Overcoming analysis paralysis in 6 simple steps

Analysis paralysis should be dealt with like any other problem: Calmly, systematically and meticulously.Analysis paralysis is a term that seems to be increasing in popularity. And it’s a term with which many non-fidents, whether they’ve come across it or not, will be all too familiar.

Basically, analysis paralysis means over-thinking and over-analyzing one’s options until they all seem equally good, bad, or anywhere in-between. And so one is left unable to make a choice and move on.

The expression allegedly stems from ‘paralysis by analysis’, which should be seen as the opposite of ‘extinct by instinct’. The latter, of course, meaning a disastrous choice based on reflexes or one’s immediate gut feeling.

Making choices can be hard when we’re low on confidence and self-esteem. It should come as no surprise that confident people tend to have a can-do mentality. They’re effective, energetic, and they take firm, consistent action.

And, of course, non-fident people tend to be the exact opposite: Timid, apprehensive, and reticent.

Certain studies could be said to point towards non-fident people generally having higher brain activity.* However, others point towards the exact opposite.**

The basis for analysis paralysis, then, must be found in the one emotion by which non-fident people tend to let themselves be guided…


Fear is one of the most common human motivators. And it doesn’t only apply to non-fident people. We’re all afraid of something, and only the fewest of us dare defy our instincts and seek out the source of our fear. Because instincts are exactly what’s at play here. In other words: We can’t really help it.

… But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to get around it. And in the case of analysis paralysis, here’s 6 simple steps not only taking that damn decision, but standing by it and making sure you keep moving forward.

#1 Get outside perspective

When we’ve been stuck with a problem for a certain amount of time, we tend to reach a point of saturation. It’s not funny or interesting anymore, and we just wanna move on. Enough is enough already.

In one such forest-for-the-trees situation, as it were, outside perspective often does the trick. Different people have different perspectives and ideas, and we can only analyze so deep on our own.

Consulting someone who has a certain amount of experience regarding the matter may be preferable. But if you’re stuck, any input is better than nothing. And in certain cases, a total outside stranger to the topic might actually provide a less biased, less predisposed angle on your situation.

#2 Eyes on the prize

Whatever you do, working towards a meaningful goal is a powerful motivator. — One that is all too unfamiliar for most non-fident people. If you have a clearly defined goal, the easier it is to take action. And the more clearly defined your goal is, the easier it’ll be knowing exactly what to do.

But whether or not you have one such goal, ask yourself things like, “Will this choice bring me closer to where I wanna be in life?” “Does this choice align with my values and my identity?” “In one year, will I be happy I made this choice?”

#3 Set a deadline

Something that gives analysis paralysis so treacherously favorable conditions is when time isn’t really an issue. If it has no consequence to us whether we do or decide something within a certain time frame, it’s so much easier to give it second priority than deal with it. Which makes perfect sense.

On way of getting around this in casu analysis paralysis is to decide on a deadline. And, of course, treat it like any deadline that you wouldn’t wanna miss.

Imagine having to explain to your boss why you didn’t make it. Or much better, make a bet with a friend or acquaintance.  — If you don’t keep your deadline, you owe them $100. (Optionally, use the person who provided the outside perspective!)

The deadline should depend on the magnitude of your decision. The smaller the decision, the closer the deadline. But in any case, make it close enough to motivate yourself to get busy!

#4 Take babysteps

What often seems scary about making decisions for non-fidents is the element of commitment. We tend to be somewhat afraid of losing control; of letting the choice “take over”, and “invade” our life and identity.

This is the aforementioned fear talking. And it’s actually possible to shut that fear up just enough to get going — by taking action on a minimal basis.

We should feel that we’re making progress. — Because otherwise, we’re probably not. We should still be hearing the faint whispers of our fear. But if we take babysteps instead of hurling ourselves head first out into a new direction in life, a mere whisper is exactly what it will be.

#5 Support and honor your choice

Whatever you choose to do, you will have a reason for doing so. Even if it’s a result of tossing a coin. Your final choice would not have been an option if it hadn’t had any value or benefit to you. So focus on these values and benefits.

Furthermore, prepare for what people might say. Try to entertain any possible objections people might have beforehand. Tell them about why this is important to you; about what you’re trying to accomplish. And, if nothing else, tell them that you simply needed to make a decision and get on with it.

#6 Remember: You can always go back

I know: This one might seem a little counterproductive, seeing as how this is about moving onwards and not looking back. But many non-fident people will find comfort in remembering that any choice isn’t final.

Unless you’ve quite literally jumped from somewhere high (for whatever reason), most choices are fairly easy to undo.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t honor your choice or put your back into making it work. You totally should, because that’s a just cool mindset to nurture. But if you find you’re clearly headed down a totally wrong path in your life, there’s nothing wrong with turning around and going another direction.

Whenever you find yourself struck by analysis paralysis, just remember: It’s better to make a mistake and learn from it than not do anything at all.

… And by all means, do quote me on that.


* http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/hyperactivity-in-brain-may-explain-228954; http://www.thecrimson.com/column/who-what-and-wyatt/article/2013/2/22/Wyatt-depression/

** http://assets.csom.umn.edu/71496.pdf; http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/application_uploads/Lyubomirsky-PositiveAffectBenefits.pdf

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