As a mid-lifer with years of experience, I’ve often been hailed for my meticulous analysis and thoughtful approach. Yet, I cannot help but ponder if my propensity for overthinking holds me back from taking some quick action at times. And I suspect I’m not alone; it is a common struggle for many of us. While deliberation is a valuable skill, we must also be mindful of the inevitable shortcoming of delaying action.
The overthinking trap
The idea for this article came from this illustration by Victor that resonated with what was going on in my mind at that time. It is a powerful depiction that emphasizes power of doing, and highlights the futility of merely thinking.
When making big decisions, some of us tend to over analyze, carefully examining every detail and considering all potential outcomes. Although this thorough approach may appear prudent, it can sometimes result in missed opportunities. The key to escaping the trap of overthinking lies in taking action. But before I go there, here is a small note.
Disclaimer: Most of this article applies to overthinkers rather than reckless risk-takers. Acting impulsively without thoughtful consideration can be dangerous. ‘Look before you leap’ is all the more valid if you’re standing on the edge of the valley. 😛
The science of taking action
Steve Garguilo is an entrepreneur and author of Surge: Your Guide to Put Any Idea Into Action. In this short TEDx talk (~10 mins), he delves deeper into the science behind “taking action”. This is how gets to the crux of the problem –
I remember thinking how crazy it was that people seemed to be much more interested in collecting ideas, than actually doing anything with them.
He also shares these three lessons that he learnt while studying the science of taking action.
- Action is a muscle, more you train it, better it gets.
- We want to set aside time latter (someday).
- It is easier to generate actions for other people’s ideas.
Do listen –
I also like his concept of “action storming”, where you propose simple, easy-to-implement actions for someone else’s ideas. ‘Everything in life that’s hard is just a series of things that are easy, you just have to take that first step’ – it is a great takeaway.
The power of action
When it comes to acting on our ideas, it is natural to experience hesitation. This could be due to various factors such as fear of failure, perfectionism, overthinking, or lack of clarity. However, taking action is imperative if you want to turn your ideas into reality. Moreover, here are some practical benefits of acting on your idea –
- You get real-world feedback – When you take action, you get to see how your ideas work in the real world. You may make mistakes, but once you put your ideas out there, you have a great opportunity to learn from others’ wisdom. This feedback can be invaluable in helping you improve your ideas.
- You overcome your fear of failure – When you let go of perfection, and embrace progress instead, you’ll see that this fear diminishes rapidly. The more you take action, the less afraid you will become of failure.
- You gain better clarity – Once you start taking action, you will see that it leads to powerful insights about your ideas. Real-world feedback from your actions is far more valuable than what you could obtain by simply discussing your ideas with others.
- Multiple opportunities open up – This is the most beautiful part of taking action. While it is not entirely under your control, these opportunities wouldn’t exist unless you act on your ideas. Sometimes, when you take action, you will see multiple opportunities open up that you wouldn’t have imagined earlier. It happens!
I’ve been a software professional for over two decades now, which has been my bread and butter. Alongside that, I’ve always had a deep passion for writing (among other interests). However, my writing style tends to lean towards contextually complex and contingent sentences (introverts, right?). As a result, I often find myself in an infinite editing loop, and I’m rarely fully satisfied with my own work. Despite this, I’ve been sharing my writing in public, putting it out there for whatever it is worth. And guess what? Paid technical writing gigs found me this year. Serendipity works in mysterious ways. 🙂
Anyway! Here are some simple actions for different ideas. Do any of these resonate with you?
- Want to play an instrument?
— Practice for 10 mins daily with a beginner’s music book.
- Eager to learn a new language?
— Spend 15 mins daily on language apps.
- Wanderlust calling your name?
— Plan your first short, solo travel nearby.
- Dreaming of a blog/newsletter?
— Publish your first post today.
Ready to conquer your big, intimidating dream? Slice it up into bite-sized, easily doable actions, and then act on it. Let the magic happen! 🙂
Do it scared
Well, I’m still hesitant to share some of my other work publicly. For instance, I’m quite reluctant to ship some of my little apps because those quirk-n-dirty PoCs are not polished enough (recovering perfectionist, yeah!). However, I am determined to overcome this reluctance and start shipping them soon.
I understand that sometimes you cannot wait for all doubts to fade away, and fear may still linger. It is natural to feel scared.
In such cases, just do it scared, as Janis Ozolins illustrates –
If you’re interested, besides Surge: Your Guide to Put Any Idea Into Action by Steve Garguilo himself, Do The Work (Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way) by Steven Pressfield is a well-known book on this topic. It discusses predictable resistance points and offers practical advice on how to deal with them. However, in my opinion, more than any book or course, it is far more helpful to start acting on your idea – whatever it may be. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Featured Image and other illustration:
The featured image used in this article is by hugorouffiac from Pixabay The beautiful illustrations used here are created by Victor and Janis Ozolins (credited individually as well). BTW, strange as it may sound, while I was writing this article, I saw Janis Ozolins publishing his illustrations (serendipity, yes!). He was kind enough to allow me to use them here. I’m using all these images with gratitude.