How To Overcome Analysis Paralysis

DURING A RECENT coaching call, a client was beating herself up for not completing a project that she’s 90% done with.

“I’ve been putting it off for months,” Alana said. “I know I should just go back and finish it, but it’s been so long I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

“That makes sense. How can you know unless you take a look at it?” I replied.

“But I don’t know if I even want to finish it,” she said.

“I understand. How can you know unless you take a look at it?” I repeated.

“Approach this like an investigation instead of an obligation,” I said to Alana. “Reviewing the materials isn’t a commitment to finish it. It’s simply gathering information to help you decide if you even want to.”

Why do we let fear, uncertainty, or feelings of overwhelm stop us before we can even begin? How can you know if an idea has any merit unless you explore it a little bit? You have to dip your toe in the water. Test things out.

Instead of telling yourself that if you start it, you have to finish it, lower your expectations.

Now there’s some advice you never thought you’d hear from a coach — lower your expectations, but it really does serve you well in some regards! It’s the whole idea behind the “one step at a time” concept.

There are typically three main reasons someone might struggle with decision-making:

  1. Fear of making the wrong one.
  2. Uncertainty that you have what it takes to follow through.
  3. The idea that the decision you make is a life sentence.

All this mental chatter is calling for the same thing: more information.

If you’re not sure which way to go, ask yourself what you need to know to up your chances of figuring it out. If your mind goes blank, take a step in the direction of one of your choices to find out.

For example, using Alana’s situation from above — should she finish the project or not — instead of expecting herself to make a final decision, I encouraged her to start with just three steps:

Step 1: Pull out the documents and folders and put them on your desk.

Step 2: Spend one Pomodoro round (25 minutes focusing on this one task) looking through the materials and jotting down any thoughts or feelings that come up as you do.

Step 3: Take a day away from the materials before reviewing the thoughts and feelings you wrote down. Then, check in to see if you’re interested in spending another round looking through the project files.

Starting with these manageable steps will move you past the “should I or shouldn’t I” block and help you to begin to find out if it’s something you’d like to pursue.

Doesn’t gathering more information this way feel much more doable? Maybe even intriguing? It certainly allows for easier decision-making.

Instead of pulling your hair out trying to determine the right choice, consider yourself an adventurer; an investigator; a sleuth even! Come at indecisiveness from a place of curiosity and you’ll no longer be at the mercy of any crossroads because all possible directions are now opportunities to explore.

By using this approach, you quiet your monkey mind and place your resistance safely in the back seat while the adult, responsible you plants him or herself in the driver’s seat, and you’re now back in charge of your life.

Besides…. You can always change your mind.

Now I’d love to hear from you. In the comments section below, tell me:

  • What decision are you currently struggling with?
  • What are some exciting options that each direction offers?
  • What do you tell yourself will happen if you make the “wrong” decision?

And let’s see if we can nip this analysis paralysis in the bud.

2 replies
  1. Heather
    Heather says:

    Very good point. I want to re start a couple things right away, eliminating those blocks! Very interesting. Going away. Coming back. I am almost done with so many things…but then, I’ll be done?!!! And not making a final decision, because it’s a life sentence…not just the immediate solution, or fork in the road on my path. Amazing ! Hurdles to hurdle with less dread. Thank you .

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Oh yeah, Heather, it can be scary to think about actually being done. We’re so used to living in pursuit — chasing the finish line that we don’t know what to do once we get there. Keep on keepin’ on. One step at a time!

      Reply

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