The Danger of Overthinking

Yesterday I wrote about choice and about feeling paralysed by indecision when there are too many options. To day I found an article about thinking too much, over thinking, and therefore making errors and missing opportunities.

Yes but… I must think over this whole idea of over thinking. And when I have thought over overthinking maybe I can overcome the procrastination that has come over the project as we undertake to take under consideration the whole…. give it a rest, this could take all day!

“Yes, but” is a favourite phrase of mine… exploring alternative theories and situations can be very interesting and important. It can also lead to indecision and delay. This article by Ian Leslie NON COGITO, ERGO SUM is from More Intelligent Life, a blog produced by The Economist Magazine. Among other claims, he asserts:

A fundamental paradox of human psychology is that thinking can be bad for us. When we follow our own thoughts too closely, we can lose our bearings, as our inner chatter drowns out common sense. A study of shopping behaviour found that the less information people were given about a brand of jam, the better the choice they made. When offered details of ingredients, they got befuddled by their options and ended up choosing a jam they didn’t like….

How do you learn to unthink? Dylan believes the creative impulse needs protecting from self-analysis: “As you get older, you get smarter, and that can hinder you…You’ve got to programme your brain not to think too much.”

Flann O’Brien said we should be “calculatedly stupid” in order to write. The only reliable cure for overthinking seems to be enjoyment, something that both success and analysis can dull. Experienced athletes and artists often complain that they have lost touch with what made them love what they do in the first place. Thinking about it is a poor substitute….

We live in age of self-reflection, analysing every aspect of our work, micro-commentating on our own lives online, reading articles urging us to ponder what makes us happy. Much of this may be worthwhile, but we also need to put thinking in its place.

I do want that new kitchen eventually!

I intend to use Ian Leslie’s thesis to justify every quick or impulsive decision, to speak scornfully of overthinking. I will point out what a waste of time it is to research, to do comparative pricing, to  source the very best alternatives, to lose sleep over  drawer handles and pot lights.

Yes but… see, there it is again… raised in relative poverty, I was taught to be a “conscientious consumer”, to make choices that were permanent (or at least very long-lasting). Those shoes had better fit well, be comfortable, and “go with everything” because they were the only shoes I would be getting that year. My parents were children during the depression, and knew serious financial challenges all their lives. “You can only spend it once… time, energy, opportunity, and money.”

So I must think about it, and get it right! There is no longer time to get around to it. This is the first kitchen I have ever designed and the last kitchen I will ever own. If not perfect, it needs at least to be highly competent, and even that may be a stretch…  Cognito ergo sum, or non cognito, ergo sum? Either/or? Both/and?

The sound you hear faintly in the background is the gnashing of teeth. Fortunately it is so hot here in Hamilton to-day that there is a heat advisory in place and we have decided to stay home!   No shopping today! Tomorrow I hope to get around to it!

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