"You need to make more effort..."
"It's just a matter of mind over matter..."
We've all either had this kind of thing said to us, or we've said it to our kids, or we've heard it said to others, but how helpful is it, really?
And furthermore, how true is it?
It's a compelling idea: that worrying or thinking about something repeatedly makes you a conscientious person and it goes something like this:
If you're worrying about your kids you care about them...
If you're feeling guilty about work when you're on holiday then you take your career seriously...
If you're visualising a successful day ahead then you are a successful person.
If you want to be a well-paid professional, thinking about your field all the time makes you a diligent exponent...
If you are worrying it means you care...
If you run over a speech lots of times in your head before giving it you are preparing well...
There's a logic in there, but the message is: overthinking is a virtue.
But it isn't.
Overthinking just fills your head up with thoughts.
It's just something that human beings can do, and it's always independent of how well they perform. Full- or empty-headed, you work just fine. Whether you're worrying or not you're still made of pure love.
Sometimes we worry but perform well in spite of it. Other times, we forget to worry, and also perform well. But worrying is not a pre-requisite. You don't have to think your way through life. If you stop thinking about something, the world will keep on spinning.
Let's look at a different option that isn't talked about much.
How about not overthinking? How about worrying less about the things that are closest to your heart in order to have more spontaneous, playful energy to bring to them?
How much more playful would your relationships be if you took them less 'seriously', and went with the grain (allowed the natural ups and downs that human beings all experience, without trying to 'will' them to be happier).
How much more rested would you be each night, or each time you're on holiday, if you knew you were allowed to feel/experience 'problem' thinking, without needing to resolve it. Just to be with the thoughts? No willpower, no 'trying' to let go. Just to be. Here. Now.
What if you were allowed not to have a mental morning routine: no visualisation, no thinking about the day ahead. What if you're allowed to wake up in the morning with one thing on your mind. The now. Not the future. Not what you ate last night.
Let me be clear: I'm not saying it's good or bad to think about certain things. It's none of my business what you think about. All sorts of rubbish and gems pop into my head.
You are allowed to put down the mental burdens you have been carrying until now.
You see - it's very easy to confuse outer effort with inner effort. To build a house you need to make outer effort - dig foundations, select materials, arrange them and refine the final result. This isn't the same with feelings. We don't 'build' a feeling of love, wellbeing, flow, or connection by thinking. Those states of mind are naturally emerging. And they emerge most easily from an empty mind.
Mindless-ness not mind-full-ness.
The less we try and enhance our thoughts, feelings and perceptions, by adding surplus thinking into the equation, the more effortlessly we go through life, still able to flourish.
If you're used to overthinking you might be in for a surprise. It may feel different. Effortless perhaps. Maybe even lazy or negligent to begin with. But there's wisdom in knowing that you're allowed to completely let go and lose yourself...
“In Buddhism, there is no place for using effort. Just be ordinary and nothing special. Eat your food, move your bowels, pass water and when you're tired go and lie down. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand.”
― Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Thanks for reading.
Things are really shaping up for the book launch in May. As soon as the launch date is confirmed I will let you know. Book sales will be used as vehicle to raise funds for Help Musicians UK's mental health campaign , Music Minds Matter.
There are several ways you can get involved in the growing community of flourishing, happy, healthy musicians and performers who are awake to the future of performance psychology.