Business psychology

How to stop overthinking and lead a simple life

- February 6, 2017 3 MIN READ

Has overthinking ever held you back from doing something? Does life seem really complicated right now? Dave Gillen offers a solution to help you stop overthinking and shows us life can be simpler than we think.

“I just want a simple life!”

That’s the thought that echoes around my head when I’m feeling completely overwhelmed by work and life.

I know a lot of soloists feel the same way, because two weeks ago a huge number of you nodded along with Kelly Exeter when she suggested we banish overthinking from our lives. Kelly gave us the valuable insight that “You’re not obliged to engage with EVERY thought that enters your head.”

But, how do you know which things to stop thinking about?

And, is it even possible to ‘stop thinking’ about certain things?

Those are the two questions I’ll attempt to answer for you now.

What makes life complex?

Life gets overwhelming when we’re wrestling with too many problems, details and data in our heads at once. Many of these are past or future events we can’t control. The others? Most simply aren’t solvable in our head. (But we try anyway.)

This complexity is a major cause of stress for many business owners. For me it’s a major cause of distraction. With too much stuff going on in my head, important things like my schedule, priorities, and goals completely fall out, and I get very lost and unproductive.

How can we think more simply?

Have you ever tried to stop thinking about something? Our brain doesn’t really have that function. Instead, we need to get our attention off the dramas in our head and on to something we can control.

Why isn’t this as easy as it sounds on paper? The main reason is we tend to think we can control everything.


The breakthrough for me came when I realised that there is nothing on earth I can actually control aside from my own hands and feet. In my head I had 100 problems to solve, but it was refreshing to know that in reality I only had to decide what to do next with my feet, then my hands.

The surprising place to start

Start with your feet! Why? You may not realise it but they are your #1 problem.

  • What do you think takes you down the chocolate aisle at the supermarket? Your feet.
  • What makes you late for work? Your feet (by not walking out the door when they are supposed to).
  • What’s responsible for you going to ‘one more pub’? Your feet.

If you don’t have control of your feet, the other details you’re pondering don’t much matter. Even your hands can’t do much good if they’re never in the right place.

Why your feet are so powerful

Focusing on your feet uncomplicates things in several ways:

  • “Where do I need to be?” is usually easy to answer. This gets you unstuck.
  • Taking yourself to the right place is a good first step for any task.
  • Starting is often THE decisive step in getting something done, because it makes it easier for your hands to do what you want them to. (For example: have you ever gone to the gym and not worked out?)
  • It forces you to focus on one thing at a time, because your feet can only be in one place (unlike your mind).
  • It forces you to focus on the present, and one action. Most thoughts in your head don’t have a bearing on right now or on any action or solution.
  • It forces you to focus on something that’s actually in your control.
  • It’s something that’s easy. 90% of the time the place you need your feet to take you to is less than 20m away.

A technique for when your mind is being pulled in 1000 directions

Decisions become a lot simpler when you remember your hands and feet are all you actually have control over. So when it’s a zoo in your head, look down at your feet and ask:

  1. What do your feet need to do right now? Look down and give them a direct command if it helps.
  2. What should your hands do when you get there? Give them a specific job so they don’t get distracted. Start typing about topic X; dial that number; knock on that door; or turn off your bedside lamp.
  3. Your eyes, ears, and mouth may have roles after that. Read X, listen to Y, or say Z. But in my experience these tend to take care of themselves by the time you have used your feet and hands correctly.

Control your feet, control your life

Remember, a million things don’t need to happen right now.

Just one.

When you find yourself stuck, or paralysed into inaction by your thoughts, moving your feet should always be your first step. And, once you start using your feet to actually move forward, you’ll be amazed at just how simple life actually is.

Have your feet ever led you astray?