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

RIP Jason Marcano: A tribute to those we lost in 2019

Can you imagine logging into Facebook, just to browse through your feed only to see that you had passed away? With friends sending “R.I.P’s”, you see first hand reactions of how your friends and family would take the news. It’s chilling… but that was my reality on May 31st. My name sake, footballer “Jason Marcano,” tragically lost his life in a car accident. The incident was the third in a 2 month period where I lost 2 other colleagues. All 3 of them were in their 30’s like me, so I was already reeling from the “what if that was me?” syndrome. Actually seeing your name associated with death hits you a different way. Death has a way of making us reflect on our own life, as we remember the ones we’ve lost and their stories. While we honour them, we seek a deeper meaning in the tragedies and see how we can lay rest to our past negative habits as we learn from the lessons they had taught us in their presence.

Lesson #1 – Do What You Love

I never met Jason, but it felt like if I lost a relative. We weren’t directly related, but I had known him for maybe 10-15 years due to his celebrity status. People always asked me if I was him. Having gained his reputation as a talented footballer and even playing for the Trinidad and Tobago national team, he was well known in the football circuits. To me, his existence represented an alternate reality for what my life would be like if I pursued a career in football (and if I were any good). I had actually wanted to be a footballer when I was younger, but never liked the idea of training, so it’s no surprise that dream only reached as far as being good at playing FIFA.

Ironically, we only connected for the first time a couple months before his demise, on Facebook. We discussed him moving away from football to start building his business, and by perusing his page I was happy to realize that he seemed like a down-to-earth, progressive, family-oriented man, much like myself. At only 38 years old, despite achieving so much, it feels like he would have continued to reach his goals because of his drive. I know he can rest easier knowing that he had pursued a career he loved and was successful at it. My philosophy is that as long as you are doing what you love and earning a living, you’ve won.

A lot of times our “coulda woulda shouldas” haunt us with the regret of things we never pursued. I’m glad that Jason was successful in doing something he loved, and to me that is how life is meant to be spent. We can’t control how much time we have here, but we can control what we do with our time here. Thanks Jason.

Lesson #2 – Inspire Positive Change and Lead by example

The first person who passed away within that period, was someone who worked within my organization. Again, I only met him for the first time about a month before he died, but his reputation preceded him. Lyndon Jackson was a Librarian attached to the Arima Public Library. I met him at a meeting where he sat on the executive for the Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago. Quite an ambitious role for someone so young, I thought to myself. I assume he was the youngest person there, and was impressed by his dedication to his craft, even slightly envious. Just like with Jason, I feel like people who find a job they are passionate about and can make a career out of it are the lucky ones.

Lyndon wasn’t there for the glory, his humble persona hid his enthusiasm for his job. He seemed truly passionate about helping people, using libraries as a vessel to do his life’s work. He had gone above and beyond the call of duty multiple times to serve in whatever way he could. He was mentioned in conversations about bringing positive changes to the library service, he was the silver lining in a dark cloud. Despite only learning most of this at his funeral, I could tell that the impact he made was monumental. Colleagues knew we had lost someone special. I can’t say if Librarianship was truly his passion because I never asked him, but Lyndon gave everything to his job, helped people along the way and inspired people to emulate him.

At the end of the day, our short time here should be meaningful and we should do our best to help people and change anything we can for the better. Lyndon’s inspirational journey inspired me and many others to do better. Thanks Lyndon.

Lesson #3 – Brighten Someone’s Day

The third person who passed away in the time period was Karlene Flemming-Fortune. At 34, she was someone I knew better than the others I mentioned. I had known her for a few years well from working within the same building. She was just one of those persons who could turn the mood around. We traded stories, and she offered an encouraging word when necessary. Even with colleagues who were troubled, I saw Karlene take the time to speak with them and make them smile.

I never saw her sad or upset until the weeks leading up to her demise. While I reached out to her to assist, I was really helpless to do anything because of her medical condition. Mere days before she passed away she posted an eerie status, it was the first time I saw her speak this way and it was a sign of what had ultimately happened. If Karlene was ever going through any major issues prior to that I would have never known, as she always wore a smile and was positive. While I do feel like Karlene was doing work she enjoyed, my main lesson from Karlene was from our personal interactions.

You have the power to make someone’s day better, so you should. It’s not always about trying to be the next big thing, your impact can come from every interaction you have with someone, making their day a little better than it was before they met you. Thanks Karlene.

If there was an overarching theme to this all it is that death causes us to reevaluate how we spend our time, because we remember our own mortality and the finite nature of our presence. Are we truly bringing enough value to this world? Apart from footballer Jason Marcano, I would like to put another one to rest. The old Jason Marcano, my old habits, my old approach to life, because despite trying to do a lot, I know I can do better, and utilize the lessons learnt from my 3 colleagues to be rebirthed with their values.

I will:

  1. Do What I Love – What sense does it make to live this life without fully pursuing your passions, you will never know how far it can take you.
  2. Inspire Positive Change – You can impact help make so many persons lives better while being here, why not try to do that.
  3. Brighten Someone’s Day – Be a beacon of light to the people you meet. A warm smile might be enough to lift someone’s mood.

I pray that these three amazing souls rest in peace and their impact helps them to live on forever.