Everyone can fall in the trap of overthinking, analysis paralysis and forgetting the bigger picture.
But it seems that not everyone is faced with this problem, as most people that I know choose structured jobs and a sense of security over dancing with chaos and pursuit of creativity.
A job where a manager tells you what to do, and how to do it, is an example of a structured job. It leads to a steady paycheck and a seemingly bright future ahead. I did many projects like these, and even though they bring a sense of achievement, they quickly get boring. Not because the task is not challenging, but rather because assigned task-packages depend on my manager’s ability to start new projects, understand business needs, and his ability to delegate and orchestrate.
With a creative mind like myself, I’m constantly “probing” the edge of possibility and potential impact. I’m not really interested in keeping my manager happy just for the sake of my job security, nor am I really interested in keeping someone else’s business running, just for the sake of business. I’m interested in impact, differentiation, and disruption, preferably as a force for good.
All fine, but notice the word “probing”. Because indeed, instead of pushing, I’m probing. I’m probing and probing and probing… and it feels good this probing. I call it my personal Wonder Thinkingland.
For example, currently, I’m thinking about building a radically ridiculous AI-powered augmented reality knowledge management system, a la Minority Report. This would allow me to structure my thoughts and ideas in a fluid 3D-space, and quickly synthesize hidden structures and correlations between references, my own ideas, and general concepts. It’s kinda like an augmented reality Zettelkasten program, but on steroids.
After reading books like “Zero To One”, “The One Thing”, or listening to multi-billionaires about following your dreams, I’m kinda crazy enough to try to execute upon these ridiculous use cases.
But now… You might be thinking: “Good for you!”, “Wow, nice! Good luck”, or perhaps more realistically: “Dude, are you sure you can do it?”.
And indeed, I can testify that my thinking is truly both my biggest asset and my biggest blocking issue in my life. For all it’s worth, I quickly get stuck because I’m noticing all the ways my path of execution could potentially fail. I get stuck because I’m not sure if the idea will work out. I get stuck because there are no user manuals when doing something that’s at the edge. It’s dwelling instead of doing, a bad mindset.
About my state of mind my mentor told me the other day:
When you go to a meeting, it seems like you’ve been there before arriving. Once you arrive you’re sitting there with a pre-conceived notion, prejudice and a bias generated during your mind’s expidition.Tien – my mentor
How my overthinking starts
Overthinking sucks, and it’s like a downward spiral.
It usually starts with something in my external environment not being quite right, reminding me of potential failures ahead. This causes me to retreat in my mind. I play out different scenarios in my head. Not once, but over and over and over again.
“I got to be sure that I’m right, right?”
After a few minutes, or hours, when it comes down to self-checking what I actually did, I notice that I didn’t do anything. This usually causes me to think even more.
“I got to be sure to do something, but I’ve got the choose the right thing.”
In those moments of over-thinking, scenario-repeating, and worst-case scenario planning, I’m steadily missing the boat of life.
Instead of doing, I’m dwelling.
Instead of meeting up with someone, I’m thinking about how I need more time to write, to code, to finish the music, or to get to know myself.
Instead of choosing one thing and GO, I just think.
It’s safer to just think, instead of doing.
It’s safer to stay in my head, instead of trailing the path, face the error and learn from it.
I recognize, however, that even though life may be very nice when overthinking and grinding through simulations in my head, the next day I’m left bitter for not attempting to do anything.
My Plan Of Action
I know myself well enough that my thinking can go on forever. It’s my happy place. It’s the place I’ve always escaped to when in trouble or danger.
But it’s time for a change.
When nothing gets done, I’m losing time. Losing time leads to more stress. And more stress leads to more Wonder Thinkingland, where nothing gets done.
But thinking is important too. So that’s why I’m gonna set a limited time aside for thinking (10 min), conjure my top 3 options for actions, after which I’ll choose and execute.
Thinking, you’ve been a wonderful friend, but it’s time we set the record straight.