Less Thinking, More Doing, More Feeling, More Being.
According to a 2020 YouTube video by Marc Manson, a New York Times bestselling author, Google stated that more information was created over the previous two years,than the rest of human history combined. Living during a time where we have easy access to all of this information might sound intriguing. However, having loads of information stuffed into our minds won’t necessarily make us smarter, happier, or more productive people. Furthermore, we should not be expected to keep track of all the things that are happening in the world. The average person's attention span is less than 15 seconds, which shows that we can’t be expected to accurately remember every single thing we see, hear or consume. It’s very hard, if not impossible to remain exactly focused on one thing for a long period of time.
We spend so much time thinking about things that we will either forget about in 20 minutes or flat out just don’t matter. For instance, I have previously gotten into the habit of after watching a YouTube video, a sporting event, or a TV show, I’ll sometimes try to remember all the best moments from what I just consumed. It was almost as if I was quizzing myself on what I just saw in an effort to see how much I remembered. “What is the point of watching or listening to something if you’re going to forget what you just witnessed?” is something I’ve asked myself. When I don’t mentally go out of my way to quiz myself, I won’t feel any internal pressure to replay all those events in my head and I’ll forget about it and just move on with my day. Additionally, when many people want their photo taken of them or a group of people, they’ll have the photographer take numerous photos in a span of a couple of seconds just in case one of the photos doesn’t look good. Given the proximity of when all those photos are taken, they are all almost indistinguishable. Let’s pretend that Hank is going to decide which of those photos he’ll post onto social media. Hank thinks as if he has some excruciating decision to make. Maybe the photo with the best lighting doesn’t contain Hank's ideal smile. Maybe the photo with Hank's picture-perfect smile also captured his friend awkwardly looking at Hank for half a second. Maybe the photo with Hank's friends looking the most natural also, unfortunately, contained Hank blinking. Each of those photos contains extremely trivial differences that no one but Hank would even consider paying attention to. Even if someone else took the time to closely look at Hank's photo, that overanalyzing behavior would say more about that other person than it would Hank. What's the point of overthinking?
Overthinking can decrease your lifespan, negatively impact your sleep, result in headaches, and hurt your ability to concentrate. When we analyze every single aspect of a situation, we get a false sense of feeling informed and productive. Repeating a bunch of facts in your head that you’re already aware of won’t make you any smarter or result in anything being done. Overthinking also makes us feel worse about our final decision because since we’ve spent so much time analyzing all the different outcomes, the pros of the choices we didn’t take and the cons of our final decision remain stuck in our heads. Sometimes listening to your gut rather than your brain can not only save you time but also result in the correct decision being made. We need to feel more, do more, be more, and think less.
Imagine that you’re the captain of a ship that is traveling all around the world. The water that the ship is traveling through plays a big role in that ship's well-being. As the captain of the ship, would you rather be traveling through nice, calm, and relaxing water or through lots of gigantic waves, loads of wind, or with a thunderstorm in the area? I would prefer the former. Just like how a ship's well-being is dependent on the water, your well-being is dependent on your mind. Negativity can lead to us overthinking which can cause stress.
Our minds are naturally attracted to drama and negativity. The majority of things that news outlets show are negative events and things that stir up drama. Media outlets know that type of content gets the most attention. Even though negativity isn’t good for us, that’s what we intentionally direct lots of our attention towards. Drama and negativity might be eye-catching and intriguing, but that doesn’t mean that they are good for us. The simple and sometimes even boring things are sometimes what’s best for us. There’s nothing exciting about nice, calm and relaxing water, but that’s what the captain of a ship would want to travel through any day of the week. Why wouldn't you apply the same concept with your mind? We should want our minds to be like a peaceful river. As Robert Greene, a New York Times bestselling author, once said: “Think of the mind as a river: the faster it flows, the better it keeps up with the present and responds to change. The faster it flows, also the more it refreshes itself, and the greater its energy. Obsessional thoughts, past experiences (whether traumas or successes), and preconceived notions are like boulders or mud in this river, settling and hardening there and damming it up. The river stops moving; stagnation sets in. You must wage constant war on this tendency in the mind.”
As humans, we tolerate negative people more than we think. Many kids around the ages of ten to fifteen years old will constantly get into fights with their friends over the smallest things. For example, a ten-minute shouting match could occur over a game of soccer during recess at school. The minute recess ends, no one will care about that game of soccer even though it can result in fighting. When boys get into an argument, they’ll typically spend time yelling at each other but return to being great “friends” the very next day. There’s a consistent cycle of boys being great friends, getting into big arguments over something not that significant, and suddenly getting along again.
Now, you might be thinking: This example doesn’t really matter because of how young those ten to 15-year-old kids are.”
Yes, kids aged 10 to 15 years old probably haven’t completely matured and don’t know what’s best for them. However, the habits that we develop at an early age can stick with us for a long period of time. Some people's preferences simply don't change. It shouldn’t be assumed that every young person will eventually learn to separate themselves from negative people. Nice people can get viewed as unexciting. The saying “nice guys finish last” exists for a reason. Many people don’t realize the difference between kindness and weaknesses. Because of that, some people unconsciously want to be around people that produce negativity.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”Romans 12:2
The modern-day Matrix are the standards and rules that the majority of people follow only because that is what society has deemed as acceptable. Many people get sucked into this Matrix and blindly accept the status quo instead of finding their own purpose and following their own path. Those who are sucked into the Matrix have less creativity and aren’t as willing to try new things, which therefore limits the number of doors that can be opened in their lives. By escaping the Matrix, you can properly reevaluate your life, aspirations, and daily habits. Block out the outside noise, find what’s best for you, what works for you. Comparing yourself to other people does more harm than good. As a 21-year-old, in an attempt to view myself in a better light, I could either compare myself to people who are my age or even younger that are in jail, or, I could compare myself to 16-year-olds who make millions of dollars from TikTok every year, which would make me feel worse about myself. What would either of those things do for me? The only person you should compare yourself to is the past version of yourself. Have you improved at all from the person that you were yesterday?
Overthinking can be limited or even prevented if your thoughts are isolated. We spend so much time thinking and worrying about other people. All the time you’ve spent doing that could go towards focusing on your emotional well-being, productivity, and your thought patterns. Those things matter far more than checking how many likes Sarah, a girl that you went to high school with but haven’t talked to in years, got on her latest Instagram post. Outside of your family members and very close friends, you should limit the amount of time you spend thinking about other people. You likely have your flaws and regardless of what they are, devoting the time to fix them is more necessary than worrying about other people. You should get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 8.8 hours every day. Those things consume a lot of our time. Subtracting the time spent doing those things, you suddenly have less than 8 hours remaining in your day. Use them wisely. Trying to improve yourself is more important than thinking about what Jerome, the coworker you barely talk to, thinks of you.
Now, you might be thinking: Isn't just thinking about yourself and not other people a narcissistic mindset?
I guess so. However, I never said that you should only focus on yourself. I said devoting your attention towards your emotional well-being, productivity, and your thought patterns should come before having petty or trivial concerns with other people. There’s a difference between caring and thinking about people. Caring is defined in the dictionary as “displaying kindness and concern for others.” Just because you’re thinking about someone doesn’t mean that you want them to do well. When we think about other people, we often do so from a selfish point of view. For instance, when I think about other people, I might think “how can I get this person to like ME more?” When thinking about my boss, I might think “How can I impress my boss so I can get a promotion?” When we think about other people, we are often more concerned with what they can do for us rather than their emotional well-being, how much they are enjoying their job, or how their relationship is going; three things that are rightfully more important to them than us. You can root for other people to do well, but getting your priorities straight should come first. Many people in the world don’t owe you anything. It’s no one’s responsibility but your own to fix your problems. If you’re doing alright and you still wanna take the time to help others, kudos to you.
Our internal chaos comes from overthinking or from focusing too much on the things that really shouldn’t matter that much. However, we can improve our lives by feeling more, doing more, being more, and thinking less. Instead of thinking about other people, BE around other people. As humans, we need legitimate interactions, not a bunch of gossip in our heads about others. When it’s cold outside, don’t think about the cold weather, FEEL the cold weather. The amount of time you spend internally complaining about the weather won’t make the temperature change at all. You may as well embrace it. Don’t think about your work, DO your work. Thinking about your work won’t get anything done. DOING work will produce results. Don’t think and obsessively worry about the game-winning free throw attempt you’re about to take, just shoot the free throw. Thinking about your goals can only do so much. It’s about action.
We often get more caught up in our reputation or overall popularity instead of focusing and embracing our close relationships. However, we don't always know what's best for us. According to ABC News, a study showed that high-schoolers with a small number of close friends ended up being happier at the age of 25 than those that are very popular during high school. As someone who's 21 years old and graduated from high school three years ago, I've spent way too much time before, during, and after high school thinking about my reputation. When thinking about my reputation, I've sometimes felt disappointed and angry. However, when thinking about the times I've spent with people who truly like me for who I am, I've felt happy and at peace.
By spending time worrying about people that you have no real attachment to, you are wasting time and energy obsessing about other people that haven’t, and will likely never play a big role in your life. Additionally, every second you’ve spent thinking about other people is a second that could have been spent appreciating the people in your life that have positively influenced you. According to the National Science Foundation, 80% of the average human's thoughts are negative. This doesn't mean that our lives are mostly negative. Rather, it shows that negative thoughts are far more likely to stick than positive thoughts. You can’t control every thought you have. However, it’s extremely important to realize that you CAN ALWAYS control how to react and respond to those thoughts. Devote your attention and thoughts to people who deserve your time.
The next time you catch yourself thinking about a person that has a negative influence on you, ask yourself these questions: 1. Why do I care about this person?; 2. If at all, how am I associated with this person?; 3. How often does this person spend thinking about me, and 4. Does this person have any impact on my dreams or life aspirations? By asking yourself these questions, you will likely find that the person you have been thinking about shouldn’t cause you any stress at all. Annoying people are like bad scabs on our skin. On their own, they might not be that bad. However, the things we do, such as picking at scabs and thinking about annoying people, makes the issue even worse.
Don't think about the cold weather, feel the cold weather. I grew up in New Jersey and am currently a student at Michigan State University. New Jersey and Michigan have big reputations as cold-weather states. However, I don’t seem to mind the cold as much as other people do. Unless it’s under 25 degrees, I won’t even consider wearing long pants since my legs can withstand very cold weather. Additionally, my legs often get too warm when I’m wearing long pants. That habit of mine might have a lot to do with my abnormal legs that are immune to much of the effects of cold weather. It also might have to do with the fact that I don’t think about the weather that others deem as cold. I just embrace it. Many people hear that certain temperatures and certain times of the year are considered “cold”, but that’s all subjective. Because of what other people have told them, the only thing that's stuck in their heads about the weather during that time of year is how “cold” it is. During 90 degree summer days, it’s not out of the ordinary to see someone wearing long pants. However, if you wear shorts during the winter, people might think that you’re crazy. That double standard might have less to do with the actual weather and more to do with the standards that people have just blindly accepted. I’m not saying that you have to wear shorts during the winter as I do. However, by simply feeling the weather and judging it from only your own standards and no preconceived notions, you might have a different opinion of what’s “cold” and what isn’t. By simply embracing the weather rather than thinking about it, you might not only have a changed perspective, but you might also be better suited towards the outside conditions. During the summer of last year, this mailman who always came to my work always showed up wearing multiple layers and long pants while always having his mask for COVID-19 on. He said he always drove in his mail truck without the fan on and didn’t put his windows up. The mailman said he embraced the warm weather. His daily routine sounded crazy to me, but if it works for him and isn’t harming anyone else, who am I to judge it?
When writing, I’ve often spent lots of time overthinking about what I’m about to write. I’d worry about the next paragraph I’m planning on writing even when I’m in the middle of writing a paragraph I haven’t even finished. Also, when there’s an idea in my head I’m about to write, I’ll sometimes hesitate because I’d want to save that idea for later. If I write the same thing more than once, it could be repetitive. “Will my article be too long?” “Or, will it be too short?” “Will my ideas flow well?” “What will my articles in the future be about?” These are all questions that have popped into my head while writing. I delay my own productivity when I internally respond to those questions. It’s good to have a plan before starting anything and it’s good to make adjustments along the way. However, you have nothing before you start. Things don’t have to be perfect for you to get your feet wet. As Daniel Handler, an American author once said: 'If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” Just start and adapt later if you need to. My best writing occurs when I declutter my mind, focus on the current topic I’m writing about, and just write . You might spend far more time trying to craft a picture-perfect plan than you will actually be writing. When writing you’ll likely come up with new thoughts and ideas you’ll want to implement, things you wouldn't have before you started. Because of that, sculpting a picture-perfect plan might not only be a waste of time but also might be counterproductive because if you think something is perfect you’ll be less likely to adapt even though you’d be better off doing so. As Albert Einstein, who needs no introduction, once said: “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Want to have your own YouTube channel but aren’t an expert on how to record videos? Just start recording videos. Want to play on your high school soccer team this fall but you have no experience playing soccer? Just start playing soccer. Want to learn how to play the guitar? Just start playing the guitar. I wanted to create a blog to share my own personal stories, offer tips on personal development, and help people become the best version of themselves. I had this idea for a couple of months before I published ANYTHING. I wanted my plans for how I’d write articles, promote my work, and run the website to be set in stone before I did anything. As I just explained, you don't need to have everything figured out right away. Having big dreams is great. You know what’s even greater? DOING things that give you a chance to make your dreams a reality.
When shooting free throws, many basketball players have a set routine before they shoot each free throw. For example, I’ll dribble a few times while looking down at the ground, get my legs straight and look at the hoop. After all that, I’ll raise the ball up slightly above the center of my forehead, keep looking at the hoop and shoot the ball. I will think about all those steps as I’m doing them. Additionally, I want to make every single free throw I take, which is good, but thinking about wanting to make all my free throws won’t make me shoot any better. When at the foul line, I sometimes envision that I’m playing in a game that’s occurring in a packed stadium. I’ll imagine that I’m on the road team and that people are watching me and wanting me to miss. When doing that, I’m adding pressure to myself that doesn’t exist. Whenever I’m shooting free throws, I’ve often forced myself to make a certain amount of consecutive free throws before going home so I can leave the court on a positive note. If I tell myself to make three consecutive free throws, I’ll often make the first two easily. If I tell myself to make five consecutive free throws, I’ll often make the first four easily. However, that final free throw attempt can be quite troublesome. I’ll often overthink that last attempt or rush myself in order to prevent myself from overthinking. Either way, I’ll occasionally miss that final attempt and force myself to start all over again. Just relax and shoot the ball. Once you’ve developed a routine, you don’t need to repeat it to yourself, it will come naturally. The other day, the usual basketball court I use was occupied so I had to go to another place in order to play basketball. It’s harder to make shots into the hoop at the new location I was at than the hoops at the place I normally play. Despite that, I made my first eight free throws at the new location, which is good for my standards. I didn’t magically turn into Stephen Curry; I had the right mindset which allowed me to perform better.
It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when our brains will shift towards negativity when on autopilot, which shows that too much thinking can have a negative effect on you. I’m not saying to never think, but you don’t need to do it as much as you probably think you do. Unless you’re trying to solve a really complex math problem, you likely don’t need to think about every single thing. Basic common sense, our instincts, eyes, and ears can get us through most of what life throws our way. What’s the point of analyzing every single thing if it has a negative effect on you and won’t help you solve most of your problems?
You have likely spent time overthinking about the past, present, and future. It’s silly to spend lots of time regretting things you did or didn’t do in the past. The past version of yourself doesn’t exist anymore. You should want to be better than the person you were yesterday. When you think about your mistakes in the past, hopefully you’ll realize that you’re now a different and better person. You might have reacted to something differently now than you would have in the past so it’s wrong to completely judge yourself on events that happened in the past. I’ve overthought the present moment numerous times. When interacting with other people, I’ve had problems keeping conversations going. To combat this, when I know I’m going to be in a position where I’m going to interact with someone, I’ve sometimes made up a list of things in my head to discuss so there’s no awkward silence or I don’t run out of anything to say. The problem with that is, the best interactions happen naturally by listening to what the other person has to say and forming a response based on what they just said. It’s hard, if not impossible to think of what you want to say next while listening to what the other person has to say. I’ve also spent time overanalyzing every single little thing about conversations I’ve partaken in seconds after they’ve ended. I’ve replayed those events in my head and asked myself “Did I say the right things?” “Did I respond to this person quickly enough?” “Was I making enough eye contact?” Chances are, the person you were interacting with wasn’t paying attention to every single little detail about how you were conducting yourself. Even if they were, that would be really weird for them to do which shows that person might not be worth caring about. If anything, the person you were just interacting with has their own insecurities which you would never notice because you are worrying about things that likely no one but you notices. When interacting with others, you might think: “What should I say next?” “What if I say something stupid?” “What if they don’t find my joke funny?” “What if I embarrass myself?” Don’t ask yourself any of that. Just act. Even if any of those things do happen, it won’t be the end of the world. It’s hard to strengthen your personal relationships without action. The problem with overthinking about the future is that there are so many things in the world that are completely out of our control. You can have a basic idea for how you want to do a certain task or how you want a certain day to go, but when you try to plan out every little detail, you can set yourself up for disappointment. When a mistake happens or something unexpected occurs, which is very likely regardless of what you’re doing, your previous picture-perfect plan that accounted for every detail will be messed up. When that happens, you’ll waste time overthinking about a small detail because it didn’t go hand in hand with what you had originally planned. Overthinking in that manner will waste time and could hinder your progress. You need to accept the fact that very few things in life are guaranteed. You can’t perfectly predict the future, but you can choose how you’ll respond to the unexpected things that life will throw your way.
Sometimes it's best to slow down in a speed-driven world. There are a lot of difficult things about the world. Constantly over analyzing those things is the last thing we should be doing. In the heat of adversity, stay physically and mentally calm. It’s time to do less thinking, more doing, more feeling, and more being.
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