Hitting a Think Hole

adhd mastery Jan 26, 2021

One of the things about having an unusually fast brain is that you have to be super careful about what you let it fixate on. This is a life lesson that took me decades to figure out. You might think of it as overthinking, ruminating, going down the rabbit hole, or even try to glorify it as "research." I'm talking about our tendency to go deep on a topic that has grabbed our attention for whatever reason.

I have spent an incredible amount of time exploring some random topics just because. It's a funny thing about this interest-based brain. Once the tripwire of my curiosity has been triggered, I'm hooked. And once hooked, there is almost no limit as to how deep I can go. I grew up before the age of the internet, so there were limits to how much I could scratch this particular itch. Libraries closed, books only had no many pages. TV networks shut off their programming for the night. Now, thanks to the world wide web, you could literally keep digging endlessly.

I now think of these excursions on the road of life as think holes. And, as much as I find them delightfully stimulating to my brain's insatiable hunger for the dopamine payload I get from indulging my curiosity, think holes typically turn out to be a massive waste of time and energy that rarely move our game piece forward toward the finish line of our goals. 

Because I love using my brain so much and because it needs constant filling, I didn't even recognize how dangerous think holes were for many years. As long as I was enjoying the thinking, the learning, the deepening of my awareness about something, it felt productive. I was utterly convinced that I was making progress because it felt so stimulating. And, I was busy doing something, not just sitting on the couch staring out the window or binge-watching Netflix. But, the fact of the matter is that thinking, especially the obsessive, compulsive over-thinking variety, is not the same as taking action. It is essentially passive and most of it is indulgent.

It also feeds the perfectionism beast big time, because there is an endless amount of information available in the world, the web of information grows at a staggering rate every minute so that we can never know all that can be known on any topic, however, niched or obscure and let's face it, we just don't know how to stop. And we really don't want to. It feels great when we discover something that fascinates us and we just want to keep going as long as it does. Stopping and throwing our brain into reverse when there is still more to be discovered feels as unnatural as the withdrawal or "pull out" method of birth control. It has a high failure rate because it goes against the laws of nature. Yanking yourself out of a think hole does too. So, a much better strategy is to avoid falling into one, to begin with.

Some of us have a massive problem with think holes, others have probably stopped reading this section already. It's cool. I would do the same if something didn't apply to me. We're still friends, I promise. OK, so back to think holes. How do you know ahead of time if something is going to be a think hole or not? Are all think holes the same? Are there universal think holes that everyone should avoid like the plague? How can we know if it's a think hole from the outside?  Look how clever you are, asking these amazingly astute questions! 

It's actually more simple than you might guess. And you might not like the answer. But if think holes are seriously preventing you from getting shit done, crushing your goals, and getting where you want to get in business and life, then listen up. You can absolutely recognize a think hole before you end up tits up in one, with hours of your precious life gone and nothing to show for them. All you need is to remind yourself of your values and your goals and to be honest enough with yourself to see if this particular think hole matches up with both of them. And if not, then you swiftly turn your steering wheel and put the pedal to the metal before you get an irresistible urge to do it anyway. I know you know what I'm talking about. 

Another thing that is essential to know about yourself is whether you are an abstainer or a moderator. Most of us with fast brains are abstainers. The way to know is to ask yourself if you have enough self-control to eat a small amount of something you absolutely adore because you are on a diet or if the very sight of it provokes you to devour the entire container, diet be damned.

If you order pizza on a night when your honey is out with friends, eat what you want and put the rest in the fridge for tomorrow, congratulations, you're a moderator ( and possibly a unicorn, IMHO.) If you order the pizza and eat the pizza because the word "leftovers" is simply not in your vocabulary, you're an abstainer. To be blunt, some of us can't say "I'm full, I'll take a wafer-thin slice" (and mean it). We are not safe with anything left unattended and I'm not just talking about food. Our "off" switch is just not reliable. So, when it comes to think holes, we need to build an electric fence around everything that comes between us and our goals, including juicy ideas.

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