Analysis paralysis – or overthinking – is when one focuses too much on thinking instead of acting. We probably have all been through this at least once in our lives. After all, it’s a natural reaction to try to understand what’s going on around you. However, as tempting as it may be, it is the fastest and easiest way to make you fail. Indeed, trying to dissect some situation excessively may result in a total incomprehension. What should you do, then? Well, I think this quote says it all:
“Thinking has, many a time, made me sad, darling; but doing never did in all my life… My precept is, “Do something, my sister, do good if you can; but, at any rate, do something”.” Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
Don’t think, act now! It’s so easy to get stuck in analysis instead of just acting. After all, the very process of analyzing is about you doing nothing and thinking instead of confronting the danger head-on. There was a time in my life where I would get always lost in overthinking. Truth is, I didn’t want to act. Thinking was just so easier, and it make me feel good as it would give me the impression that I was actually doing some progress. But I was not, I was just fooling myself. Staying back was so easy that I started “overthinking” even though it didn’t help me at all.
Did you know that a sick person could not be aware of his actual problem? It sounds insane, as we tend to think that since they’re the first person involved, they must know it but truth is they often don’t. More often than not, the ones who realize the sick person’s condition is not the person themselves but the persons close to them. It’s just like in crime cases. The fact that we need an attorney, a prosecutor and a judge is the very proof that we need different perspectives to judge something.
In the heat of the moment, “over-analyzing” may seem natural to you but it’s not. Talk to someone about it and you’ll know, you’re thinking too much.
Why you overthink
There are I believe two reasons why you overthink:
1/ To stay in your comfort zone. I just told you that I had been struck by this problem, but I believe that it’s quite recurrent with people that are overthinking. After all, isn’t it easier to just stay comfortable instead of going out and face danger? Overthinking may be a way for you to make yourself believe that you’re doing something even though you’re actually doing nothing. In short, you don’t take any risk, which basically means that you won’t get any results. Since everything you want is out of your comfort zone, you can’t hope to achieve anything you do not already have unless you take risks. Simply said, this form of overthinking is a wall that prevents you from succeeding.
2/ You aim at perfection, and as such don’t allow yourself to make errors. I suggest that you read my article on Why Failing is Good: Fail more as it goes into a lot more details, but to sum it up you need to make errors. I also have been a victim on this one, being perfectionist. I think that this one may be easier to overcome than the other, as it’s a simple mindset shift. Basically, what you want to do is to just act without trying to perfect whatever you’re doing.
THE CURE TO OVERTHINKING
You probably already know what it is. I know you know, but there is no other way. I understand how painful it can be, and how annoying it can be but.. you have no other choice. There is one cure to overthinking, and one cure only. No matter which category you fall in, there is only one way to cure it. It’s not a revolutionary method or secret that no one talks about, but it’s a known and effective way to instantly dissipate any forms of “overthinking”. Basically, you could sum up this method in 2 or 3 words, which are..
I know. It’s probably not what you wanted to read. In fact, chances are you expected to read something run-of-the-mill, that would give you the impression that you’re actively working on solving your problem even though you’re not really trying to solve it, but I had to tell you the truth. There is no other mystical way to stop overthinking. There are no “45 ways to stop overthinking”, there is just one big way, which is to just act now.
“The more you overthink the less you will understand.”
― Habeeb Akande
Don’t think too much, don’t try to understand too much, just do and experiment as you go. I see so many people trying to grasp things they cannot understand. As I said in my analogy with crime cases in court, the very reason we need 3 roles is because we need different perspectives of the situation. Since the only thing we can do is seeing the world through our eyes, we can’t possibily examine each and every perspective. You have to accept it, people need to accept it. You can’t understand every aspects of a situation, and as such, need to experiment.
The only reason we want to do things is to get a certain result, depending on what you wish. No matter what that is for you, you have to take action to get it. Whether you’re overthinking to procrastinate or to perfect something, the only way you’re going to get better and achieve your goals is by acting, not thinking.
Now, I want you to take (real) action. Here’s what I want you to do: whenever you feel like spending way too much time thinking instead of actually practicing, I want you to act. I’m not sure what kind of action you need to take, so I’ll take myself as an exemple. I’m writing articles for a very specific reason: to grow as a person, and to help people grow as well. Do you think I could achieve my goal if I were to just “think” and wait for things to happen? Obviously not, my articles aren’t going to be written without me. That’s why I need to do the work, If I ever want to achieve my goal of reaching more and more people to help them grow, I need to take action, not to think.
What about being perfectionist? I find it to be easier as you just need to act out of impulse, whereas getting out of our comfort zone asks determination. My quick solve to being perfectionist is to just act instinctively. Even though my english is not that great, that I’m far from being perfect and that I’m not the most able person to write an article, I don’t think twice about it. I know that results comes from repetition and experimentation. I’m positive that between my first article and my tenth (this one), I made tons of progress. And I know that I will keep improving as I write more and more.
I think it’s sometimes best to turn off your brain and start acting on impulse. Thinking is a double-edged sword: even if it can benefit you, it can also hold you back. If you catch yourself thinking too much about something, it’s probably time to shut off your brain and act.