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December 5, 2018

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Paralysis by Analysis...

July 5, 2017

Analysis paralysis -- the condition of over-thinking or over-analyzing a situation so far as to lead to inaction -- has become common in society, leaving crippled productivity in its wake.  We have become so obsessed with being right (or at least being not wrong) that we greatly hamper our own decision-making process.  So many of us hesitate to make a decision -- fearing we may make the 'wrong' one, or perpetually chasing the 'perfect' outcome -- that we end up taking no action at all.

 

The problem largely boils down to our curiosity and a masochistic need to over-complicate things for ourselves.  When making a decision, we are met with any number of details surrounding said decision.  Our inquisitive nature draws us into discovering more and more details pertaining to it -- whether our goal is to try and make the 'perfect' or 'right' decision, or to avoid making the 'wrong' one.  The difficulty we run into, though, is that in these opposing (and largely futile) pursuits, we continue to fixate on acquiring more details.  Digging the hole deeper each detail at a time, we end up burying ourselves under an insurmountable pile of them.  We overload our ability to process, and give up rather than continue to overwhelm.

 

The paralysis runs parallel to the Paradox of Choice, which states that, after a given point, our happiness diminishes with the more choices we have available to us.  We all enjoy having the freedom to make choices, but there's a certain amount of choice that begins to overwhelm us. Every choice presented after that leads to less and less overall happiness, because of the anxiety created.  Similar to analysis paralysis, we shut down rather than make choices or decisions.

 

So, what can be done to combat this nagging and anxiety-inducing condition?  Luckily, there are a number of ways to cope with -- and hopefully defeat -- analysis paralysis:

 

  • Set a concrete timeline for your decision

    Setting a firm end date to make your decision by creates a timeline for yourself.  So many people fixate on what they want to know, they forget to focus on what they really need to know to make a decision.  Creating a defined timeline will limit your desire to try and seek out every detail, and keep you on task.  Obviously, this requires discipline and accountability, because you need to stick to the timeline.  No room for excuses or extensions: make the decision.

  • Break the big decision up into smaller ones

    At times, the decisions we are required to make seem enormous and overwhelming, without even delving into them in the first place.  A great way to deal with the enormity is to break that large decision up into a number of smaller, more manageable ones.  This way, you'll be able to make your final decision based on the plan formulated by all the smaller decisions along the way.  For example, let's say you're looking at buying a house -- not a small decision in the least.  If you find it to be overwhelming, then break it down:

    • What are some must-have elements in your new home? (ex. wood floors, granite counters)

    • What amenities would you want to be close to? (ex. schools, parks, eateries)

    • What area(s) of town do you like to walk around in?

    • What kind of budget do you have to work with?

  • Get the perspective of others

    When tasked with a big decision, don't be afraid to consult with others.  Everyone has their own perception, and through another's eyes, you may be able to gain a context for the situation you had not previously been aware of.  Sometimes we become so wrapped up in our own minds, decisions become difficult to see until we allow someone else into the process.

  • Understand that decisions, like your mind, can be changed

    This is a big one when considering the outcome of a decision.  We attach such importance to the outcomes of our decisions -- their 'rightness' or 'wrongness' -- that we let it become a weight, crushing our ability to make any choice whatsoever.  Fear drives both, and if we let fear take the wheel, we've already lost.  Understanding that our decisions can be changed, that they do not have to concretely define us, can help us to let go of the self-imposed weight of their outcome.  Both 'right' and 'wrong' are subjective, so make the best decision at the given time, and change it as needed.​

 

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