Research has shown overthinking is a pervasive problem in the U.S. One study in particular revealed that nearly three-quarters of those aged 25-35 overthink. How do they define overthinking? As most of us would, I imagine: A torrent of negative thought and associated emotion sparked by relatively innocuous triggers. Much of it is framed by what- if scenarios that give the imagination plenty of room to run free in the wilderness of negativity.
So how do we get past this and function at even-keel, able to leverage logic to make sound decisions without spiraling out of control?
As The Harvard Business Review shared in a 2021 article, many of the fixes are to be expected: Avoid perfectionism, reframe problems as opportunities, build healthy daily routines, create constraints to keep your imagination from running wild.
Perhaps surprisingly, however, one of the solutions turned away from data-based decision-making that is so often the C-level refrain. It taps into something far more nebulous: Trust your gut. Or, as they put more eloquently, "Leverage the underestimated power of intuition."
We shy away from this approach because it seems wholly unscientific -- and therefore, dangerous. Who knows what emotions or random mental association will affect decisions?
And yet, the article paints a different picture. "Intuition works like a mental pattern matching game," it reads. It analyzes situations quickly with extant knowledge and evident context and offers a way forward quickly. The advantage? Decision-making based on existing knowledge and experience that isn't bogged down by time-intensive data research or analysis.
This also takes away artificial censors and roadblocks we've set up in our mind that keep us from making clear-minded decisions. In other words, it keeps us from overthinking decisions even when they are well-conceived.
Want to test this out? Try what's called a moment of disinhibition. Take a decision or two and consider them solely on intuition instead of data-based analysis. Follow this by a couple of other decisions where you lean on data. Then, compare the two. How did the decisions match up? What were the consequences? How did you feel about the decisions you made, and how were they perceived by others?
As with any job of complex responsibilities, intuition-based decision-making can't rule all the time. Use it in moderation, and where you feel it's appropriate.
But for those at the top who struggle with overthinking and over-analysis, it's worth carving out time to try a moment of disinhibition to see how things unfold. You'll likely find you cement trust in your own abilities and knowledge, retain more energy (that would otherwise be spent worrying), and see results that are more closely connected to your passion and vision.