I get asked this question all the time! All we want to do is just let go and dance, buy why must our brains think so much and get in the way? While I would love to give you a quick and dirty solution, the truth isn’t so simple. The solution happens in a process and that process happens between comps over time. It might not be what you want to hear, but solving for the REASONS for the overthinking means you won’t have to deal with it quite so much.
I see two big reasons people overthink.
1. You have shortfalls in your preparation. There’s no mincing words. If you haven’t prepared thoroughly, you will be trying to make things happen in your body with your thinking. It just doesn’t work as well as you want. You have to do the prep thoroughly enough that it is just in your body–automatic–so that you don’t have to think about making it happen.
Keep in mind that while this is true, you won’t be that prepared all of the time! You will always be in varying degrees of learning and automaticity so plan on it happening from time to time. That is what is appropriate and expected during certain times of your development.
2. Some people overthink because we are trying very hard to control an outcome. We are trying to make a result happen and holding very tightly. It is laced with fear, anxiety, perfectionism and feels stressful. It’s almost as if we are trying to prevent some catastrophe…that catastrophe being a poor result, losing, not making finals, someone being disappointed with us, our own embarrassment etc. We are trying to prevent some future negative emotion or outcome. And we just can’t control that. But we sure try.
The long term solution to overthinking is two fold–
1. Prepare more thoroughly. End of story.
2. Stop trying to control the uncontrollables
In the short term, you have a tips to consider.
1. Make peace with your prep. What you have is enough. Let go of trying to make it all happen with your brain. What you have committed to your muscle memory will be there without you haven’t to make it happen. The rest you can drop for now and just dance. It’s really fine.
2. Generate a single focus to occupy your busy brain. Focus is different than thinking. Pick a cue word or two to keep your brain focused on. Choose a cue that incorporates some of the technical aspects you want to embody…like “shine bright,” “smooth elegance,” or “calm confidence.” They help create an emotion but also will spread throughout your body to showcase some of what you are trying to do.
3. Lastly, get into your body. Actually feel. Empty your mind and notice where your body connects with the floor and your partner. What is the connection like? How do your feet feel in the floor? Don’t THINK about what your body is doing. Just feel. Just be.
The reality is that to stop overthinking and just dance, there really isn’t much for you to DO about it. It’s more about NOT doing, or doing less. It’s about letting go and trusting. And you can totally do it.
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