Are you an overthinker or are you just analytical?
Overthinking can leave you paralyzed and impotent, stuck constantly in the middle of every situation in life.
Analysis can bring valuable insight and great results when faced with difficult decisions.
Let’s find out whether you’re an overthinker or just analytical.
1) Your analysis leads to action
When I was 15, my high school football coach pulled me aside and looked me in the eye:
“You’re a good player Paul, but you just have one big problem: you think too damn much! Get in there and play. Go for the ball instead of analyzing and watching so much.”
His bushy gray beard bristled and he seemed angry. He had a reputation for having a temper and I thought I’d pissed him off for a moment.
But looking back I realize he was actually just trying to give me a piece of advice: a really good piece of advice, in my opinion.
He was absolutely right, at least in the context of sports. I was watching the ball too much and standing back instead of playing.
You can’t play a sport and win if you stand around watching too much or predicting where the ball will go. You need to just go for it.
Life is a bit different, but there are some crucial similarities:
Analysis and deep thought can actually be a huge benefit to your success and fulfillment, as long as it doesn’t become obsessive or detach you from actual action and decision-making.
If you analyze a lot but don’t act, you’re overthinking.
If you analyze as a basis of taking action, it’s just your personality and it has many potential benefits.
Which brings me to the next point…
2) You analyze things that matter
What do you spend your time thinking about?
For overthinkers, the answer is: everything.
Especially things that aren’t worth the time, like whether carbonated water is better than non-carbonated, whether you should buy romaine, butterhead or iceberg lettuce, or why some country’s money is prettier than other countries.
I mean sure, those things are potentially interesting. But they’re not worth spending more than a few minutes on.
If you find yourself lost in thought about them for many long moments, you’re either partaking of unique substances or are a definite overthinker.
That’s why one of the top signs you’re not an overthinker, you just have an analytical personality is that you think about things that matter, such as:
- Why so much wealth inequality exists and how to remedy it
- The benefits and harms of plastic packaging for our economy and environment
- Health concerns or suspect issues you may have and wondering how serious it might be
- Determining your spiritual values and what rings true to you
These things matter! If you spend a lot of time thinking about them you’re right on point.
That’s not overthinking, that’s just smart thinking from a person who likes to consider his or her choices carefully and develop informed beliefs about important issues.
3) You like to compartmentalize and organize your life
Practical daily life takes a lot of time and thought to organize. Food, cleaning, walking pets, work, relaxation, yardwork, parental duties, you name it…
If you like to compartmentalize and organize your life, that’s a clear sign that you just have an analytical personality.
Wondering whether to pick up your husband from work before preparing dinner is not overthinking, it’s just trying to optimize your workflow.
Deciding the cost of a dishwasher versus the time commitment of washing dishes isn’t really overthinking, it’s just a matter that affects your life and can be worth deciding on.
4) You focus on future decisions in a detailed, proactive way
Another of the top signs you’re not an overthinker, you just have an analytical personality is that you think a lot about the future in a detailed and proactive way.
Overthinkers often dwell on the past, or imagine the future in an anxious way full of potential disasters.
The analytical personality, by contrast, tends not to dwell on the past unless it holds a lesson or relevance for the future.
The analytical individual also tends to think of the future proactively in terms of what they should do and why, or what may happen or not realistically.
The analytical person thinks of the future for a reason, because it matters and because he or she wants to optimize it if at all possible.
It just depends why and how you are focusing on the future.
5) You analyze things that are potentially within your control or influence
When you find yourself thinking a lot about something and want to know if you’re overthinking, ask the following question:
Is this subject or issue within your control and influence or not?
If it’s out of your control or influence, you’re likely overthinking.
If there’s an influence you could have on it or some control, then this is more of an analytical personality aspect.
Take an existential subject, for example, mortality.
The fact that we all have limited lifespans has motivated philosophers, spiritual leaders and religious figures to search for answers since the dawn of time.
What’s the purpose of life and why does it end?
This question is not overthinking, because your discovery of answers or ideas to respond to this question influences how you behave and act. It is within your influence.
If you find yourself often thinking about what would happen if a large comet struck earth that was somehow missed by astronomers until it was too late…
Then you have to ask yourself why this has become a fixation…
Because that kind of overthinking can lead to really serious issues with anxiety and get in the way of doing many other things that need to be done.
6) You only second-guess decisions to make a better one next time
We all second-guess our decisions.
The question is why.
The next time you make a decision and are ruminating and obsessing over it, ask yourself why:
Are you thinking a lot about this to try to see what you did right or wrong and think about deciding differently next time?
Or are you obsessing over this for no good reason and just to beat yourself up?
If it’s option one, you’re just an analytical person.
Your analysis could lead to all sorts of useful results and actually end up helping you make better decisions in the future.
This brings up the last point…
7) Your analysis leads to solutions and ideas instead of worse problems and worries
When you think a lot, do you tend to come up with solutions and breakthroughs or do you just go in circles?
Your thoughts may have no firm conclusion sometimes, of course…
But in general, do you find that your thinking leads to some sort of a conclusion or does it just create more problems?
If you’re finding that your long thoughts often lead to breakthroughs then you’re not wasting time and overthinking, you’re just an analytical person.
And that can be a very positive attribute to have!
Climbing the monkey bars of the monkey mind
It’s hard to get the monkey mind to shut up.
Clambering over the monkey bars of the monkey mind can lead to all sorts of nasty slip and falls.
Before you know it you’ve wasted hours rehashing a relationship gone wrong or disappointment at work and you’re feeling like crap and more confused than when you started…
If you’ve experienced overthinking a lot then you know how frustrating it can be.
But never beat yourself up for being analytical or thinking a lot. Thinking is valuable and can be very productive.
When you learn to put your thinking into perspective and align your focus and thoughts with your goals, you can find a lot of inner peace and your mind can become powerful instead of annoying you.
Pay attention to the signs above to ensure that your thinking serves a purpose.
But apart from that, I encourage people to think hard and often.
It’s good exercise!