At first glance, the idea of free will is exciting. The possibilities are endless. You start thinking about all the things you can do and want to do. The ideas don’t stop rushing and you’re feeling all:
But then, when it’s time to take action, you end up more like this:
How did this happen? What is the name of the little monster in our heads that keeps us stuck in the loops of overthinking? Introducing…. Analysis Paralysis, a.k.a the Paradox of Choice, coined by psychologist Barry Schwartz. His findings point out that while more choices can lead to objectively better results, we are equally in the position to experience more anxiety, indecision, and paralyzation because of said choices. Too many ideas or options can causes you to freeze like a deer in headlights. There’s a fear of taking the wrong path, of investing large amounts of time pursuing the wrong idea or goal.
Tell Yourself A Better Story
Sure, we all hate the feeling of being stuck. The feeling of not having any ideas can be dreadful. The thing about experiencing discomfort of analysis paralysis is the comfort of knowing you’re not suffering from a lack of ideas. What you’re experiencing is an overabundance of ideas and information at your disposal.
Adam Grant, author of Think Again points out that it is much better to experience the discomfort of doubts than the regret that can come with being overconfident.
To analyze is to think critically, and if you’re experiencing analysis paralysis, know that you’re on the better side of being uncomfortable in your creating.
Partnering With the Paralysis Monster
As with any of the internal monsters that we carry, it’s important to get to know them. After all, they are part of us. Our ideas are intangible things – we can’t touch them or keep them from zooming at a thousand miles per second in the dimension of our thoughts. But what if we brought them to a dimension that we could tangibly see and touch?
The next time you’re experiencing paralysis by analysis, get out a sheet of paper and a timer. Give yourself 5-10 minutes of writing down everything you think of. As the thoughts come, write them down without obligating yourself to do anything more about them. Now that you’ve successfully trapped those thoughts on this tangible, 2-dimensional plane, your eyes have something to focus on. You’ve made it a little easier to devote your attention to one thing at a time.
We often get caught in the trap of trying to plan and execute at the same time. It’s important to give yourself space and grace to just think. Create blocks of time in your schedule where you require nothing more from yourself than just thinking. Be intentional about this time, and hold yourself accountable to not trying to execute anything. Giving yourself permission to simply think can help alleviate some of the stress that comes with the pressure to perform.
As finite beings, we freeze up in the face of infinity. When we have a whole day to clean the house, we usually wait until the last 2 hours and rush to get it all done. It’s crazy, but somehow it works and we accomplish everything we set out to do in that time period.
Abundant choices + unlimited time = paralysis.
Keep the ideas flowing, but limit the time you allow yourself to ruminate. Honor your thoughts by spending some time with them, but extend the honor by putting them into action!