Don’t get me wrong. I would consider myself as someone who thrives when able to breakdown and dissect a problem to come up with the best possible answer. Whether there is a problem at work, social life, or just part of your everyday tasks, I take pride in my ability to think my way to the best solution. However, there comes to a point where thinking too much has a diminishing return. I’m talking about overthinking. What is it? How do we deal with it? What can we do to be better decision makers? As much as I am satisfied with my ability to breakdown a wide range of problems, “I am a textbook over-thinker” (gold stars for those that know who I’m quoting).
I’m a perfectionist at my core. At times it’s great. Other times I notice myself thinking about a problem too much to make sure it’s perfect, that it turns out the problem isn’t as difficult as I initially made it out to be. So, I come up short with a mediocre solution. How can we distinguish between problems that require more brain power, and problems that require us to simply react? Sometimes not thinking and just reacting is the best solution. Our bodies are clever organisms. If a pack of elephants was charging at you, are you going to take a minute to think about the best way out of that situation or just take off running? I’ve never been attacked by elephants, but I’m pretty sure that you’d be better off sprinting like hell. Giving yourself time to think in a situation like this may be a quick way to get squashed like a bug. This is obviously an extreme example, but I hope you get the idea. A lot of good can come out of not thinking so much and simply reacting.
I recently got back from a two-week vacation in Europe. I traveled to Paris, Amsterdam, and London. Like all travelers who return home after backpacking through Europe, there was a lot more usage of words like, “mate”, “lad”, and “cheers” in my vocabulary. But more importantly, trips like these show you how big the world is, making your life and your everyday decisions seem smaller and less significant by comparison. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I think it is actually extremely helpful to put your ego in check from time to time and realize that you aren’t the only one on this planet and there’s people everywhere with problems. I can only speak for myself, but I definitely have had a more “F-it” mentality since I’ve gotten back. This approach is used by millions everyday by some of the smartest people in the world. I hate to be another person who comes back from Europe preaching how it changed my life. But to say it didn’t have an effect on me is simply untrue. I’m sure a little of this new mentality (most likely the vocabulary) will wear off, but some will stick too.
Ok, let’s get back on track. How can not thinking so much benefit us. Well for me, in the past week or so I’ve been much more confident in myself. Being more reactive requires you to have more confidence in yourself. Life is a confidence game. Usually it will have a positive effect, just don’t let your head get too big. At work, I’ve had better conversations with co-workers. I felt more comfortable approaching someone and speaking up when it was appropriate to do so. At home, I felt more in control of my decisions. It has been easier to say “NO” to Netflix or other time wasters. In a perfect world, I would like to read every night before bed. Sometimes this is not possible and sometimes my mind looks at the whole “task” at hand. I’ve found if I focus on the present and say to myself, “Pick up the book and read just one page”. Instead of asking myself, “Do I really want to read 20 pages tonight?” The first example of self-talk seems much easier to accomplish. And you’ll notice that the hardest part is actually picking up the book, not the reading of 20 pages. Once you’re reading and flowing, it’s easy. I still get to my goal of 20 pages or so, but not thinking about it makes it a whole lot easier. Another example is with writing this blog. If I asked myself all the questions in the world like, “Do I have enough time to get it done right now?”, “Do I know what I want to write about?”, “Would it be better to do it later when I have more time?” Instead, “F-it”, I’ll start it now and if I don’t finish it, then I can always finish it later. No problem. The hardest thing to do is to start something. Once you have momentum, it’s easy. There is never going to be a perfect time to do anything. There will always be a million reasons not to do something. Why do we wait until all the traffic lights are green to start moving? Just start it, then adapt along the way. It’s so much easier this way and you’ll be more productive, creative, and interesting since you won’t be limited by your logical part of your brain, you are simply reacting and trusting in your deepest self. Another example, in my social life I’ve been more confident since I’ve cut out overthinking. I’ve asked four different girls on dates in the past week. Three of them said “yes” and the third hasn’t gotten back yet. Rather than thinking about, does she like me, do I like her, do I want to date her, is she good looking enough. Dates do not have to be sexualized. Stop thinking so in the future. A date is an interaction. That’s all. Stop overthinking about what moves you’ll use on her later. You’ll get much better results if just have an honest and friendly conversation with her and live in the moment. And if it turns out you don’t like the girl in a sexual way or she doesn’t fancy you, even better! Then you don’t have to worry about whether she likes you or if you like her. If it turns out to not be a great fit, well then now it’s out there and you can stop guessing. Now you can move on, still getting rid of any worry you had before.
All in all, not thinking can be a very power tool in more than one aspect of your life. Start being more reactive and trusting in yourself. You’ll be more genuine, confident, and interesting. Hope this helps.