do something about itI am a navel-gazer by nature. It’s often not my favorite quality about myself, but there you have it. It wasn’t something I necessarily chose – my introspective personality in all likelihood came pre-programmed, and learning how to manage it has been one of my big tasks to date in life.

What this often means is that I can get easily consumed in the “thinking about doing something” phase. This is probably why I often also seem impulsive to others – because often it takes an actual shove (administered by me, to me) to get me to stop thinking and act already.

Medication has helped with this. So has working with a life coach and a series of mentors. Watching my pet bird, Pearl (an action-oriented being if ever there was one), is also very instructive. Reading books about how to act, exercise (a great way to get me out of my head and into my body where all the emotions and intuition is usually impatiently swirling around), meditation and more are also useful.

Out of all this, I have developed a process of sorts to help me move from thinking to acting. I have found this to be very helpful because I like to make lists anyway, and because often part of my navel-gazing is getting hung up in figuring out what other people would do or what the “right thing” is to do. But often, there is no one “right thing”. And how other people might handle it might not work for my personality or the unique situation I am in.

I have noticed that when I follow this process, I get to both think and act (both of which feel good in their proper places) and I also usually feel much better about the action I choose to take.

Here is the process:

  1. Identify the issue that is bugging me
  2. Think about the issue in terms of what my preferred outcome would be (for instance “eliminate the noise leaking into my apartment from the neighbor’s unit”)
  3. Feel all of the emotions that the issue is bringing up in me until I start to feel more calm – just let them come up and out without judgment, and without unnecessarily hanging on to any of them
  4. In the calm, form an intention (often this is through meditation and deep breathing) for how I want to handle the situation (for instance “calmly and with patience and fairness to both parties”)
  5. Figure out what parts of the issue (if any) I can handle right now on my own, and what parts (if any) may require a longer-term perspective or help from others
  6. Make an action plan for myself in terms of what I can do now or in the next few days on my own – these are specific steps (such as “figure out how to work my noise-cancelling headphones”, “call my friend who knows about sound-proofing”)
  7. Make a plan for any longer term issues that may arise (for instance, “move”, or “save up money for a thick rug”)

These steps are very helpful in that I get to think and feel, but then I don’t get stuck there. I actually do them, in order, every time I have an issue that is really stuck in my mind. In practicing the steps, I find that if I am patient and will let myself first think, then feel, then plan and then act, each part of me feels satisfied – like it has gotten a chance to weigh in and have its say and contribute whatever it has to contribute.

The more I practice the process, the more I can also see how, if I skip steps or get stuck in a particular part of the process, often what wakes me up to this is when I start to get overly irritated or fixated on other truly small issues in my life. When I notice I am having a reaction or emotional response that is out of proportion to what prompted it, this is usually a good sign that I have either skipped a step in the process or have gotten hung up at one phase or another.

I really like this process – I have noticed that it feels good, empowering, self-affirming, courageous and self-protective to act as well as think and feel, but I just have had to find a way to make it easier for me to do what doesn’t come as naturally. If you have anything that works well for you, I’d love to hear it!

Today’s Takeaway: It can feel very self-affirming and kind to notice how we are wired at our core, and to then work with ourselves to make things easier when they don’t naturally come easy for us. Do you – like me – tend to get stalled out in the thinking phase, or perhaps you instead speed ahead prematurely to the acting phase before you’ve thought things through? What could you do to help yourself give the right amount of time for each phase so you can be sure you are making choices that reflect your best abilities and most cherished intentions?

Woman thinking photo available from Shutterstock