3 Good Reasons to Stop Thinking So Much, And How to Do It

3 Good Reasons to Stop Thinking So Much, And How to Do ItImage by gutter (license).

What is stopping people from getting the results they want?

Well, for one I'd say a pretty common and self-imposed roadblock is thinking too much.

In fact, one of the best tips for getting things done that I have learned so far is simply to stop thinking and start doing.

I think this problem of overthinking things is nothing that I'm alone with in the personal development community. I think it may be one of the problems that draw people to books and websites on self-help and one of the things that still keep them from achieving what they want even after they have picked up on a lot of helpful advice.

Because after having read five books you think and plan and think a little more. You get lost in thinking. At least that's what I did. If you're an overthinker then getting your hands on personal development information becomes just another way to creatively procrastinate. But now you can label it as making progress and get an emotional kick out of it.

Now, I'm not saying that educating yourself or thinking is something bad. But overdoing it won't help you either.

Here are a couple of good reasons why.

1. Thinking can't replace action.

I sometimes think there is some kind of wish when overthinking that thinking will somehow replace action. A wish that if you just think enough you can find some easy way out or get what you want without having to actually do something.

Without taking action you'll most likely not get what you want. Thinking is however seldom as scary or uncertain as taking the leap into the unknown and taking action.

So it can become a place where you hide from taking action and then rationalize to yourself in different ways how all this thinking will help you. Even though you know deep down that what you really want and need is to take action and get going.

2. You may overcomplicate things.

Are things hard and difficult? Yeah, they might be. But you may also want consider that it's you that are making them even harder.

By overthinking things you make them more and more complicated in your mind. You can turn something fairly simple into a really complicated and big mess. And so it goes from something you can do with some discomfort and persistence into an epic battle where you keep moving inch by painstaking inch.

A problem here is that when what you are doing is difficult and complicated then you and others think that it must be important. And so you feel important. You derive a sense of importance from making things into big struggles.

Such a thing can form into an identity where you are struggling and keeping on moving forward while you imagine other people lying at home in the sofa lazily watching some TV. It can strengthen you. It can make you feel negatively about other people. It may feel good in a sort of way to feel like an outsider or some kind of misunderstood underdog that's up against so much. So it has its upsides.

However, you may also want to consider not making things to so hard for yourself. You don't have to be a rebel that's going against the world. You can just accept what you choose to do. And that other people choose to do other things.

Upsides such as a feeling of importance or of being the underdog may make it hard to give up the notion that what you are doing may not be that difficult and complicated. But I have found that when I do that then I become more relaxed and things tend to be easier to accomplish.

You can to some degree control how difficult something will be. Much of your struggle is up there in your head. Just try letting go of the notion of how awfully difficult something is and see what happens. You may be relieved. And surprised at how you have been making your life more complicated than it needs to be.

3. You'll perform worse.

If you overthink things you may overcomplicate them. And so you become nervous and start to second guess yourself all the time. It also becomes harder to focus on doing something when you have a have a habit of thinking a lot. You may often slip into possible future scenarios in your mind instead just focusing on what you are doing right now.

All of this can cripple your performance and produce results that are worse than they could have been.

How to stop thinking so much

So, I used to be a big overthinker. Still am. From time to time. But I have made progress. Here are three things I use to cultivate a habit of not overthinking things.

Be aware of the problem.

The most important thing is to be aware that you tend to overthink. And to keep being aware of that in your everyday life. You can for instance do that with post-it notes that say “Don't overthink things. Act!” or something along those lines.

By just being aware of your habit you can often pick up on when you are doing it, stop yourself and do something more helpful instead. Over time it also becomes easier to step out of the loop of thoughts and not get stuck back in it a half an hour later.

Set deadlines for decisions.

Instead of thinking about something for days, tell yourself that you have – for example – 30 minutes to think. Then you will make a decision.

Be present.

Focus on what's in front of you instead of flying off to the past or Tomorrowland for long periods of time. A tennis player will for instance not think much while playing. She just trusts in her own subconscious and stays with flow. Her body will – after years of practise – know what to do automatically.

The same goes for many things in everyday life. You don't have to think a lot about everything. You can just stay present and let the right actions naturally arise.

This may sound a bit wonky, but if you just do things while being present you may discover that the results are often better than if you put in a lot of thought.

Like the tennis player, you know what the right thing to do is and how to do it well from years of experience and practice. You just have to let go of all that thinking that can cripple you. And have trust in your capabilities.

For tips on how to be present have a look at 8 Ways to Return to the Present Moment.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehack, The Huffington Post and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Gaurav

    Thanks for this article.

    I have seriously created a big big mess of my life after being an introvert overthinking person for many many years.

    I had hit upon a major health problem last year which could even had killed me. I just think too too much about my life, my goals, my career, sex and what not. Say, for example I have interview tomorrow I will find hard to sleep at night due to thoughts of tomorrow’s interview. This overthinking habit has landed me into serious problems and I am trying to get control over it by socializing, exercising and being active for all day.

    This overthinking makes mountains of a small problem and I have been depressed about my future and not happy with my life. I often find it very hard to focus on present and slip into future or think about past mistakes.

    But the best part is I am trying to control as much as I can. At first I was not accpeting it but now I have accepted it must be something wrong with me. So its time to change ourselves.

    • SUE

      I wonder if there’s a link between being an introvert and being an over-thinker. I am both, and it’s not a happy combo for me. I am wondering if you have had any relief from trying to socialize and exercise and stay busy? (See, I’m already starting to over-think about this as a possible solution for me!)

  • PAT


    • wellwisher

      Hi Pat,
      The thing that you need to do is a small exercise…concentrate on your breathing for fifteen minutes every three four years…in a week u can see the change

      • wellwisher

        i meant hours, nt years….

  • joanne

    all of the above is great. And in addition to this i would like to emphasise the importance of what you take into your body and its effects on your mind and thoughts. i often find that if i
    drink too much coffee,
    consume too much sugar, or high GI foods,
    don’t drink enough water,
    don’t get enough sleep,
    have a hangover,
    my mind goes into overdrive, an more-so if there is something already bothering me- these things just aggravate it.

    if my mind is in over drive to stop it i just say STOPPIT!! sternly to myself as if to a bold child. Take 3 or 4 slow deep breaths in and out through my nose, and if possible, do some yoga poses at the same time.

    We must remember that when we over think we are just re-cycling information. it is fairly pointless after a certain point, until we get more information.

    Hope this helps!!

  • Daniel

    I am in shock, been thinking to much and this really helped me out! ty so much!

  • This is a great read, maybe I can finally tame my own excessive thoughts.

  • Dan

    Some projects need good thinking before and not only 30 minutes.

  • Yasir Ahmed

    I thought I was the only one who spends alot of time thinking and not taking any actions, until you wrote about it. I spend alot of time thinking about the past what if I had done that, or what if I had done this. I also think about the future, doing alot of planning , contemplating several different scenerios before its too late to do anything at all. It hampers decision making and makes me more anxious about taking any action. I think i have wasted enough time living in a dream world, now I wanna act and am sure the knowledge you shared on this blog will definately help. thanx.

  • Jonathan

    Awesome Awesome Awesome Article. I have book-marked this wesbite for furture reference just because of this. Keep up the good work

  • YL

    Stumbled upon this article; I must say it’s been a great help. I tend to overthink, especially on my relationships with people and conversation with them. Did I say something right? Didi I offend them? Or say something wrong? Did I annoy them inadvertently? This habit has been bugging me but thanks to your article I will rise up against it.

  • mr g

    Good article, it hit home.

  • Thomas Skip

    But what if the problem is that I overthink every detail of life?
    How can I stop what is a natural reaction. I’m not trying to talk your points down they are very good but I want to stop thinking about things all together.

  • Adam

    its a very serious problem actually. That stink habit kills me slowly made me as a king of hesitation although when I’m relaxed i take the most reasonable decisions :(

  • John Reynolds

    Hey there! Nice article. I think you can really guide me with the problems that I have relevant to your topic.

    1. I am really confused about my life. I am in college completing my graduation, I aspire to become a game developer. Its like I know what I want but still I cannot start with things. I also have the resources that I need but still something is holding me back.

    2. I am quite good at academics. But I have grown a very bad habit of procrastinating over the last couple of years. Previously, Whenever I sit to study I could focus fully on what I was doing, but now I always get distracted of something. The things which keep distracting me is my personal life. I am quite a loner from the beginning, I always feel shy of talking to new people and have a hard time making new friends. My friends keep treating me like a child only because I don’t know the stuff they do which they consider to be cooler.
    Moreover, I am really frustrated of being a loner. I keep thinking of making a girlfriend and of getting all the things that I do not have. I am really having a hard time dealing with everything else only because my whole day is wasted because of this thinking of mine.

    This is having an adverse effect on my life. I don’t talk to anyone much (not even with my parents) . I have always been a hot head. But I never used to get frustrated of anything. Now I am frustrated of almost everything. I don’t know why, but I keep blowing off steam on anyone who tries to tell me something good. (don’t know whether its my ego or arrogance or this thinking). I always keep thinking about hitting and hurting bad people around though they haven’t done anything to me.

    My post is already long enough so I am ending it now. All I want to say is that my crave of appraisal and my paranoia just keeps forcing me to think about the things I shouldn’t or which I don’t want to.

    After reading this some of you might think that I am crazy. But I was never like this before. I am posting this here because MY THINKING KEEPS ME FROM TAKING ACTION, PLEASE! I NEED A WAY TO GET RID OF THIS THINKING.


  • Kyle Anderson

    Thank you oh sooo much for this article. You said if you tend to think too much, this then develops second guessing yourself. And you’re completely RIGHT!!!!i second guess myself all of the time and i have the hardest time just putting my foot down and saying yes, I’m right! So thank you so much for letting me know again that i have to STOP worrying about the future and worry about the right here and now. Worrying doesn’t get you anywhere except into some more deep doo-doo lol So THANK YOU oh so much for this article and may GOD be with you.


  • aware of our thoughts .. and be present.. thx