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To overthink or not to overthink

In a world that often celebrates quick decision-making and bold action, overthinking is often painted in a negative light
12:00 AM Mar 28, 2024 IST | Mahoor Haya Shah
to overthink or not to overthink

We've all been there– lying awake at 3 AM, in the midst of an important meeting or in a physically lackadaisical situation, meticulously mulling over the perfect witty comeback for a conversation that happened last Tuesday or ‘what if this would happen’ or wishing ‘that should have happened rather’.


We've all tangoed with the ubiquitous question: to overthink or not to overthink? And everyone has told us overthinking is bad…It's not good for making healthy decisions… but hold on, before you banish overthinking to the mental Bermuda Triangle, let's consider its potential to be your loyal confidante.


Overthinking can save you from that spontaneous Purchase, that Risky Investment, that Hasty Breakup, that Rapid Commitment, that sudden Job Change, that Sudden Resignation, that Major Life Decision and that Bad Health Choice!

In a world that often celebrates quick decision-making and bold action, overthinking is often painted in a negative light. However, the art of overthinking, when approached with balance and mindfulness, can actually be a powerful tool for better decision-making and long-term success. Let's delve into why overthinking isn't always as bad as it's made out to be and how it can actually lead to more favourable outcomes in certain situations.


The French philosopher and poet, Gaston Bachelard, maintains "To be conscious of being, you need to reclaim the consciousness that is scattered among the various impressions of the day." And I can't agree more.


So, as I said, we've all been there, trapped in the maze of our own minds, replaying conversations, dissecting decisions, and catastrophizing scenarios until our brains resemble scrambled eggs. We get trapped in the echo chamber of our own minds, dissecting decisions until they resemble desiccated beetles, and catastrophizing scenarios with the finesse of a seasoned dystopian novelist.


It's enough to make us yearn for the carefree days of childhood, when the biggest dilemma was choosing between a chocolate or strawberry ice cream cone (though, come to think of it, even that could have involved agonising deliberation for some). This very inquiry, immortalised by the brooding Hamlet (a veritable patron saint of over-analysis), exemplifies the struggle.


Wasn't Sherlock Holmes, the master of deduction, a champion overthinker? His mind, a meticulously furnished attic, housed every conceivable fact and theory, allowing him to connect seemingly random dots and crack seemingly impossible cases. His mind, a meticulously curated Wunderkammer, housed a constellation of facts and theories.

Overthinking, when channelled productively, can be a sculptor, meticulously chipping away at a problem until a brilliant solution emerges. It's the architect meticulously sketching blueprints before laying the foundation of a dream project. It's the cautious tightrope walker painstakingly planning each step before attempting the daring crossing.

However, there is a fine line between productive pondering and the paralysing vortex of overthinking. Just like a delicious stew can turn into an inedible mush if left simmering for eternity, overthinking can curdle our best intentions. Do you remember the tale of Achilles, the Greek warrior who dipped himself in the River Styx, becoming invincible except for his heel, the one spot his overprotective mother neglected to dunk? His fatal flaw, some might say, was a touch of over-motherly overthinking or maybe a little more thinking was required…

And let's not forget Icarus, the mythological daredevil who neglected to heatproof his wings of ambition. He had to give that extra thought!

So, the next time you find yourself trapped in an overthinking spiral, take a deep breath and don't traduce it always as destroying and lethal because since, let me assure and guarantee you that decisions that come out of impulsiveness (or even somewhat proper thought) are no good. Channel your inner Sherlock, but remember to schedule a deadline for your mental deductions.

Clasp to and welcome the thoughtful planning, and giving that extra thought before taking any action. After all, as the wise poet Maya Angelou once said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." And sometimes, the best way to know better is to simply take the plunge, host the messiness of life, and learn from the experience, even if it involves a few bumps and bruises along the way.

Making quick decisions without proper contemplation can often lead to regrettable outcomes. Whether it's hastily accepting a job offer, impulsively making a major purchase, or hastily responding to a critical email, the repercussions of not giving a matter due thought can be significant. In these instances, taking the time to truly consider the options and potential consequences can prevent unnecessary stress and remorse down the road.

Overthinking can lead to a deeper understanding of a situation or problem. By carefully considering various angles, potential outcomes, and alternative solutions, individuals can develop a more comprehensive perspective. This can lead to more effective problem-solving and decision-making, ultimately resulting in better outcomes.

Overthinking can also spur creativity. When individuals take the time to mull over a concept or idea, they often uncover innovative solutions and approaches that may not have surfaced with a more rushed thought process. This creativity can be particularly valuable in professional settings, where unique ideas and perspectives are highly sought after.

One of the most compelling arguments for the value of overthinking is its potential to prevent regret. By thoroughly contemplating a decision, individuals can be more confident in their choices, knowing that they've weighed the pros and cons with care. This can lead to a greater sense of assurance and contentment with the paths they choose to take. And individuals may possess a heightened sensitivity to their emotions and those of others, leading to greater empathy and emotional intelligence.

While overthinking can indeed be advantageous in many scenarios, it's essential to strike a balance. It's important to recognize when a decision requires careful consideration and when it's more beneficial to trust one's instincts. Overthinking can become counterproductive when it leads to excessive rumination or paralyzing indecision. Being mindful of this distinction is crucial for tapping into the positive aspects of overthinking while avoiding its potential drawbacks.

So, the next time you find yourself deep in thought, consider the possibility that your overthinking may just be guiding you toward a more informed and favorable decision. You can delay gratification and implement a waiting period before acting. This can provide the necessary time to evaluate the situation and make a more considered decision.

Philosophers throughout history have grappled with the human tendency to overthink. Socrates, the father of Western philosophy, emphasised the importance of "knowing thyself," a process that necessitates introspection and self-examination. Eastern philosophies like Zen Buddhism advocate for mindful contemplation, encouraging us to slow down and truly consider our actions before taking them.

Even successful leaders and entrepreneurs credit thoughtful deliberation for their achievements. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, famously employs a "two-pizza team" rule, ensuring teams are small enough for thorough discussion and decision-making.

I would like to conclude with a quote by an Ancient Greek Philosopher, Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates' timeless wisdom underscores the significance of self-awareness, urging us to examine our lives and strive for a deeper understanding of our impulses and actions.

So, let overthinking be your wingman, not your anchor. It can be the very lifesaver that helps you to safely traverse the treacherous currents of life, leading you to secure and sheltered shores .

MAHOOR HAYA SHAH, writer from Srinagar