March 9, 2020

Millennials: why we are a generation of overthinkers

Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.

- Napoleon Bonaparte
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I had a friend who always called me to discuss every decision he wanted to make. I was his sounding board. And I guess I was not his only sounding board. This friend of mine really needed to acquire all the information you can think of prior to making a decision. As a result, he barely made any decisions and he often got stuck in limbo. He didn’t want to commit to a relationship because no girl was perfect. He strongly believed that there were always better options on the market. He felt miserable in his current job and wanted to move on. But how? No company passed his thorough due diligence. So he just stayed put in his energy- and happiness-consuming job. This friend of mine is the biggest overthinker I know.
 
But is thinking about your options while making a decision a bad thing? No, it is not. It is a bad thing if it paralyses you. There’s no perfect option. We human beings are always looking to optimize our decision-making process for that perfect decision. But this is an illusion. This counts for jobs, relationships, lifestyle choices, etc. Overthinking paralyses you to move forward in your life. Overthinking keeps you in a status quo headlock, impeding you to grow to your fullest potential.

Overthinking controls our lives

Overthinking is a beast that can have different coats. Overthinkers try to predict the future, endlessly evaluate instead of making a decision, attempt to read minds to predict the outcome of somebody’s actions, read too much into the tiniest details, and so on. Those who overthink are never satisfied and always second-guess every decision they make. They constantly run commentaries in their head. They criticize every decision made. Overthinkers are paranoid about a horrible future that might await them. They want to make the best decisions to prevent themselves from ending up in this made-up frightful future.

Imagine overthinkers to have a court jury in their minds that assess every act meticulously. The pressure imposed by this inner voice, the jury, impedes them from living freely and they experience a lot of stress. Should I post this online? Maybe some people will not like it. Am I really that sure of the content? Why did I even want to post it online? Their inner self-talk gags them, preventing them from uttering their authentic selves. 

If you keep ruminating on all your thoughts, you unconsciously make that a habit. It becomes a loop of your daily behaviors. And this is super dangerous! If we keep ruminating on our solutions to challenges we face, we don’t really solve the problem or tackle the challenge at all. Overthinking is destructive and mentally draining. It gives you a feeling that you are stuck in one place. There’s no movement forward because you keep reiterating your thoughts. It results in putting your health and well-being at risk. Overthinking enhances your susceptibility to depression and anxiety.

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Millennials, the true overthinkers

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We see that all the different ages suffer from overthinking. It does differ per age, but more evidently, it differs significantly per generation. We see that the millennial generation suffers most from overthinking. Many millennials are suffocated by their inner voices limiting them to act towards their potential. What makes the millennials so prone to overthinking? Are there biological, social or psychological factors skewing the numbers towards millennials? 

The millennial generation is actually the transition generation from minor internet adoption to wide-spread internet adoption. Within a flash, our world globalization rate accelerated exponentially. The reach time to people all over the world went from days to seconds. The former foggy economy suddenly turned transparent. A lot of things changed considerably. Luckily there’s always an older generation to educate the younger generation on the changing world. But… no... this was not the case for the millennials. They had to find it out for themselves. We couldn’t rely on our parents, generation X or baby boomers, to explain how to express ourselves on the internet without infringing on our own safety and privacy. 

Overstimulation generation

There are studies saying that nowadays, we experience the same amount of stimuli in a day that we did 100 years ago in our entire lives. For that reason we can say that we are getting a little overstimulated by our current times. That’s okay. We all are affected by that. However, millennials haven’t grown up with it like generation Z has. Generation Z is already pawing on their iPad and smartphones from their baby years onwards. The millennials were ambushed by this stimuli cocktail of nowadays. One day we were still playing snake on our Nokia 3310, the next day we needed to maintain our social profiles on 100 different social media platforms.It's clear that the circumstances made us millennials overthink our lives with all the negative consequences as a result. If we are able to overcome this inner voice, we can start taking action and reaping the potential that our highly emotionally intelligent generation has. I have curated my top 5 ways to overcome overthinking and transform it into making sound decisions driving you toward the life that you want. They are:

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1. Focus on the positive

Sorry to let you know, but every single decision you’ll ever make in your life has its advantages and disadvantages. The two primary motivators in our decision-making process are:

- Gaining pleasure
- Avoiding pain

Basically, all the decisions you make boil down to these two primary motivators. Unfortunately, a lot of people get stuck in the avoiding pain motive. They think of all the ways they can be struck by pain if they have to choose. This numbs them and prevents them from deciding. So, instead, try to focus on all the things you will gain from this decision. How is it going to make your life better? Disadvantages and setbacks are inevitable and present in every choice you’ll make. Don’t get stuck in them and focus on which positive outcome you prefer out of the available options.

2. Distract yourself from overthinking

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It’s inevitable. Sometimes we can just get stuck in thoughts and we live completely in our heads. Is this going to advance the situation? Thinking does not equal acting. Nothing will happen as a result of your intended acts. So, if you doubt too much, don’t get stuck in that state. Distract yourself and go do something you like. If you are into running, go for a nice long run. If you’re into cooking, go make your favorite dish. If you don’t focus on the choice at hand, you firstly give your head some time to recover from the intense thinking work, and secondly, you will exert your subconscious. And your subconscious will signal what choice you have to make. Stop overthinking and start living.

3. Put things into solid perspective

Life is just life. Your skill to adapt your perspective to life determines your happiness. It's always easy to make things seem bigger and more negative than they need to be. The next time you catch yourself making a mountain out of a molehill, ask yourself how much it will matter in a year. Or, for that matter, next month. Just this simple technique of changing up the time frame can help you shut down overthinking and bring things back into perspective.

4. Time-confine all your expectations and goals

Overthinking is often caused by procrastination. If you put a time constraint to every decision you have to make, time will enforce the right pressure to let you make a decision. If you are doubting whether you want to stay in your current job or move to another company, give yourself a deadline to decide on this. This will ignite you to do evaluation activities, enabling you to become more decisive.

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5. Ask yourself the right questions

Don’t ask yourself questions that reinforce your overthinking pattern. Many overthinkers have the tendency to fuel their overthinking by asking themselves the wrong questions. Refrain from asking yourself questions like “why do I overthink?” or “why do I always break my exercise routine?”. I don’t say that you shouldn’t ask yourself any questions. Asking yourself questions and having that inner dialogue is super powerful. However, this power needs to be utilized properly. Try to ask yourself more constructive questions like “What kind of beliefs and habits do I have that make me break my exercise routine?” or “Who has experienced this before and can ask for advice?”. Try to nail down things that can help you tackle this matter you are overthinking, instead of questioning your own overthinking. Be kind to yourself and work constructively towards a way forward. Be decisive.

Find out more about the Power of Questions in this post.

Overthinking can impede you from living life fully.

It can restrain you from tapping into your potential. Has a bear ever caught a fish while he was contemplating which fish to go for in the river? Has a striker ever scored a goal while he was contemplating extensively how to aim? You, millennial! Just start making decisions and don't let overthinking strangle your potential. But we know it doesn't work like that. Find out more why millennials need online coaching.

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Written by Jasper De Taeye

Jasper is one of the founders of Amplio Coaching. He has been working in tech his entire career and he reconciles his experience working in tech with his personal development knowledge. Jasper is a certified life coaching through the Dublin Business University and a master NLP practitioner studying at the Scottish Centre of NLP.

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