How a Client Cured Herself of Overthinking

Photo: Kris Mikael Krister

I had a client once who was forever thinking about thinking.

She even had a degree in philosophy which is about as thinking about thinking as you can get.

The problem was that all she did was think. 

She thought all day long about all sorts of different things and it never got her anywhere.

And that’s the clue - she told me, “it never gets me anywhere?”

So I asked, “Where is ‘anywhere?”

The question took her by surprise. She had to think about it before she could answer, “Well, I guess I don’t know.”

“OK,” I said, “Where would somewhere good be?”

She grinned sheepishly, “Well, I’d like to be happy.”

“Good; so what would make you happy?”

She thought about that for a bit before replying, “I’d like my career to be going somewhere.”

“Where is somewhere,” I asked.

“Well you know,” she sounded hesitant and didn’t complete her answer.

“No, I don’t know. It’s your career, not mine. Where do you want it to go?” 

I could see she was getting a little angry. I just sat quietly and waited for her answer.

Eventually, she blurted out, “I want to be a top Web Architect.” She went a bit red and looked embarrassed.

I smiled, “That’s cool,” I said. “What do you have to do to become a top Web Architect?”

“I guess I have to learn from the top Architects and do what they do.”

“Good. In other words, you have to apply your thinking to observing, studying, learning and practising Web Architecture.”

“Yes.” She looked a lot happier.

“Actually, if you think about it, you haven’t been thinking so much as dreaming and going round in circles.”

“I guess that’s true,” she muttered.

“So, what’s the lesson for the future? What do you need to do when you find yourself overthinking?”

She considered for a while before replying. “What we did here was we made a decision about an outcome. Once I had admitted what I want it became easy to work out what I had to do to get it. It was admitting to my real objective that allowed me to straighten my thinking out.”