Friday, September 16, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Getting Out of the Trap of Overthinking

Numerous studies over the past two decades have shown that to the contrary, overthinking ushers in a host of adverse consequences: It sustains or worsens [anxiety], fosters negatively biased thinking, impairs a person’s ability to solve problems, saps motivation, and interferes with concentration and initiative. — Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky (Stanford University)

There’s a huge difference between giving a matter due diligence, versus overthinking it.

The problem for chronic overthinkers is that they believe the process of overthinking and second-guessing protects projects and outcomes — thus, a smart checklist to follow. Not true.

So here are a few suggestions for letting yourself and others out of this trap:

If you find yourself feeling troubled, recognize there’s a difference between exercising self-knowledge and brooding. Turning inward cannot yield more creativity but endless, circular ruminations about wouldas, couldas, shouldas. Literally: get out. Get out of your own head. Refocus elsewhere. You may yet carry it in the back of your mind, but what you find in the outside world may ultimately inform what’s troubling you, and help you to overcome it.

Call it out if you see it happening within your workgroup. Group overthink kicks up anxious variables like a careening car kicks up gravel. Without appearing dismissive of anyone’s concerns, hold up your hands and say, “Whoa, we may be overthinking this.” Instead, remind the group of intended goals and priorities. If group overthink persists, ask how those objectives will be served by answering all qualms.

Steer clear of people and situations that chronically lead to overthink. Overthinking bosses and clients lead internal lives of frantic anxiety and repeatedly lose focus and clarity about intentional goals. Many are convinced, all evidence to the contrary, that they’ve been “set up to fail.” They’re unwilling to confront that which makes them anxious, and may even believe their cautionary role adds to their value and importance. Their thinking falls into biased grooves, which means creative problem-solving is shut out in favor of formulaic solutions that have worked in the past. The most egregious overthinkers become passionate about blame assignments (because their motivations are fraught with anxiety, they seek to deflect blame). It’s your call how long you can work within this no-win situation. Personally, what frustrates me about rabid overthinkers is that they never address themselves to the problems—usually only to solutions once provided by others.

Marketing research cannot guarantee 100% of the answers 100% of the time. In business, taking calculated risks is better than doing nothing at all. Sometimes, folks, life is just a toss of the dice.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Well said. Now, if I could just remember this when the time comes....