We see overthinking as the devil when making decisions.
I’m not so sure. The ‘over’ part doesn’t help. It implies excess, in the same way spending too much time sunbathing on a hot August day does.
As always, context matters deeply.
Every decision begins with a question. For the avoidance of doubt, it should be this:
Is this a reversible or irreversible decision?
If a choice is reversible, then overthinking borders on immoral. Stop wasting time and make the decision happen. Never has there been a better time to exercise your bias for action than now.
The sad truth is most reversible decisions get far more thought than they deserve.
Thinking is no substitute for doing when faced with a decision you can undo. The act of doing will create evidence no amount of theorizing can achieve. With evidence, you have facts that can guide you forward—or back to where you began.
Even though you’re back where you started, now you have data you didn’t have before.
But what about an irreversible decision?
The time you give to thinking about a choice you face becomes a critical success factor. Let me remind you of the bullet points in the tweet:
- It can lead to a deeper understanding
- It can prevent impulsive choices
- It’s not always excessive
A deeper understanding comes from exploring what you know and don’t know. You should not expect to do this quickly.
For Sherlock Holmes, it took 3 pipes. Yes, the great detective would sit alone and think about a problem for the time it would take to smoke three pipes.
Without a pipe, sitting with the ticking movement of time would look to most like overthinking. Distractions, whether from the TV or our phones mean we never get the chance to develop a deeper understanding. We waste mental energy because we don’t spend long enough thinking about the right things.
Of course, there are other upsides to thinking through a decision before making it. The action of thought tends to stop impulsiveness in its tracks.
The upsides of thinking deeply lead me towards this week’s One Weekly Decision. Make time to think deeply. Remove distractions, sit, and think. Question your assumptions, seek perspectives and give yourself the capacity to overthink.
It might lead you to the deeper understanding you need to make a better decision.
Have a great week!
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