Many High-IQ People Tend to Be Overthinkers: They Incessantly Overanalyze Everything
There’s this old Zen parable that relates how over-analysis is a common attribute of intelligent people.
A Zen master was resting with his quick-witted disciple. At one point, the master took a melon out of his bag and cut it in half for the two of them to eat.
In the middle of the meal, the enthusiastic disciple said, “My wise teacher, I know everything you do has a meaning. Sharing this melon with me may be a sign that you have something to teach me.”
The master continued eating in silence.
“I understand the mysterious question in your silence,” insisted the student. “I think it is this: the excellent taste of this melon that I am experiencing … is the taste on the melon or on my tongue …”
The master still said nothing. The disciple got a bit frustrated at his master’s apparent indifference.
The disciple continued, ” … and like everything in life, this too has meaning. I think I’m closer to the answer; the pleasure of the taste is an act of love and interdependence between the two, because without the melon there wouldn’t be an object of pleasure and without pleasure …”
“Enough!” exclaimed the master. “The biggest fools are those who consider themselves the most intelligent and seek an interpretation for everything! The melon is good; please let this be enough. Let me eat it in peace!”
Intelligence Can Sometimes Be a Curse
The tendency to reason and analyze is a part of human nature. It is a useful trait for discerning the many complexities of life. It’s only natural that you could go overboard some times and over-analyze a point or an issue to such a degree that the objective becomes all but moot.
Don’t get me wrong. Intelligence is indeed a gift. But intelligence can trick you into thinking you should be overthinking and calculating everything you do. The more intelligent you are, the more investigative you will be. The more your brain analyzes people and events, the more time it will spend on finding flaws in everything.
Intelligent People Overanalyze Everything, Even When it Doesn’t Matter
Many intelligent people tend to be perfectionists. Their overanalysis often cripples their productivity, especially by leading them to undesirable, frustrating, and low-probability conclusions that can limit their ability to understand reality and take meaningful risks.
Intelligent people are too hard on themselves and others—family, friends, and co-workers. They can’t settle for anything less than perfect. They tend to be less satisfied with their achievements, their relationships, and practically everything that has a place in their life. What is more, many people with speculative minds hold idealistic views of the world and lack a sound acumen about coping with the practical world.
Idea for Impact: Don’t Make Everything Seem Worse Than it Actually is!
Thinking too much about things isn’t just a nuisance for you and others around you; it can take a toll on your well-being and on your relationships.
Check your tendency to overthink and overanalyze everything. Don’t twist and turn every issue in your head until you’ve envisaged the issue from all perspectives.
Sometimes it does help to overthink and be cautious about potential risks and downfalls. But most times, it’s unnecessary to ruminate excessively. Don’t make everything seem worse than it actually is. Set limits and prioritize. Learn to let go and manage your expectations.
To avoid overthinking, use my 5-5-5 technique. Ask yourself if your decision will matter 5 weeks, 5 months, and 5 years in the future. If your answer is ‘no,’stop stressing yourself out!
OVERTHINKING CAN BE CATASTROPHIC says
Great article Nagesh.
I have a question, where is the line on this, how do we know if it’s analyzing or just speaking the loudest, longest, and last? In a situation where speaking with others, and a person is claiming it’s just my over analyzation of things, can this be the case, or, are they just acting like a spoiled little brat?
I have a friend, who is a coder, and is pretty smart. He has always claimed basically what this article talks about. I have another theory, as I mentioned above, “spoiled brat” this person needs to grow up, & shut up! If they are so darn smart, how do they not see that it’s just repeating their own opinion or idea?
On that last 5-5-5 technique, what if the thing you are overthinking is marriage? That certainly matters after 5 years. I’m recently married, and can’t stop wondering if I’ve made the right decision or not. There are no real problems, but I’m struggling with perfectionism and the adjustment, and my brain will just not let this go.
I really liked your article, specially this part “The more your brain analyzes people and events, the more time it will spend on finding flaws in everything.” and I think is very very true, it is like not matter what, our brain will always find something that is not good enough, we are never satisfied. I believe we as humans always try to have control over everything, and that is impossible, we will always make mistakes but that is something I like, it keeps me humble. Whenever I am presented with multiple choices in life I just try to choose the one that I feel more passionate about and follow that path without thinking if it was the right choice or not, if it goes wrong I can always start again, is not like I only have one choice. I believe that if I knew everything I would still feel like there is something wrong. I believe that if everything was perfect life would be really boring. To me God is the perfection we all look for and to live this life is a gift. This life is full of imperfection, and to me that is good, it keeps me humble and it helps me understand other people because they are as imperfect as I am.
Best part “The more your brain analyzes people and events, the more time it will spend on finding flaws in everything.” Thank you.
Thank you I feel more at peace after reading this and realising I’m not the only person feeling this way. Good luck everyone with removing Bad thoughts from mind.
Sajel Saxena says
It’s a lovely article. I stand at a point where I felt like overanalyzing was a bad trait. I never really connected it with smartness though. I googled “people who overanalyze” and came to this article.
I can certainly connect to whatever’s written down here. I agree with all the points, except for the concludary remark – but I guess you had to conclude the article somehow. The 5-5-5 technique may sound good and all, but let’s be honest – is that practically how you can manage or change how you feel? It’s but a way of prioritizing logic when emotions are becoming too succumb. And well, if you listen to logic, you need no 5-5-5 (but then people have different levels of IQ so…)
Bryan Evans says
One needs to be careful here. Overthinking implies too much thinking and is often conflated with rumination – thinking cyclically without practical action. There are some pursuits in which thinking intensively about a problem is required.
One would never accuse a detective of overthinking, or a scientist for that matter. In dealing with complex matters it is necessary to indulge in intensive thinking that requires clear and directed, focussed and analytical reflection. In solving a crime, a detective must think through every conceivable possibility- overturn every stone, perhaps returning to previously discarded leads as new evidence comes in. Similarly, a scientist will carefully think through a hypothesis and will arrive at a theory through rigorous and disciplined thinking, again considering all possibilities. In these professions it is absurd to say that one can think too much, or overthink. If one does not have the discipline, patience and capability of deep thought in any intellectual endeavour then truth can never be achieved as a goal. Insufficient thought can lead to erroneous conclusions. Overthinking is a bit of a misnomer – let us be careful not to assume that thinking a great deal about something is the same as rumination, which describes repetitive, obsessive-compulsive type self talk that is not conducive to effectively solving problems.
Bryan Evans says
Overthinking is often conflated with rumination. The two are in fact distinctly different.
Rumination is circular thinking which returns to the same point and is unproductive and is heavily correlated with neurosis, clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive forms of thinking. It does not have the utility of problem solving and often serves to reinforce a negative outlook or destructive thought processes.
On the other hand overthinking is not necessarily a bad thing. The term is rather misleading as it implies that to think too much about anything is a bad thing. However, as in the examples above, scientists do a lot of thinking as do detectives, and philosophy is no exception! But all these forms of thinking are productive and by their very nature require a great deal of thinking. Thinking deeply enables one to order their thoughts, clarify complex entities and solve problems. Although many things that require a great deal of thought are also emotive in nature – deep thinking that is disciplined and critical-rational, is undertaken while keeping emotions at bay.