Yeah but...

Let's talk about overthinking. Let's talk about making a big deal out of things that are not one. Let's talk about paralysis analysis.

If there is anything I am good at, it is thinking too much about a problem. Sometimes the problem does not even exist and I have conjured it out of thin air. I am that good.

In reality, it is actually tremendously frustrating. I feel like my mind is foggy. There are too many routes to consider. It is overwhelming and I want to just give up. At least, this is one scenario. The other scenario is that I start taking a bunch of notes and making as many lists as I can. Actually, both of these things tend to happen. I shy away from the problem for as long as possible. Then, I try to make notes about it. Sadly, these actions do not tend to help. If only...

Eventually I realize that my problem is not really a big deal. I am thinking too much about it. My gut instinct was right from the beginning. There are not nearly as many routes to consider as I initially thought (especially not that I actually want to do).

Once I have realized it is not a big deal, I am able to think more clearly again. Instead of optimizing for some higher-level goal, I just follow my gut. I pick what I want to do. Then I try to do that instead. So what if I choose wrong? It's not a big deal.

I have noticed this pattern many, many times in my life. Luckily, it seems that it is becoming a tighter cycle over time. More quickly I am able to recognize the pattern and skip to the part where I recognize that it doesn't really matter.

So let's make a list. Let us materialize the pattern so that we may be able to recognize it more clearly in the future.

1. Avoidance

The problem is either big or confusing. Possibly both. Maybe I have never had the challenge opportunity of solving it before. This means that an answer is not always ready. This is scary. What do I do with scary problems? I avoid them.

Alternatively, I think the problem will go away on it's own, so I avoid thinking about it. It is small at this point and I can deal with (for now).

2. Seepage

Inevitably, when problems are avoided, they tend to grow. They grow unseen and unnoticed. Eventually, I am thinking about the problem more often. It begins to affect my mood.

3. Suffering

I have a problem.

I want to fix it.

Let me lay down.

How am I supposed to know what I want?

What if...

Yeah but...

4. Attack

I have now created a big problem decision from a much smaller one. The answer is even less clear. I cannot think straight. It is time to face it.

I only know one way of attacking big decisions. Writing about it. I take all my thoughts and try to start organizing them. I open Google Docs and I start writing. I ask myself questions. I get sucked into tangents.

Eventually I have had the same thoughts so many times that the decision itself loses its meaning. This can happen after a single one-hour session, or it can happen after four months of repeatedly bashing my head against the problem, thinking I am making progress.

5. Resolution

I am finally able to think clearly again. I return to reality. Whatever it was is no longer a big deal. I am finally able to just choose what I want to do — and even be excited about it.

I really enjoy not taking things too seriously and it is a battle I have to fight so frequently. In a follow-up post, I think I would like to talk about how I avoid taking things too seriously. How to prevent big deals.