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Spotting overthinking in the wild

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“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” ― Bruce Lee
 

Beautiful Voyager

December 27 · Issue #47 · View online
Tackling stress, anxiety, and overthinking, one experiment at a time.

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”

When I was young, I valorized overthinking. I spent hours wandering around the corridors of my thoughts, examining each nook and cranny, scribbling in my journals, trying to make sense of the world.
According to loved ones, this is what I am like on my computer's keyboard.
According to loved ones, this is what I am like on my computer's keyboard.
My goal was to record every thought, every discovery. I worried that if a fleeting insight passed without holding on to it, it would be lost forever.
I still write (loudly, I’m told), but my goal in writing has radically changed. Now I write to hone down my thought. To hack away inessentials and repetition. To simplify.
This evolution echoes what I’ve tried to do with my thinking. I used to hold on to thoughts as if my life depended on it. Now I mostly let them pass by. If a certain thought has potential, I might spend some time trying to prune it through writing and editing.
Same bonsai tree. The right side is after expert pruning.
Same bonsai tree. The right side is after expert pruning.
But how can I know which tree has potential? How do I sort through all of the options and spot which ideas to spend more time with, and what to let go?
The truth is: I don’t always know. Sometimes I cut into an idea and find there is not enough substance to sustain simplicity. Other times I’m surprised at how transformed the original idea becomes through pruning. And still other times, I find myself needing to step away to give my ideas time to reveal their potential.
Here’s an example.
I first wanted to write a Beautiful Voyager book in 2015. I was filled with ideas and even had a literary agent friend to bounce my ideas off. I found myself both excited and bogged down. My thoughts were too large and unwieldy. “Perhaps we can do deep sociological studies of how anxiety appears in different societies around the world?” “Should I try to trace how different forms of art affect overthinkers over the course of history?” “I could hire a researcher to help me uncover patterns that have never been documented before!” And on and on.
I needed to let go of trying to solve everything so that my smaller ideas had space to grow. It wasn’t until 4 years after that original meeting with an agent that I started to be able to catch ideas that were worthy of writing and editing into a book I could achieve and others would want to read.
Give it a try yourself
  1. Instead of holding onto every idea you have, let most of them pass you by. When you find yourself particularly intrigued by an idea, pluck it from the passing flow.
  2. Write your idea down to give it shape and clarity. Prune it like a bonsai to find the beauty and specificity it holds within.
  3. If you find yourself attacking the work too strongly, or holding on too tightly, set your idea aside and give it some space to grow again. You can always revisit it later.
Thank you all, beautiful voyagers. I hope you all are having a happy, healthy, non-overthinky end of year.
A new approach to free crowdsourced therapy.
Caroline Moss on Twitter: "If you go to therapy quote tweet this with the best thing you learned at therapy that way everyone else can get free therapy"
I've watched this 4 times since I first saw it.
Bill answers: What could I do if I stopped changing channels in my mind?
Keep talking, everyone.
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Taken from James Clear’s excellent newsletter, 3-2-1 Thursday. I shared this on the bevoya Instagram account and was surprised at how many people wrote to tell me it helped them. Perhaps it can help you, too!
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