begin to come up with some choices and options for them.

And then, often, what starts to happen, particularly with those of us who like to control everything, is that analysis paralysis sets in.

Analysis paralysis is that state when we start to think and often worry about every “what if” that is possible as we move towards any change. We take each scenario to various outcomes. And we end up doing absolutely nothing as a result. We think and worry and end up taking no action.

And this is NO way to spend the rest of our lives! Any action is better than no action!

Some things to keep in mind if this sounds like you:

Typically, when we have an idea and then begin the “what if” thoughts around that idea, those “what if” statements end not only negatively, but often catastrophically.

One of the women in my program has the goal of finding love after 50. The “what if” thoughts that she had were things like:

  • “What if I fall in love and he turns out to be a con artist and steals all of my money?”
  • “What if I fall in love and he ends up leaving me and I get hurt?”

Consider this: it is just as easy for her to end her “what if” statements with POSITIVE things like:

  • “What if I fall in love and we end each day cooking dinner together and watching a movie on television?”
  • “What if I meet someone who treats me the way I should be treated and wants to get married?”

Our brains are designed to protect us and change represents danger to our brains. We are wired to formulate the negative “what if” statements. We need to turn those around, visualize the positive, and practice those daily.

We’ve spent our entire life making decisions for ourselves and others. Some don’t turn out the way we’d hoped, and others do. It is likely that most of us haven’t gotten to this point without having some things that we regret or are less proud of. And others that we are very proud of.

We have the benefit of experience and knowledge in our courts, now. And if there is something that really makes you excited to think about, dive in and make it happen. Listen to those butterflies in your stomach. Trust your gut.

Ask yourself, “what will my life look like if I don’t do anything to try to make this thing happen? How disappointed will I be?”

It’s not only okay to be anxious or nervous, that’s a great sign. There is no growth without anxiety. None.

How would a bucket list help with analysis paralysis? It’s simple. A bucket list is a list of ACTION ITEMS.

And taking action is a huge antidote to analysis paralysis.

Find a quiet place, set a timer for at least 30 minutes, and write down every single thing that comes into your mind as you consider a bucket list. Big, small, and everything in between. Anything and everything – trips you’d like to take both near and far, trying new restaurants, activities you’d like to try, groups you’d like to join – write it all down.

Then, pick something that you can do right away, put it on your calendar and DO IT!

But they may not be. You can make yourself feel very busy planning and researching and creating list after list. But these activities can easily become a form of procrastination.

If you find yourself planning out every possible detail, that’s where you need to stop and take an actual action. No matter how small.

If you find yourself continuously wanting to do something – anything – and you are unable to take steps towards that goal, it might be helpful to talk to a professional. If you feel sad or truly “stuck,” a counselor can work you through so that you come out on the other side with hope and excitement about living each day doing something that brings you joy and passion.

Instead of asking yourself “what if” OR “what’s the worst that can happen?” try asking yourself, “What’s the BEST that can happen?”

Is there something that you’d like to do but you just feel paralyzed by what the next step might be? If so, what is it? Have you ever experienced analysis paralysis and moved through it? If so, what helped you to do that?



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