I am the first one to admit that I will overthink a problem to death. Whenever I am faced with a challenge I like to make a pro and con list to weigh my options. And even after making this list, I sit and ponder the decision for hours. Follow this up by asking everyone under the sun for their opinion. Needless to say, I like to make sure I have thought through every possible scenario before taking action. I like to call this over-analysis paralysis.
Could this way of thinking be harmful? Possibly.
By overthinking you are holding yourself back from all the possibilities the world has to offer. Overthinking isn’t just a waste of time, but it also lowers your performance, creativity, and makes you less happy.
By constantly over-thinking decisions you could be harming your confidence. When you make a decision, stick to it. But if your gut is making you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster, stop and think why this might be. Is your gut turning in excitement or is it turning in fear? There is a big difference here. If you’re confidently stepping into an exciting unknown in order to develop yourself – trust your gut. If you’re feeling like the next step is not the right thing to do professionally or personally – listen to the warning.
So how do I overcome my overthinking tendencies? I like to follow these few tips:
1. Find one or two people that you can trust and have your best interest in mind. Make sure that they are able to tell you what they’re really thinking whether or not it’s what you want to hear. But make sure your small tribe doesn’t turn into a village of people giving you advice. I often bestow this honor onto a couple of trusted mentors and my mama.
2. Don’t let the 21st century catch up with you. In today’s day and age we have limitless options. When I search Google for ‘Hair Dryer” 18 products pop up within a few seconds. If I reviewed all products available on Google, I’d be searching for days. Instead I short through the hair dryers using certain criteria (price, weight, ratings, brand, etc.).
3. You should categorize your decisions and dedicate that amount of time to making the decision. For example: searching for a hair dryer is a small decision that (hopefully) will not impact the rest of my life. Therefor I should only dedicate a small amount of time making this decision. Set a timer to ensure you stick to your time limit. Categorize your decisions by asking yourself these questions:
a. Will this decision impact my life (or anyone else’s) a year from now?
b. What’s the worst thing that could happen? And I do mean the worst.
4. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Yes we all make mistakes and you’re not going to make a perfect decision every time, but don’t beat yourself up over it. If and when you do make a mistake use it as a learning opportunity. Every time you fail, fail forward. Rethink the word fail. I like to think of fail as an acronym – F.A.I.L first attempt in learning.
5. Know what is really important to you. Think of an organization. A group of people are making decisions for that organization all the time. But they aren’t making any willy-nilly decision that they want, they make decisions that a line with their mission, vision and values. You should do the same. Do you have values and objectives that are important to you? If you don’t check out an earlier blog post. Make sure that your decisions a line with you values, mission, and vision.
6. If all else fails, flip a coin. Now this might sound silly, but it works. My very first supervisor told me to do this when deciding what school to go to. She said to flip a coin and make note of your initial reaction. If you’re excited, you know deep down that’s what you want. If you’re disappointed, you know that you should pick the other option.