Mar 122012

I definitely didn't think too much about what picture to use here. What a cop out.

I have occasionally been accused of “thinking too much”. Shocking, I know.

But being accused of that made me think about the concept of “thinking too much”.

(Some might present that as evidence for the prosecution, but hear me out.)

I propose that there is one simple litmus test for the level of thought that you are giving to any particular subject:

“Does your thought appear to be unnecessarily reducing your action?”

Generally, “giving some thought” to an action you are about to take will improve the action taken, I think we can all agree on that. Whether it reduces the cost of the action taken by making it more efficient, makes it more effective toward a desired outcome or highlights some errors with the planned action, the thought has been worthwhile, as without it you would have achieved less of value.

However, it would make sense that there is a point where thinking has simply become redundant or even counter-productive. A sort of “distress thinking” point, if you will.

I would suspect that this point is not where you can no longer find new thought on a topic, but perhaps where it becomes a significant effort to find new angles. Perhaps where thought slows and logical links become more strained? Perhaps even where you simply feel that continuing to ponder a topic is “just not worth it”.

You could say that “There is a time for thinking and a time for action”, to express that too long thinking will just delay useful action…
But consider this: thinking is an action as well. We generally get better and faster at doing things we practice.
Maybe we should also be wondering “Am I thinking too little?”

  4 Responses to “When Does “Thinking” Become “Thinking Too Much”?”

Comments (4)
  1. The Thinking Too Little is the point for many. 

    • I’d say that’s very true, but also that when people focus on “thinking more”, they seem to tend toward rushing into thinking too much fairly often.
      Or so it seems to me. So it seems FOR me, as well.
      I believe it is one of the more intimidating points of people starting out on GM Protocol. Inefficiency from exceeding MEA of Freedom to Think/Act (topic I’m planning for an upcoming post).

  2. It seems to me that people don’t really mean that someone is thinking too much about a topic, but that they are thinking along the wrong lines or taken a line of thinking to an extreme position. I was thinking about this in terms of weight lifting. There is nothing wrong with weight lifting, but I would gain little if I were focused on the wrong muscles, or had incorrect techniques. Likewise when thinking on a topic, there are times people think ineffectively when told they are “thinking too much” an example would be people that get focused on such an unlikely scenario that they are blinded to an obvious solution. This person could think all they want but if they are doing it wrong their thinking will be at best unhelpful, and at worst dangerous.

    I don’t think you should ever be worried about thinking “too much”. Have a think about it and tell me what you think.

    PS: This comment was only half thought out…

    • In some ways you’re probably right, Chris, and I may be being pedantic about the phrase. However, sometimes it genuinely seems to be a view that someone may be “overthinking” when I don’t believe it’s the case.
      I think overthinking is a real thing, though. I think overthinking by volume probably leads into the kind of thinking that you are talking about (unlikely scenarios or non-constructive focus etc).

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