Those who are thinking too much are less inclined to put things into practice. Those who are not thinking at all are less inclined to have a plan and know where they’re going.
If you believe overthinking is bad, you may be right. But is it always bad? Is overthinking something that you should try to take out of your life forever or should you learn to see it as a tool and know when to use it?
Overthinking is not bad, but the way we’re taught about overthinking comes with a lot of misguidance.
“You shouldn’t think – you should do!” – does this sound familiar to you? It’s part of most motivational speeches out there and its purpose is to push forward those who procrastinate too much. But what about those who don’t procrastinate – should they also not think?
Overthinking is good if you know how and where to do it
To overthink means to get an idea and to make sure you understand it and all its faces. But it doesn’t mean that when you overthink you stop doing.
Overthinking is a process of doing and when you understand this, you’ll never procrastinate again. You see, when you are able to deeply understand the things that are related to you or your actions, you’ll be able to go even further than before.
For example, let’s say you want to change something at yourself. Let’s say you want to learn how to say ‘no’ more often. You know yourself pretty well and you know, from your past experiences, that you are not able to say ‘no’, especially to your closest friends. But why?
And with solving this ‘why’ comes a lot of overthinking.
Again, overthinking is a process and it should be treated as a process. When you try to figure out why you can’t say ‘no’ to your friends, the process may require you to spend a few hours (during a week) and think about that. But if you just think about it, you’re procrastinating.
Therefore, what are the things that you can do to make sure you shift your overthinking into a process of doing?
4 things to do when you overthink
1. Set a topic
Overthinking is bad if you let your mind think about any topic available to your mind.
Instead, you can limit the thinking process to only one topic. For example, the one mentioned before: how to say ‘no’ more often.
In general, when people overthink, it’s happening because they have doubts and fears. And we don’t have only one doubt and fear, which means our mind will start approaching more topics at a time and will make the process of overthinking just a waste of time.
If you let your mind juggle with different topics, you won’t be able to dig for more information.
It’s like trying to build three projects at the same time instead of one. Instead of having all of your energy focused on only one topic, you’ll be focused on all of them. And you’ll end up just thinking, with no action connected to that.
2. Take notes
Overthinking is nothing more than a process of digging for information. The more you dig, the more you’ll find out. But you won’t be able to remember everything. And if you can’t remember what you’ve thought, it’s like investing $100 into a stock market and then getting back only a small part of that amount.
Since it’s impossible to remember all the thoughts you have when you overthink, taking notes is crucial.
Make sure you write everything down and then structure your thoughts in such a way they become relevant for your action steps.
3. Don’t be judgmental
This is one of the biggest mistakes people do when they analyze their life.
After you finish the process of overthinking, you’ll have in front of you a list of thoughts (be it big or small) and these thoughts will be strongly related to your life.
When you read them, don’t judge them. Judging the way you think means punishing yourself. In case you are not capable of saying ‘no’ to your friends, saying that you’re an idiot won’t make things any better.
Take your thoughts as they are not as you think they should be. Accept the fact that you need to change them and be happy that you’ve reached a point where you are conscious of your thoughts and thinking process.
4. Reframe your thoughts
This is going to be one of the hardest things you have to do.
Let’s say you have written down a thought like this: “I can’t say ‘no’ to my friends because I’ve always helped them and they’ve always helped me.”
To change a thought like this is really hard because, first of all, you’ll have to reframe it. And reframing it is hard because it may be true. It’s amazing to have friends who are there for you.
In this case, reframing the thought should result in something like this: “I know my friends are always there for me but I need to say ‘no’ more often because [insert_reason_here].”
Then, it’s up to you to really know why you want to say more often ‘no’ to people.
Even more, in this case, it will help a lot to have a list of activities that you have in your life and make some of them really important. Those activities that are marked as really important won’t be interrupted, no matter how badly your friends need you.
After you reframe your thoughts, it doesn’t mean you own these thoughts.
The process will only make you conscious that your thoughts should and can be different. But the hardest part will actually be to think that way involuntarily – and this will only come with practice.
Overthinking kills spontaneity
While overthinking may be really good for understanding how things work, there are a few things where overthinking has zero benefits and one of them is spontaneity.
(from dictionary.com) Spontaneous [spon-tey-nee-uhs]: coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation; natural and unconstrained; unplanned.
Spontaneity is at the opposite pole of thinking. When you’re spontaneous, you don’t think and you act based on your instinct.
But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t overthink.
If you overthink without any topic and you don’t follow it by action, you won’t understand what overthinking is and you won’t be able to use this tool to its full potential.
On the other hand, if you overthink and learn more about how you can get the most out of your overthinking process, it won’t kill your spontaneity. Overthinking will not be just a way of wasting time anymore, but a tool to help you analyze your life and move forward.
With love and optimism,