Archive for August, 2009
Overthinking is a natural part of life for many of us, even when we’re not aware we’re doing it. Research has shown that overthinking is prevalent in young and middle aged adults, with 73% of 25-35 year-olds identified as overthinkers. More women (57%) find themselves overthinking than men (43%), which is a significant difference. This means the majority of women are overthinkers, and the majority of overthinkers are women.
I’m not a woman, but I am an overthinker. So I guess I’m in the minority… a vocal minority ;) If you find yourself spending an unreasonable amount of time thinking through something, twisting it around in your head until you’ve seen it from every angle and possibility, chances are you too are an overthinker.
There are very few benefits to being an overthinker. Being logical (and therefore unemotional) about taking action has a lot of merit and can have positive results, but there’s a difference between thinking about something just enough – and thinking about something to the point of analysis paralysis. The short of it is, you don’t want to be an overthinker!
Overthinking can occur as a consequence of a decision that needs to be made, big or small, and is typically exacerbated in stressful situations. It’s not limited to decision making however, as it can also rear it’s ugly head whenever something has the ability to cause any level of anxiety or worry. It’s the proverbial thing that “keeps you up at night” and stems from an actual or perceived lack of control over some aspect of life. With a lack of control comes a feeling of helplessness. Overthinking is frequently the direct result. The worst overthinkers actually spend time overthinking seemingly meaningless things to the point that they’ve spent more time thinking about the thing than the time it would have taken to address it completely. What a waste of time and energy!
For years, I was a real perfectionist. Not just a weekend perfectionist mind you, a full-blown “I won’t do it unless it can be perfect” kind of perfectionist. In fact, with a number of things I still exhibit some pretty nasty perfectionist tendencies which I’m working on eradicating.
The reason I started this project (Refocuser) in 2009 instead of 1999 when I first had the idea is because I spent 10 years fighting with myself about how to make it perfect, all the way down to how I’d organize the site’s content on my hard drive. Ugh!
Naturally, striving for your best work isn’t a bad thing… most people would never want to swing to the other extreme where quality and pride in the work are void, because that’s a real slippery slope to mediocrity. But I’ve found that for me, that’s pretty much a non-option given my personality. Keeping my perfectionist tendencies in check doesn’t have to mean that the quality of my output is going to suffer.
What I focus on instead of perfection is doing enough to get the most out of my efforts. The second I start trending towards the familiar “over-focusing”, I force myself to stop in my tracks and self-evaluate. More time spent on an activity very rarely equals higher quality in the kinds of projects I do – in fact, many times, it ends up being counter-productive – so not being a perfectionist can actually improve my work.
More is lost through indecision than wrong decision – Carmela Soprano
Habits form the basis for everything you do or will achieve. Your personal goals contribute to fulfilling the vision you have for yourself, but at the core it’s your habits that make it possible to reach those goals. Without forming new habits and replacing destructive behavior with positive habits, your goals will always remain distant – and without that consistent goal achievement, your vision might as well not exist.
The simplest way to think about this: your personal vision is your “ultimate goal”. It’s an inspirational but achievable future state of mind and being that indirectly influences your decisions and guides you down your best path. Your goals are interim milestones that contribute to fulfilling that vision – these are measurable and realistic targets that you use to base many of your actions. And your habits are the small steps you take every single day that bring you ever closer to your goals. This means they are the foundational element that everything builds on – your goals and your vision aren’t possible until you form the right habits.
Since many of us are visual, here’s a basic diagram showing how habits form the “bottom of the pyramid”.
Unfortunately, It’s not abnormal to get into a funk when it comes to your daily habits. One day “off” can easily snowball into 5 days or 5 weeks. It’s always easier to convince yourself that slacking off with a specific daily habit isn’t going to make a difference than it is to just do it. It’s amazing how powerful our internal motivation for slacking can actually be!
I’ve found for myself and for many others that the best way to return from a funk is to put the following two things into place:
- Track your habits daily (not weekly or monthly)
- Let other people see your progress