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.
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).
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.
I have a problem.
I want to fix it.
Let me lay down.
How am I supposed to know what I want?
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.
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.