The Cruel Cycle that Turns Overthinkers into Underachievers

Have you ever met someone that won’t start something till everything is perfect? Someone that over analyzes every little detail? Someone who isn’t reaching their potential because they are stuck in their head? If not, then nice to meet you. I’m that someone. I used to blame many things for my slow progress but the facts are in, and I can say that I’m to blame. My perfectionist habits of overthinking and overanalyzing are at the core of the reasons why I haven’t been able to achieve the success I dreamt of as yet.

When you spend more time in your head, than actually doing things it delays your successes.

I can admit that even though I fall into that category, that I have made strides of progress from how I used to be, and because I have been there, I can identify the disease in people I meet. Now I want to help others escape the trap of overthinking by identifying the cycle and escaping it. I think it’s important to escape the cycle because perfectionism leads to inactivity, and all that is left is the feeling wasted time. When you spend more time in your head, than actually doing things it delays your successes. Compound that with the terrible feeling of watching people who are less qualified than you, execute your ideas. Now I want to help you get out of that cycle as well.

Ironically, I did a lot of introspection into why my habits had caused me to underachieve. Then I noticed a common cycle that I went through continuously that has kept me from progressing as I would like. In this blog I will go through what perfectionists might go through in the pursuit of creating something great. It’s a vicious cycle, but I think that if you can identify it, then you can take action to break out of it.

1. The Spark

If there is one good thing about overthinking, it’s that you will come up with some of the best ideas on the planet. The spark is the birth of the idea of something you want to pursue. For the purposes of this blog, let’s say it’s a business idea that you want to start. You would have probably envisioned exactly what you need to create, why it is needed and who would benefit. From the business model to the type of tiles you will use, you will think of everything. The problem with us is that, we probably have a great idea every other day. So identifying what should be pursued is our first challenge.

2. Research and Planning

So you settle on an idea you want to pursue and of course you have to get it done perfectly. It must match your vision precisely so there must be a research and planning process afterwards to see the viability of the idea and what has to be done. Sadly enough, many ideas don’t even reach this stage because they are either discarded in pursuit of others, or the owner of the idea is stuck in fantasy island, thinking about how great it could be and never actually does anything. This phase is the start of the real problems we have. Overthinkers can fall in love with researching and planning. We will have our saved images, bookmarked websites, sketches of designs and plans for the next 10 years. You can see why it’s easy to drown at this stage because planning is never truly done, and if you keep trying to get everything planned perfectly before you start. You will never start.

3. Do something

If you have reached this stage then I applaud you. You are actually stepping out of your head and making progress towards the thing you want to create. It’s a great place to be and if done right, you can escape the overthinkers trap. However for the sake of completing the cycle, let’s use the worst case scenario. You actually create your first thing; your design, your film, your logo. After spending weeks trying to get it the way you want, you just don’t like it. Is it really that bad? Maybe it is, but the issue is with your desire to have a perfect product to unveil as your first piece. Maybe it’s your own high standards, or your fear of what people will say, but you fail to accept your first offering as something viable to put out there. So it’s back to the drawing board to either improve it, or start from scratch.

4. Depression from the failed reality

Despite the fact that overthinking can cause stagnation at any stage, this one is the real quicksand. Realizing that what you may not be able to reach your own self-imposed standards on your first run is paralyzing. You question yourself, you question your purpose and even what you had for dinner. This is the worst part for the creative overthinker as we try to analyze why we aren’t good enough. Facing perceived hours of wasted time and effort, it’s natural for the overthinker to give up here and pursue one of his many other ideas which might be more in their area of expertise. However my advice for my fellow overthinkers is that we have to realize that we can’t be Steven Spielberg at 28 years old on our first film. It’s ok if it’s bad because it’s a learning process and you will get better on the next attempt. Just put your pride to the side for a while and put it out there.

“Education and motivation can be an addictive drug with little reward if it isn’t implemented immediately.”

5. Seeks wisdom

So you flopped on your first attempt and you are still coping with the negative reviews. The overthinker that is determined to create his dream will retreat back into his hole to begin researching and planning again. He will seek motivation and guidance for encouragement as he works towards for his bounce-back moment. While I applaud this effort, I would remind him not to get stuck in this zone again. I mean yes, seek knowledge on how to improve and find appropriate mentors, but don’t wait months again for your comeback. Education and motivation can be an addictive drug with little reward if it isn’t implemented immediately. The ovethinker craves enlightenment, but will take very little action. At some point however, the overthinker gains enough knowledge to adapt his idea, till he gets another spark.

Unfortunately, the cycle repeats itself from there. The spark helps us get renewed vision and helps us to get better, but the minimal gains acquired causes very slow progress. The majority of the time spent in the cycle is in stage 2, 4 and 5 where the overthinker isn’t doing as much as he should to make progress. My suggestion is to use this cycle to identify where you are so you can escape the cycle.

How would a more productive cycle look like?

After your spark moment, still spend some time researching and planning, but not as long as you think. Get the necessary information, then start taking action as soon as you can. Even while you are researching and planning you can do something productive. At the next stage you might fail, but don’t get too down about it, keep on creating, learning and adapting to create the much needed momentum for success. I can’t say that I have mastered this technique but I have witnessed it first hand and have implemented it into the progress I am making myself. So I challenge you Mr or Miss Overthinker, what can you do today to help you make some progress?

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Header Photo by Olhar Angolano on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “The Cruel Cycle that Turns Overthinkers into Underachievers

  1. Christopher Crossley says:

    As the last image says ..Do It! Start, even if you run into obstacles you’ll adjust and learn, starting is a key to not staying stuck in overthinking.

  2. Kimble Carol Johnson says:

    Thank you Jason for writing writing this blog it’s just what I needed this morning, I am a procrastinator and also perfectionist and forever planning and most of the time never finishing. Your blog got me moving this morning and again thank you and have a blessed day.

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