Don't Overthink It

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Last weekend my boyfriend Matt & I had our first salsa lesson.  I’ve always wanted to learn the basic steps to be able to dance the salsa and Matt was kind enough to join me.  We had a lot of fun and one big lesson I learned was to not overthink things.

As you may already know, the salsa is a simple loose dance with an easy step and rhythm  — there are a few things to remember,  but for the most part, it’s probably one of the easiest dances to learn (and this is coming from me, who has zero dance experience beyond ballet lessons at age 6).   However, Matt and I seemed to run into trouble when we had to switch from a basic step to a side step or a turn. Why?  Because we were concentrating too hard on “what’s next” and on our performance instead of simply going with the rhythm of the music and with the steps that flowed into each other.   In fact, in the beginning, I kept looking down at my feet and the instructor told me to stop looking down and just pay attention to the rhythm  – to move with the count instead of looking at what my feet were doing.   Of course, she was right because the second I stopped looking and counting and trying to see what my feet were doing and instead just stepped in rhythm with the music, everything felt natural and easy.

It is often the same when we are doing things at work or in our leadership roles.  For example, you have to give a big presentation and you overthink it so much that it takes you out of the flow.   You may even forget what you have to say in a given moment because you are anticipating the next question, what you want to say next or you are thinking too much about your performance.

Instead, if you just trust your instincts, trust that you’re prepared, and stay in the moment, things will flow much smoother. It will feel more natural because it is natural.   I’ve also seen this happen with job interviews.  If you overthink the questions that may be asked or are thinking so much about how your answers are being perceived, you may come across as too stiff or nervous.  Just like with the salsa – the more we overthought everything, the more stiff our performance was; once we let go and just enjoyed the moment, things felt so much easier and flowed much smoother.

So, the message from my salsa lesson that I will take into my work life moving forward (and hope you will too!) is to not overthink things but instead, stay in the moment, trust my instincts, and go with the flow.

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