Many people rebuke introverts for overthinking problems as a personality flaw.
According to the vox populi, thinking about a challenge longer than what is useful makes for wasted energy and a source of unproductivity.
Author Whitney Barkman even referred to overthinking as a drawback by suggesting:
Overthinking is a common pitfall that many introverts will face in their life. It’s a common partner to anxiety, and the two often come hand-in-hand. And by managing and healing our anxiety, we ultimately decrease the time we spend overthinking (para. 4).
In using the definitive work of Janeck, Calamari, Riemann, and Heffelfinger, psychologist, Dr. David A. Clark said that Overthinking is:
…An excessive tendency to monitor, evaluate, and attempt to control all types of thought. Overthinkers are not only highly aware of their thoughts, but they also spend a lot of time trying to understand the causes and meaning of their thoughts…. (para. 5).
Overthinking has even been linked to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
On its Psychguides.com website, the American Addiction Centers, Inc. (AAC) said:
Compulsions are behaviors that individuals with obsessions display in order to relieve themselves of their anxiety. With OCD, compulsive behavior is directly related to excessive thought. For example, someone who counts their money every hour may have an obsessive fear someone will steal it or they will lose it (p. 1).
It is noted that any addiction or compulsion tied to a mental disorder that alters your quality of life can be a cause for concern.
After all, the value of life is commensurate with the meaning you give to it.
I am guilty of being a hypersensitive introvert with bouts of OCD.
However, I never saw this trait as a hindrance to my quality of life, but as a catalyst for achieving my goals.
For me, the beauty of overthinking problems has made me a first-rate researcher, planner, and initiator.
And I believe the idea of a truly balanced life is a myth.
Although we all have the ability to be multidimensional, we tend to be one-dimensional by focusing on our greatest strengths and interests.
Reshaping Dr. Clark’s definition of overthinking conversely, Edward Brown of the American Academy of Advanced Thinking defines Underthinking as:
An excessive tendency to deny, divert or disavow reasoning and intellectual thought. Underthinkers are not only unaware of their thoughts, but they also spend a lot of time engaging in physical and entertaining activities as a way of achieving a life of leisure devoid of strenuous responsibilities.
For every person described as an overthinker, there are probably nine people that can be described as underthinkers.
As overthinkers run towards new and innovative ways of solving problems through critical analysis, underthinkers shun deep thinking as being impractical, elitist, and snobbish.
Perhaps there is a fine line between overthinking and extreme concentration.
Are Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg overthinkers or individuals who are extremely focused on the task at hand?
I will always measure such questions by final outcomes and results.
Overthinkers are performance-driven. And while it would be easy for underthinkers to say an achievement is “good enough,” overthinkers know that good enough is a recipe for mediocrity.
And mediocrity is the road to extinction.
Overthinkers have 5 skills that serve them well.
- Identifying unmet needs
- Diagnosing and dissecting problems
- Benchmarking best practices
- Prioritizing action items
- Executing on plans of action
Identifying unmet needs
The introversion and sensitivity often attributed to overthinkers allow them to see and feel things many people overlook. When people say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” It’s because they weren’t looking. And had they discovered an unmet need; they often wouldn’t care or be curious enough to explore the possibilities.
Diagnosing and dissecting problems
Once an unmet need has been identified, overthinkers diagnose and dissect the problems surrounding it. Generally, unmet needs are mere problems that have not been solved by which people have learned to live with them. When it said that an invention’s “Time has come,” it only means that someone took the time to investigate the problem long enough to develop a solution.
Benchmarking best practices
Overthinkers see patterns in disparate connections. They don’t reinvent the wheel.
William Shakespeare once said that he made new words out of old words. In the seminal book, “The Art of What Works: How Success Really Happens,” William Duggan postulated that what has been successful in the past, will be successful in the future with some tweaking and modifying. Overthinkers create innovation and solve problems on the foundation of prior works.
Prioritizing action items
With a myriad of opportunities available, overthinkers are well-versed in determining what is most important. It has been said that intuition is merely distilled experiences.
Over a lifetime, overthinkers have accumulated a great deal of insight due to being voracious readers and experiencing the world at a visceral level. Consequently, they are able to vet what items are worth pursuing now, and what items can be explored later.
Executing on plans of action
The ability to execute and follow up on a plan may be one of the greatest attributes overthinkers possess. There is little value in developing a plan without any action.
Again, as performance-driven individuals, overthinkers want to see their ideas manifest into reality. Although they don’t necessarily seek fame, they relish the idea of contributing greatly to society. After all, there is very little daylight between introverted overthinking and the need to infuse value into the world.
Basketball great Michael Jordan once said that his father taught him to always turn a negative into a positive.
If society sees overthinking as a negative attribute, those creative introverts should and will turn overthinking into an artistic endeavor.
As underthinkers create a life of leisure in a world built by overthinkers, it is comforting to know that intellect wins in the end.
And as William Shakespeare proclaimed in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Related: I am overthinking it
Barkman, W. (2020, March 24). How to balance the body and mind in the overthinking introvert. Medium. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/a-magical-space-for-the-introvert/how-to-balance-the-body-and-mind-in-the-overthinking-introvert-7acb91b43f47.
Clark, D. (2020, Jan. 18). Are you an overthinker? Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-runaway-mind/202001/are-you-overthinker.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms, Causes, and Effects (n.d.). Psychguides.com. Retrieved from: https://www.psychguides.com/ocd/symptoms-causes-and-effects.
William Shakespeare Quotes (n.d.). Goodreads. Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/21959-there-is-nothing-either-good-or-bad-but-thinking-makes.