top of page

Rethinking Versus Overthinking



Hey y'all,


Well, it's the apocalypse. Sorry - solar eclipse.


Same difference, depending on who you talk to. Apparently, the world's about to end today, but I'm not confident enough to blow off the upcoming IRS deadline. Maybe that's just me.


Anyway, you didn't come here to be reminded about taxes. 


In this edition of *Re-thinker, we're going to be looking at a question that popped into my head as I was putzing around the house doing chores: 


What's the difference between rethinking and overthinking?


I'd like to say I'm rethinking all the time. But reality says something else. I stare at two-sentence emails way longer than necessary, glaze over at the wall of ketchup options weighing out the pros and cons of every bottle...And let's not even talk about buying dog food online, with money-saving coupon extensions...


By the end of it all, I feel like I got precisely nowhere.

With fewer brain cells to boot.


So. Let's look at the differences between overthinking, and rethinking. 

1/ Rethinking is expansive.

Overthinking is reductionistic.

Rethinking is the equivalent of approaching something with a landscape lens. Instead of trying to hone our thinking (which we mean to do with every extra lap we take), an expansive approach moves us outward toward new information.


Now, of course, there's a time to trim down data and make a call. We could say, by nature, that decisions are reductionistic. But in the rethinking stage, it's not about taking laps until you've widdled your way to a bull's eye answer. It's about pursuing a new vantage point, which you won't get from a narrowed focus.

2/ Rethinking is fueled by curiosity.

Overthinking is fueled by anxiety and fear.

Anxiety and fear are phenomenal to have in the driver's seat – when there's an emergency. When there's not...not so much. These emotional states tend to lead to a narrowed focus (see previous point), impatience, shutting down perceived "stupid" ideas (and the people who voice them), in addition to thwarting opportunities for connection with others. Curiosity, on the other hand, fosters relationships, openness to new information, and best of all – it renders you very difficult to offend.

A real perk.

3/ Rethinking is about the issue.

Overthinking is when we make the issue about us.

This one's a real doozy.


Every significant time I've caught myself overthinking (never mind all the minor ways that don't even register), I usually find I've made myself the center of the issue. I'm no longer answering an email – I'm crafting an email that will fundamentally make or break how someone thinks about me. I'm not buying a pair of workout shorts – I'm expressing my value to a room full of strangers. I'm no longer strategizing upcoming business moves – I'm justifying my entire existence on planet earth, and beyond.


And round and round we go.

Where we stop...heck...I don't know.

Let me do another lap...


If you just laughed, yes, please laugh. I'm chuckling at myself.


And if you're feeling a bit of "oof" or "ouch" after getting through that list, welcome to being human. We're all out here struggling.


That being said, what are some ideas for how we can do a little more rethinking?

1/ Cultivate engaging with something new.

This can be a new hobby, a new field to study, or connecting with people in a completely different industry. There's also the bonus option of taking the plunge across the political aisle. Yeah, you'll feel like a beginner, but that's what pressing into the unknown requires.


2/ Practice curiosity.

Here's a super simple hack: ask one more question. Don't be infuriating - that's a given. But even when you think you're good, or you're bored in a conversation, ask one more question.


3/ When you catch yourself overthinking, pause and ask yourself this question: What am I allowing this decision to say about me?

And I say "allow" intentionally. Because your worth doesn't have to be connected to sending the perfect text. Or writing a flawless proposal, take one. Or solving every problem that pops up without help. Or winning every argument. Or getting every answer right.

I'm not advocating for laziness, to be clear.


Just seems a silly, even brutal arrangement, for our value as people to get enmeshed in our decisions. We do make dumb ones, from time to time.


The gift of rethinking, versus overthinking, is we get to ponder, ask questions, and press into unknown territory, without putting the core of who we are on trial in the process.


Let's stop running laps.


Talk to you all after the apocalypse. ;)





Commenting has been turned off.
  • Instagram
  • White Facebook Icon
  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • Pinterest
bottom of page