“To be, or not to be, that is the question.” Aside from being the most quoted Shakespeare line of all time, this beginning to Hamlet’s famous soliloquy holds special meaning to me, but not for its content. In context, this line shows Hamlet pondering the validity of his life (should he remain living or should he commit suicide). However, it is also the essence of Hamlet’s main problem: overthinking.
Hamlet’s issues are completely different than mine. His are much more… well, life and death. His overthinking problem were brought about by the murder of his father by hand of his uncle and the remarrying of his mom to that same uncle. My issues are much more fundamental: sports.
Many people, such as myself, have grown accustomed to overthinking most aspects of life. It’s unhealthy as it leads to a worrisome attitude. I overthink about girls, tests, and food, but those are not my problem. Everybody overthinks about those at some point in their life. My problem is sports, specifically baseball. And baseball, being a mental sport, requires as little distractions as possible.
Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical. — Yogi Berra
Every athlete has been in the same situation: you perform flawlessly during practice, but once the game starts, your brain also starts and everything goes downhill from there. Let me juxtapose two athletes for you, one being myself and the other being a good friend of mine (I’ll call him Gary).
Gary and I were both catchers for our high school baseball team. We had similar body types and were both fighting to make the starting lineup. I had known Gary for quite a long time and was accustomed to his way of doing things, which was not thinking them through. I, on the other hand, always thought things through (maybe too much). This led to both of us having strong and weak parts in different areas of the game.
Defensively, I was stronger. The catching position called for you to use your brain. Of course, I made some errors as a result of my overthinking. Should I throw the ball or hold onto it? Should I call a fastball or a curve ball? However, I did not make nearly as many as Gary did from not thinking at all.
Offensively, Gary clearly outshone me. Every time I stepped up to the plate, my mind was spinning. Keep your hands back. Drive them through the ball. What pitch is he going to throw? Should I bunt? It was too much. One time, I asked Gary about his thoughts while he was in the batters’ box. He said, “What thoughts? I don’t think when I hit. I just see the ball and react.” I walked away thinking: Good for him. I wish I could turn my brain off like that.
When is it time to stop thinking? Stop thinking when it hinders your ability to succeed. Easy, right? Wrong! I have trouble turning my brain off and so do most other people too. It’s tough, but sometimes it has to be done. Think, but don’t overthink. After all, Hamlet was best (most successful with his revenge) when he didn’t think at all.
So thank you Shakespeare! You helped me realize that overthinking has been a problem for people since before the 17th century. If you cursed your most popular character with this problem, you must have deemed it an extreme issue in society. Thanks for showing me that I am not alone, and have never been alone!