YOU'RE THINKING YOURSELF TO DEATH
I used to live in a dark, poorly constructed basement apartment. It had a kitchen with old brown cabinets that I hated so I bought chalkboard spray paint and painted them black so I could write on them. Then, after a brief instant of illumination I wrote “think less, do more” on them. Huge letters, all across them. That line was the best thing that came out of the my time living there.
Now let me back up a little. I've always been introspective. I’ve always been a thinker. I always thought about life but I hardly interacted with it. I thought about what to say to people instead of saying it, I thought about what I like to do instead of doing it. I thought about what I wanted to feel instead of feeling it. I would come up with hundreds of hypothetical scenarios of how I would react to them. It would keep me up until 3AM each night when I was in 5th grade. Funny thing is, none of these scenarios ever happened. No scenario happened period. I was too busy thinking that I never learned how to just do.
It's “a life well wasted” some might say, but I disagree. It made me who I am and took me this far, and man, I’m grateful for it! I guess what I’m trying to do is share my learnings as a life-long over thinker so you don’t have to waste anymore time overthinking.
Overthinking AKA thinking too much.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The same way the shortest distance between thought and execution is action. You don't need to always think about “the best approach” or the “right way” or the “right time.” Take me for example. As I struggle to write this article because I'm concerned about making any sense or if it’s good enough; I’m certain that the only way to become a better writer is to write - a lot. Not by thinking about writing or reading about writing, for that matter.
The worst part of overthinking is that it becomes our modus operandi, and we overthink everything and get very little done. We suffer from “paralysis by analysis.” So the problem is when we pile up too many things to do without necessarily getting them done or taking action, it makes you anxious and stressed, while killing your motivation (I.e. “what’s the point anyway?”) and/or self-confidence, since you fail to follow through and get results.
"Better done that none”
How do we fix our pathological, crippling overthinking? Train yourself to make "action" your natural response.
We’re conditioned since birth to be “failure adverse.” Think about it. If we don’t do what or parents wanted and how they wanted we would get punished. If we didn’t perform at school we’d get punished as well; with very little room to try our own way or make mistakes. But we have to re-wire of brain and realize that making mistakes and failing is the only way to really learn and succeed. “You can only be successful at the things you’re willing to fail at.”
The way I try to re-wire my brain is to use mantras that I can repeat to myself in a pinch and spring me out of my mind and into action. My favorite one is “better done than none,” which is a powerful tool against perfectionism and self doubt. Another one I use as an overarching life-encompassing mantra is “reward success and failure, punish inaction.” This can be applied to almost every area of my life and also dictates the way I set expectations for everyone around me.
Finally, there’s the 5 second rule. Whenever you want to do something and find yourself hesitating or resisting, stop thinking, could backwards from 5, and launch yourself like a rocket into action. 5,4,3,2,1 ask that girl out. Speak out in that meeting. Get out of bed before you snooze. Order a salad... you get the point.
Now, I’m really thankful you’ve read this far but I want you to stop. Stop reading this article and any other in search for motivation and/or answers and just go do. Save yourself from all that anxiety and start building the life of your dreams, because Nike had it right:
JUST DO IT.