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Overthinking: The Bane of Creativity
Overthinking: The Bane of Creativity
Thinking is something we do every day; it helps us understand and process the world around us by analyzing information in order to make decisions, problem solve, and direct our actions. When our thinking is creative, we are creative too.
At some point in our lives, we have all experienced a situation where our thinking crosses over into the realm of overthinking, which looks quite different. Overthinking is when our thoughts are in a constant thought loop that doesn't seem to have any real resolution. Our focus is usually on negative memories of the past, lack of clarity in the present, or hopelessness about the future. It usually leads to inaction because it causes overwhelm and a feeling of temporary paralysis.
Knowing how to differentiate between overthinking and creative thinking, along with using some key tools, can support you in confidently making decisions and reaching solutions while also living your life in a productive and joyous way.
According to a research study by University of Michigan psychology professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema:
- 73% of people ages 25 to 35 chronically overthink
- 57% of women overthink
- 52% of people ages 45 to 55 overthink
- 43% of men overthink
Creative Thinking vs Overthinking
Creative thinking is when you analyze information for the purpose of learning and moving forward to reach goals and find innovative solutions. Creative thinking is open and allows for experimentation, intentional focus, and is driven by out-of-the-box thinking. You are able to break a challenge down into manageable parts and are willing to see it from a different viewpoint. This allows you to generate new ideas, with a realistic and actionable plan towards a desired outcome.
Overthinking, on the other hand, is when you are likely trying to solve a problem in your life. Overthinking has no goal, you feel scattered and unclear, no time frame is established, and it is driven by emotions. You are most likely magnifying the problem and making it more complex because it is limited by a narrow focus and sometimes too many options. This keeps you feeling stuck without any real plan or resolution.
How to Spot Overthinking
Becoming aware of how to spot overthinking when it shows up can help you stop it from spinning out of control. Overthinking may look like this:
- Worrying about the future
- Ruminating about the past
- Trying to be a mind reader and predict people’s thoughts & actions
- Overwhelm with big picture life thoughts & your purpose
- Indecisiveness with small things
- Worst case scenario thinking
- Worthless thoughts about yourself
- Second guessing a decision you already made
Overcoming Your Overthinking
The good news is that it’s not permanent! You can overcome your overthinking. Here are some steps you can take to improve your thinking and understand the difference between treating the symptoms and curing the condition in order to reframe your thoughts and drive more productive thinking.
Try these steps to shift into creative thinking:
- The WHAT - Identify the issue/challenge before you. Catch yourself when you slip into self-doubt, rumination, anxiety, and fear. Notice when your mind starts spinning and take back control of your thoughts.
- What is bothering you?
- What isn’t working?
- What is the challenge or problem?
- The WHO - Figure out who is being impacted by this challenge, both directly and indirectly? Is there something that needs to be communicated and clarified with them?
- Other people
- The WHERE - Identify the origin of the problem and where it is coming from, rather than treating the symptom. Is this an ongoing challenge that you have had before? Is there something that needs to be addressed in order for it to be resolved indefinitely?
- Where is the root?
- The HOW - Noticing how you can shift allows you to flood this space with a more productive focus of attention and action to take. It keeps you in the now and realizing that there are multiple ways to get the outcome you are seeking.
- Bring yourself into the present moment, by disrupting and reconnecting with you and what you have control of right now.
- Name one actionable and “creative/out of the box idea” that you can do in the moment to move forward?
- Eliminate too many options and start by choosing something that may be a priority.
- Trust yourself - one idea at a time. Keep going, progress is already happening!
Our thinking process holds a vital role in shaping ourselves, our actions, and the world we live in. It is worth giving it intentionality and committing to the practice of creative thinking if we are interested in creating solutions and outcomes that are unimaginable. There are many wonderful benefits that come from harnessing your creative thinking, but the biggest of them is the opportunity to experience immense freedom in all areas of your life.
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