How To Escape From the Labyrinth of Overthinking

Feb 01, 2022

Have you ever spent so much time getting ready for something that you actually never did it? Over preparing can be as crippling as never getting the courage to start something new, and much more common than we think it is. Sometimes, even if it feels too scary, the perfect thing to do is jump right into things and take imperfect action. 

In this episode, we talk about excessive preparation, the analysis paralysis most of us have. We delve into how to recognize we are overthinking something, getting lost in a quest for perfection, and delaying the execution of our best ideas. We go through the difference between being prepared and scared of trying new things, the power of taking imperfect actions, and being at peace if something new we try doesn't work at all.

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • The analysis paralysis and its effects (2:42)
  • About my fears and my first podcast experience (6:46)
  • Helping ourselves setting realistic and considerate (but definitive) deadlines (8:59)
  • The freedom only taking imperfect action can provide (10:27)
  • About shaking off the fear of trying something new (14:33)
  • The importance of setting clear expectations to ourselves, and what good enough looks like for us (15:44)


Let's Connect!


Clint Hoopes: Welcome to the Flavor of Leadership podcast. Excited to have you here today. Today is all about taking action. One of my coaching clients and I were talking a couple of weeks ago, and we were talking about just this – taking action – and this quote was shared. Now, I'm not exactly sure who the original author was of this quote. There are several different variations out there. And the quote is this: “You can't learn to swim in a library.” You really can only read and learn about things for so long before you eventually just have to jump in. And in the case of swimming, you have to literally jump in the water and start swimming, and actually experience what it's like to do the thing that you've been reading or learning about. And that can be the case with lots of different things that we experience: we read about things, we watch YouTube videos to learn, we listen to podcasts like this. But eventually, we have to take what we've learned and act and do something. Now, I'm not saying you throw caution to the wind and you don't prepare at all and just jump into something huge, even though sometimes that might be the best thing, the best way to learn. I've had things like that in life where it's best to jump in and figure it out. But I agree that typically you should be prepared, take the steps to be ready, but there comes a point when you just have to dive in in order to learn, to fill in the gaps of your knowledge the rest of the way. And so I'll tell you, I have a tendency toward over-preparing generally, and so it often makes things harder than they need to be, and so I'll try to make these a little too perfect before implementing. So I figured some of you might be like me with that same tendency toward over-preparing. It doesn't usually do us any favors, it often will stop us and we'll have analysis paralysis, and you don't implement things. The reality is, in order to improve on something, you have to implement it before you can improve. If you're trying to make it all perfect so you never make a mistake, it's not going to happen. 

My little baby at home right now who's learning to walk would agree with that; it's a little rough to go from crawling to learning to walk; she's bumping into things and falling. But, man, slowly but surely, she is getting better. As I think about this topic and just taking action -- It's funny, I actually think about a number of years ago; I can’t even know how many years ago it's been now. I don't know maybe 13 years ago, something like that, I started getting into straight razor shaving. There's lots of different names: straight razor, cut throat razor people will call it, things like that. And so it's just like the olden days, the old westerns, like some guy goes up and goes into the barber shop, gets his hair cut, and gets his beard shaved off with a big straight razor. And so me, I wanted to learn how to shave with one because I'm kind of funny, I like to learn random things – so I wanted to learn. So, what did I do? I started researching, I figured it out, and just said, “Let's do this.” So I bought a straight razor and I just said, “Let's dive right in. Let's figure this out.” Because I was really excited, like I said, I usually research a ton before doing it; this one was a little bit quicker, I was like, “You know what? This looks good. I'm gonna do this. It's gonna be fun.” I get the razor. And it's pretty funny, I finally got there, and I had researched enough to know how to hold the razor, and I thought about putting it up to my face and I'm like, “Holy cow! This thing is so, so sharp.” I mean, they even tell you, they have a warning on the package, it says, “Be careful so you don't cut yourself.” And stupid me, I did cut myself – embarrassed to say – when I first got my first razor. 

And so I'm like, “Okay, I gotta see.” And so I started researching a little more, I'm like, “Okay, it looks like they tell you to practice on the back of your arm first.” And so I'm practicing on the back my arm, this thing is so sharp. And eventually, came to the point where I said, “Let's dive in. We gotta do this.” And so I put that to the side, I’m afraid I'm gonna get cut. I put that thing down, and no blood. And I'm like, “Oh, hallelujah! I live to tell the tale.” So, it was fun. I'm telling you, I did, I learned more though. I learned more about how to shave with that razor by just putting it on and giving it a go. I learned about the angle, the way that you have to do it. I mean, things that are just nuance that you just couldn't learn without doing them. I mean shaving with just a normal razor is pretty simple. This, you have to be a little more careful. But the only way to learn is just to do it. 

And so it was fun, that did actually teach me something about taking imperfect action. Take imperfect action. I couldn't shave my whole face, I could only shave a little bit. And that was okay, that was enough. I eventually got to the point where I could, and I got on my path so much faster. There are other times in my life where the same thing has happened, where instead of just diving in like I did on the straight razor, where I taken too much time, and maybe was too scared that I was going to do something wrong. And I'll tell you one example of that was when I was first going to start the podcast. And you may think, “Oh, well, this podcast has just been going on for almost a year and a half or so now.” And and you're thinking, “Okay, maybe it was just right before this podcast was released,” until you know it was years before, about 10 years before or so. I’ve got to go back and look exactly when it was. But a long time ago, I actually started a podcast, and the podcast was called Pursuing Good. And it was kind of a fun podcast that I was really excited about; sharing some amazing stories of people and I'd created some great content for it. Even recorded three episodes and put them up on my website, and was just excited to do it. But I'm telling you, within a few hours even, it was less than a day for sure, I got so scared that people would actually find them and that they wouldn't like them or something wouldn't happen, that I pulled the podcast down. I pulled them off and didn't release them again. The intention was always to release them again, and I had momentum, but I stopped it, I stopped momentum. And instead, do you know what I did? I went back to reading books. So, I took some of the action around, “I'm just gonna do this,” but then I let fear stop me from continuing on. So, instead, after that, I read books, multiple books, I took courses on podcasting, I did a bunch of different things over the course of years – always intending to start it again. 

I remember recording some different episodes and getting excited about doing a new podcast, but always I kept coming back to the fear of of acting; what if people don't like it? What if I'm not good at it? All of these different things that go through your head. And eventually, after years of that, which is just crazy because I'm generally someone that's going to act and do things. But in this case, I didn't, and I let that stop me. Eventually, before this podcast was started a couple months before I said, “I am doing this, and I'm doing it on this date, and this is how much time I'm giving myself to prepare. No more time wasting.” And so I did it, I put it out. I'm telling you it has blessed my life in so many ways to put out this Flavor of Leadership podcast. Just a short time now, year and a half or so, after starting this podcast, I've now been able to start my own company where I could coach high-achieving leaders to kill it at work and at home. And this is so much fun. And it is something that would have been so much more difficult to do if I hadn't have started my podcast first to give me the momentum. 

So, what things are you doing? What actions have you been delaying while you wait for the perfect circumstances? Or to learn just a little bit more before acting? So, this might be in your role as a leader at work, it might be something that you've had the feeling “Man, I need to do this thing. This is going to help our employees. It's going to help connect people better. It's going to help this particular employee that needs help.” Perhaps you're ready to go to a new opportunity or enter a new market, but the fear of unknown has you stuck – so you're just at the spot where you're not moving forward. You've had some great ideas, and so you stagnate on an idea, instead of just acting, just doing it. You're waiting for it to be just perfect. You don't want to look foolish in front of your employees. And so all I say to you, once again, is take that imperfect action. You probably know those things that are sitting in your head, they're sitting on your idealist, and you probably feel like you're doing something toward them. Sometimes you'll think about it; “Oh, yeah, we're getting closer, we're getting closer.” But are you really getting closer? What about at home? Man, I keep thinking of things at home, where it comes back, where I have these ideas where it's like, “That’d be so great to be able to help this child with this,” or “Work a little bit more to help my wife with that.” And so I've realised that some of the things that will make me better home and make a home a better place for everybody, I know what they are, but sometimes I just freeze. 

It's either getting lazy or you try to make it harder than it actually needs to be. You have this vision in your mind of something you want to do or something you want to improve on, and you feel like you didn't make a big fuss about it. Last week's episode, we actually talked about being present at home, and how to stop looking at your phone as much when your kids are in the room, or maybe have a technology-free dinner together as a family. And maybe you're still just thinking about doing one of those things. And maybe you're trying to make it too complicated; you're thinking, “Okay, well, we’ve got to get the rules together. We’ve got to have the rules where during this time and this time, you can't have your phone during here and there. And everyone puts their phones here before this time.” I mean, yes, it is good to have some rules around technology or some rules around different things, or maybe there is something that you think would be great for the family. But instead of just doing some small, imperfect action, something to get it going to get the ball rolling – you overcomplicate it. That's something sometimes I do; I overcomplicate it, and then I'll take a step back and I’ll think “How can I make this a little bit easier? What's the easiest next step?” As imperfect as the action may be, take that action first, then refine as you go. Make it more complicated or more complex later, after you already have the momentum. What's the worst thing that can happen when you're trying to better yourself? Just communicate: communicate with your family, communicate with your people, depending on the thing that you need to do. Maybe you're trying to make a change at work and you want to implement something important; maybe it's something that you think will improve your relationship with your employees; maybe it's one-on-one meetings – we've talked about that a lot – maybe haven't been very good or consistent with your one-on-one meetings with your employees and you're saying, “Okay, I want to start doing this. But first, I want to get everything just right. I want to have everything just perfect before I start, have the first meeting with them. So that way, we just hit it out of the park on the first try.” 

Now, here's the deal, I'm all about that, I think it's great, hit it out the park if you can. And I have my one-on-one tool that you can download. Like I said, it's in the show notes, go to my website,, you can find that one-on-one tool that can help guide you, help you hit it out of the park ran out of the gate. But guess what? Do you know what's even better than doing that? Just sitting down and talking to your people, having a consistent time each week that you sit down and talk. If you're not doing that yet, do that first, then add some of the details and make it better and refine. Don't be afraid to try something. You can even communicate with your employees and tell them, “Hey, we're giving this a try. Let's see how it goes.” If it's something worthwhile, it will stick and it'll get better and better. 

Once again, take the imperfect action. Another thing that is important, just like we say, one-on-one meetings, you need to set an expectation of what a good job looks like for your employees, so it's clear for them, so they know when they've done a good job for you and for themselves, because they want to know that they've done a good job, they want to know that they're a great employee, a great contributor. So, in the same way that you want to your employees to know what a good job looks like and set the expectation of what that looks like so that everybody knows, you need to do the same thing for yourself, but you need to do it a little bit differently. You need to have an expectation of what ready looks like for you. So, set the expectation that things won't be perfect, and that it will be a refining process. So, if you find that you often procrastinate or delay before taking action, or that you over-prepare – like I said, you're the example where you keep reading books about swimming but don't jump in the water – take the imperfect action and refine, decide what ready looks like when you know enough to act. But only you can decide what that is, but err on the side of action when you're deciding what ready looks like for you. 

There's a quote by Benjamin Franklin that I love, he says, “Never confuse motion with action.” So, just because you're moving, just because you're watching the YouTube videos on how to do this thing, or reading another book on how to manage your people – which I love, I'm a huge book reader. I'm always reading a book, a book every week, it seems, because I know that's where I can get knowledge. But the knowledge, if it doesn't transfer to action, then it's for naught. Never confuse motion with action, just the act of learning those things. Or if it's not moving you forward, then it's not helping you. So, what goals do you know, right now, are going to help you become a better leader? Or perhaps a better father, a better mother, a better friend, a better neighbour, whatever it might be, whatever your goals are – where are you hesitating? Where are you hesitating when you know that you should be acting? 

So, here is the challenge for this week. Commit to yourself right now. If you need to write it down, take out your phone, put it on a note. Commit to take action on the one thing that will drive you closer to your biggest goal this week. And if you don't know what your biggest goal is this week, decide that first. What is your biggest goal this week? What is the thing that has to get done, mission critical, to get you closer to your other big goals? Once you decide what that is, commit to take action on that one thing that will drive you closer, especially if that one thing you have been procrastinating or hesitating on or studying it out too much. What is an action you can take that might make you a bit uncomfortable? Perhaps, especially, if it makes you uncomfortable, that probably means it's something you should be doing, and then act on it. Commit to yourself right now that by the end of the week that is what you're going to do. You got this. Can't wait to hear all about it.