Only within the past couple years have I realized how much damage overthinking can cause in many aspects of life. I've spent a lot of time and effort to understand and battle my own overthinking, and want to discuss the impacts and potential solutions as it relates to innovators and entrepreneurs.
Spoiler: it negatively impacts your ability to be creative or innovative, because it tends to paralyze the afflicted into inaction. And as we know:
"Action is the foundational key to all success."
- Pablo Picasso
Perhaps hypocritically, overthinking does have some benefits (or so I tell myself). Overthinkers are typically very good divergent thinkers; able to identify multiple solutions to solve problems. We are also good at analyzing and identifying potential opportunities and threats, which help us strategize. However, more often than not, fostering our overthinking habits simply creates negative thoughts and anxiety, which is why it is time to confront your overthinking.
As an innovator, overthinking might manifest itself in a couple ways:
1.) You question your abilities, so you don't bother creating or taking any risks because research and planning is much safer
2.) You do bother, but end up focusing on perfecting your product or service and never launch, sell, or get it to your customers, because you feel the result could never be good enough
3.) You find the courage to create and go to market, but any criticism or setback makes you want to quit all together
For many, it's a combination of all three. Outside influences can impact or motivate, causing you to fluctuate between them. The Catch-22 of all this: there is plenty of research indicating that the worrying overthinkers have the highest potential to be creative (aka innovative). As a result, having such a creative imagination makes us prone to mentally conjure thoughts that are daunting and exacerbate our insecurities. Understandably, it's difficult to express ourselves through art, take a risk starting a business, or be vulnerable enough to share our innovations if our mind tells us that nobody cares, our business will probably fail, we're not good enough, or people will laugh at us. Don't believe these thoughts.
Don't let your mind limit your ambitions. Majority of entrepreneurship is putting out a product or service and constantly adapting to new feedback, technology, and experiences. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis is an excellent book that speaks to the importance of putting your business concept out there and being nimble and flexible enough to change quickly. As an overthinker, you will fight against the thoughts that you, your product, or your service isn't ready (Obvious tip: you will never feel ready). You also can't adapt quickly if you second or triple guess yourself or your team.
Taking action will always beat out intentions, so the first step is to make sure your mind is not preventing you from beginning to create or getting to market. After that, it's also very important to realize if your overthinking is causing you to be less productive and slower to adapt than you should be. If left unresolved, overthinking will hurt your business.
So if you've admitted to yourself that you are also an over thinker and are unsure how to battle it, here are some suggestions:
1) First, as cliche as it may be, mindful meditation is extremely helpful in strengthening the "observing" part of the mind, which is in contrast to the "thinking" part that is responsible for the constant bombardment of doubts and questions. Other healthy habits like exercise and good nutrition will support your meditation practice.
2) Taking it one step further, if you have a medical professional that offers neurofeedback training, I would highly recommend it. The process trains your brain to more easily transition from the limbic system (emotional, worrying, overthinking) the to the prefrontal cortex (rational, control, decision making).
3) Next, self-awareness is crucial. If you know and celebrate what you are good at, you are more likely to battle thoughts trying to question your value. Oddly enough, I think most of us are in the habit of meeting expectations, but are not aware enough to get to know our own strengths and passions.
4) Finally, the more you are able to fight against the paralysis caused by overthinking to take action, the less your mind can tell you it can't be done. If you are able to push through the initial fear, taking action and executing will actually build the self-confidence necessary to quiet your overthinking mind.
Overthinking tends to cause unhappiness and anxiety, and paralyzes potentially creative and innovative people into inaction. We must be self-aware to recognize it, deliberately battle negative and unhelpful thoughts, and push through and execute to prove ourselves wrong and shut our minds up. The more comfortable we are in our own skin and proud we are of our strengths, passions, and accomplishments, the more ammo we have to battle the thoughts that tell us we are not good enough or ready to pursue our passions.
Bottom line: overthinking can be a disadvantage, but it is far from an insurmountable problem. In the eloquent words of Gary Vaynerchuk, "You're the fucking best... go do shit," and don't let your mind tell you otherwise.