Overthinking-The Number One Thing You Must Immediately Stop Doing

By Melissa Brown, MD

Overthinking and the Entrepreneur

Overthinking can be a huge roadblock for entrepreneurs. It prevents too many people from sharing their gifts with the world. Successful entrepreneurs make a decision, take action and adjust or modify based on how that first decision succeeded . . . or didn’t succeed.

The difference between successful action-takers and stuck overthinkers is the willingness of the former to risk failing at something. They recognize and embrace a simple truth. If things aren’t going in the direction they want, they only need to make an adjustment. They realize it’s not the end of the world if things don’t come out perfectly at first. In fact, they have no expectation for perfection in the first place.

The Overthinker’s Mantra

The overthinker, on the other hand, needs to look at all the angles and ‘what if’ each decision from every possible direction. In addition, all scenarios are usually viewed from a negative standpoint.

What if this disaster occurs if I choose this way?

What if that disaster occurs if I make this other choice?

‘What if’ is the mantra of all overthinkers. If you find yourself ‘what if-ing’ every action without the ability to move forward with a firm and clear decision, then I would say it’s a good bet that you’re overthinking.

Overthinking and Perfectionism

It’s important to see how overthinking and perfectionism intersect. These conditions are kissing cousins and they will both take you down with analysis paralysis. The quote to keep in mind when you find yourself overthinking and/or working to perfection is this:

I don’t know who originally said it but this should become the overthinker’s lifeline and daily affirmation. Write it on a sticky note and post it near your computer. Slap it on the mirror in the bathroom so you see it first thing every morning and again at night before you go to sleep.

Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction. Click To Tweet

While you’re at it, print out the quote below. Harry S. Truman is credited with this one. You can be perfect at not taking action but where does that lead you?

“Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.” 

It’s Time To Quit

If overthinking is overtaking your mind, then I want you to consider quitting the following 4 things that are often at the root of overthinking.

  1. Quit fearing change.

    Here’s what I know; the only constant in life is that everything can and does change. Usually, there is another underlying fear associated with that change. It’s the fear of the unknown.

    Fear of the unknown is grounded in a lack of confidence to handle whatever happens. Recognize that change is inevitable.

    The more ongoing changes you successfully handle in your life, stop and give yourself a pat on the back for getting through them. By recognizing the great job you’re doing with each of these ongoing changes, your self-confidence gets a boost to continue meeting the next inevitable change that will come along.

  2. Quit trying to please everyone.

    You simply cannot please everyone. The sooner you realize this and stop trying to make everyone happy with your decisions, the quicker you will stop overthinking every. damn. decision. Stop being a people pleaser. The only person you need to please is yourself. Be easily pleased.

  3. Quit living in the past.

    What’s happened in the past is past. If you find yourself replaying a conversation and what if-ing you had only said or done this or that–that’s classic overthinking. It leads nowhere good.

    If you think something in the past was not handled well by you and you owe someone an apology, then get the apology over and let it go. You can’t control what others have done in the past or how they might react to one of your apologies, so let their behavior go and learn a lesson from it if you were wronged.

  4. Quit putting yourself down.

    You would never talk to other people the way you talk to yourself when you beat yourself up with negative self-talk. Most likely, this negative self-talk is coming from something that you overthought and you’re not happy with the way things turned out. The circuitous thinking then goes like this–I effed up and made the wrong choice and I should have thought about this angle or that angle. What was I thinking?! I’m such an idiot/stupid jerk/loser–you get the idea.

    This isn’t at all productive. Stop it. Now.

When you’re not in overthinking mode, you’re able to make decisions and move forward.

Besides quitting the 4 things above, just how do you stop this overthinking cycle?

5 Steps To Move On From Overthinking

Here are 5 steps to get you back on track to stop overthinking everything.

  1. Awareness Is Key.

    As with most behavior that you want to change, unless and until you’re aware you’re doing the behavior in question, it’s not going to change. Become aware of the ‘what if’ circle of thinking and when you recognize it’s happening, be curious about it enough to put a pause on it.

    Be in tune to your decision-making. Are you avoiding decisions because you’re inspecting from this or that angle and what if-ing all the possible combinations of the different scenarios?

  2. Start Moving.

    When you become aware that you’re overthinking something, then start moving. Take a walk, get outside, dance in your room, or do power poses.

    There is scientific evidence that power poses–Wonder Woman stance with legs apart, hands on your hips and chest thrust forward– will lower your cortisol, aka the stress hormone. Your cortisol level is likely elevated after a good overthinking session. Power poses also increase your testosterone level which helps boost your confidence. Having increased testosterone/confidence hormone may help you move forward with making a decision more confidently.

  3. Squash The A.N.T.’s

    Overthinking becomes a bath in automatic negative thoughts (A.N.T.s). So squash those ANTS!

    When you’re thinking about this [insert negative outcome] possibly happening from choice A or choice B, turn that negative scenario around and think what if this [insert positive outcome] occurs from choice A or B instead?

    Replace those negative thoughts with positive ones–it will take some practice but start now and build up possible positive outcomes to consider–not only the negatives.

  4. Banish The Perfectionist Monster.

    Perfect is an illusion. We never truly achieve it. Done is better than perfect and allows you to move on to the next thing. If you need to make an adjustment in the way things are heading after you’ve made a decision, then make the adjustment.

    Waiting for ‘perfect’ is never as smart as making progress. Perfect is not coming, so make a decision and allow forward movement.

  5. Schedule Worry Time.

    If you must worry and overthink, then set a timer for 5 minutes to think about all scenarios. When the timer goes off, set it for another 5 minutes and write down all your overthinking. When the timer goes off the second time, take your page of overthinking and get rid of it. Make a decision right then and move on.

Don’t Overthink Your Content Creation

Overthinking, perfectionism and analysis paralysis will all hold you back from getting your message and your gifts out to those who need to hear you. It keeps you small and unable to connect with your ideal clients and community who have been looking for what you’re offering.

Make a Decision

So if you’re overthinking the topics you want to write about in your blog, newsletter, or that course you want to create–make a decision about one thing right now and write. Set a deadline to get it written by a specific date and then do it. Publish it and then make another decision about your next blog topic or newsletter focus. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

If you’re overthinking the time commitment to do your content writing, block out 10-15 minute chunks of time in your schedule. Treat them as appointments with someone you wouldn’t want to disappoint by not showing up. No, you may not get all your writing done in those small blocks, but you will get started and that’s what’s most important now. Stop thinking about it and start doing it.

Don’t Make People Wait Any Longer To Hear Your Message

Your people need to hear from you. You have a message to share–people are waiting. Don’t make them wait another minute. Stop feeding the analysis paralysis–become aware of the overthinking and shut it down with the steps above.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you’ve overcome overthinking and moved forward. Leave a comment below.

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About the author

Dr. Melissa Brown's career journey has always had an element of teaching. After retirement from clinical pediatric practice, Dr. Brown has taught and mentored as a healthy lifestyle coach, author, and speaker. She currently teaches solopreneurs and coaches how to stop being the world's best-kept secret. Her mission is to help you: Create great content. Impact people. Change the world.

  • Great article Melissa. Sometimes I feel I am the queen of overthinking and other times I just make a decision on move on no matter the outcome. I figure I will deal with whatever happens. I guess it all depends on the issue/situation. But I love your great ideas for moving on. I like the ANT (which is where I can get stuck) and the scheduling worry time. I am a huge worry-wort (my whole family is really) so I don’t know how well the 5-10 mins would work. I may have to try it though and see. Thanks for the great advice and suggestions.

    • Hi Samantha and thank you for your comment. Yeah, those ANTs seem to get into everything, don’t they? There’s evidence that this automatic negative thinking is survival-related, but so unnecessary when we get sucked in and stuck with it.

      Give the worry sessions a try for a short while and do use a timer. Then you’ve got to let those worries go. Have you ever tried writing them down on dissolvable paper and then put them in a glass of water to watch them dissolve? It’s very powerful!

      Thank you for taking the time to stop and comment! Appreciate it.

  • Great tips! I have these great ideas while getting reading in the morning but then once I get to my desk I overthink them and never follow thru. I’m going to keep this open as a reminder!

    • Oh, thank you, Stacy. So glad this was a helpful article. Write down some of those quotes on index cards or sticky notes and keep them handy where they will remind you to make a decision and move on. Done is better than perfect!

  • Great reminders, and a word(s) I needed to hear today! It’s amazing how some things I can decide to do on the spot, while others I spend so much time ruminating that I often don’t end up doing those things!

    • Angie, that’s a very interesting observation. I wonder if you can pinpoint what it is about those things that you can take automatic action. Then you could see if there’s a way to tap into that to apply when you find yourself overthinking something.

      Thank you for your comment.

  • I like the steps you list to overcome the “what ifs.” I’m generally a positive person and try not to let negativity get in my way.

  • Ack!!! You’re going to make my brain explode. Because you’re saying don’t overthink but the other one over there is saying make sure you know the exact problem you solve & solution you offer and can’t be too vague or they won’t get it and you won’t sell it. What *exactly* is the pain they are desperate to get over? Think, Jeanine, think! Then you say, don’t overthink it – you have a good enough idea, you kinda know, I mean, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Course correct later…

    • So sorry your brain is exploding, Jeanine! Let’s call in the bomb squad!!

      Just take it one thing at a time, make a decision, take an action, evaluate the results and then make another decision. You’re right, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

      Thanks so much for stopping and leaving your comment. Your brain will be just fine. ❤️

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