Leading Edge: Limitless Transformation – Overthinking

Limitless Transformation from Aegis Learning and Tim Schneider

Never play Uno or Yahtzee with an overthinker.

This is the most common of the limiting and defeating behaviors and is most often responsible for missed opportunities in every segment of life.

Just a day ago, I fretted endlessly about asking a friend to coffee. What if she says no? What if she misreads my intention? What if she doesn’t like coffee? Wasted a good 45 minutes of my life overthinking something with no risk. We’re having coffee this coming Thursday. Similarly, I have offered a great little business opportunity to three of the Aegis Learning team members early this week. After two days, none of them have responded to this nominal risk and high-return potential chance.

Overthinking is the dwelling on and, often returning to thinking about the same thing. It is also a playing of “what ifs” that are focused on negative consequences and rarely about the positive potential of a situation or stimuli. Overthinkers will also devote undue amounts of time thinking about small and inconsequential issues and do not differentiate between a big thing and a little thing. To them all issues are worthy of the same degree of thought and analysis.

When unchecked and not managed, overthinking can lead to significant paralysis in action and loss of opportunity. In leadership and entrepreneurial roles this can be devastating. An overthinking leader or manager will drive his or her team absolutely nuts by sitting on the most fundamental and straightforward decisions. To anyone who leads, you must remind yourself that delay caused by overthinking risks your credibility as the sand falls from the hourglass. Each grain of sand is your leadership credibility falling away with your delay.

Overthinkers will also tend to over-gather information and data about a particular issue or subject. Way more data than is reasonably needed and many times, that data gathering creates more “what ifs” and is truly not helpful.

The classic overthinker also processes thoughts about timing. They will look for and seek the “perfect” time. That time does not exist, and it will never exist. The result of this delay will be lost opportunity. Overthinkers will also avoid seeking out their needs such as asking for a raise, requesting consideration for a promotion, or asking someone out for a social occasion.

As a behavior, overthinking can be caused by risk avoidance, anxiety, and even depression. In a working environment, it can also be caused by a lack of feedback for good decisions combined with hyper-scrutiny when an error occurred.

The evil twin of overthinking is underthinking. Underthinking is the process of committing no thought to an issue or stimulus and making a rash and arbitrary decision. This is also not a desired outcome as all decisions, with the exceptions of using the restroom, trying the ice cream, and stopping at the red light should have some thought. If you are an overthinker, underthinking is not your target.

Overthinkers should always examine some driving attitudes as well as attacking the behavior itself. It is highly likely that several of the attitudes and beliefs in Section 3 will resonate with the classic overthinkers and need to have some time an attention.

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