Do you find yourself spending too much time pondering and not enough time getting things done? You are not alone. A study from the University of Michigan found that 52% of adults in the age group of 45 to 55 years tend to overthink. This percentage is even higher in the age group of 25 to 35 years – as high of 73%.
The most successful people make decisions quickly and stick with them. The less successful ones take too long to decide and quickly change their mind afterwards.
Research has also found that most people who overthink believe that they are being responsible and cautious by taking their time to decide, but they are actually shooting themselves in the foot. There is no evidence to suggest that ruminating excessively on a decision results in a better outcome.
Overthinking actually results in a waste of time and lowers your confidence. How about making up your mind and getting on with your life? Here are some steps that can help you to make decisions confidently without unnecessary overthinking:
1. List down the pros and cons.
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” – Winston Churchill
Write down the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives that you are considering for your decision making. Even better, use mindmapping as a tool to help to arrive at a decision. There is something magical about taking pen to paper when making decisions. By the time you are done, you will have a better idea of the right direction to take.
2. Be aware of and operate from your own core values.
“When you’ve had a life of overthinking, you have the same reaction time and time again. Shyness becomes habitual. When you’re put in an unfamiliar situation, all you want to do is retreat and hide by default. You watch but don’t participate. You listen but don’t respond. You read, but rarely comment. You take a photo, but you rarely post. You write, but you rarely publish. All of this is because your overthinking mind cannot stop thinking about how you will be perceived by the outside world.” – Joel Annesley
Decisions are more quickly and easily made when you know your core values. When you consider a choice, test it against your core values. Often, these choices aren’t the easiest, but are in your best interests.
3. Remember that you have the flexibility to always change your mind.
“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
There are few, if any, decisions you must stick with until your deathbed. Just knowing that you can change your mind later can give you the comfort needed to decide. It’s not possible to predict the future with 100% accuracy anyway.
4. Avoid paralysis by analysis.
“Thinking too much leads to paralysis by analysis. It’s important to think things through, but many use thinking as a means of avoiding action.” – Robert Herjavek
Overanalyzing doesn’t lead to better results. It leads to inactivity and confusion. The Armed Forces have a rule that you only need to be 70% certain to act. Even though you may not be in the military, the same principle applies to you. Often, the window of opportunity closes before the last 30% of the information can be gathered.
5. Think both short-term and long-term.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
Ask yourself whether you’ll be happy with your decision in 15 minutes, 15 days, 15 months as well as in 15 years. Any decision that meets these criteria is a great decision.
6. Stay occupied.
“Don’t brood. Get on with living and loving. You don’t have forever.” – Leo Buscaglia
Those that overthink often have the luxury of too much free time. Busy people make decisions quicker because they don’t have the time to brood over every decision. Be more active in general. You’ll find it easier to make decisions in a timely fashion. Exercise is one way to stay busy. You don’t overthink when your body is tired.
7. Set a timer to make decisions.
“We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.” – John Newton
Most decisions don’t require weeks, or even days, to make. A couple of hours is more than sufficient most the time. Use a timer and put some focus on the issue. When you hear the alarm, it’s time to decide. A timer is an effective way to narrow your focus.
To sum up, keep in mind that a Good Decision Now is better than a Great Decision Later.
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I am reminded of a famous dialogue of Amitabh Bachchan:
“Itna mat soch… Soch gehri ho jaaye, Toh faisle kamzor ho jaate hai”
Translation: “Don’t think so much… As you think deeper, your decisions become weaker”
What are you waiting for? Success is more about making decent decisions and working hard than it is about making awesome decisions. Avoid overestimating the value of perfection and underestimating the value of action.
Version One is better than Version None.
For more powerful articles and secrets on enhancing your Wealth, Wisdom and Wellness: