Getting Out of Analysis Paralysis

Image courtesy of Eileen Rackus

Like me, I’m sure many of you have experienced getting stuck when you have an important decision to make. You want to make the best possible choice and agonize over the options. When you find yourself unable to move forward because you are going over the pros and cons again and again, you’re in analysis paralysis. It’s a terrible place to be. It’s frustrating and dreadful to not know what to do and to be afraid that you could choose wrongly. But you can get unstuck. First, remember how good it feels to act. Second, select a course of action. Any action you take will provide relief. Following are some suggestions to get you moving again and help you to reach a decision.

Move Your Body
Exercise and house cleaning may take your mind off the problem and allow your heart, your intuition, your gut, or even your subconscious to weigh in. Moving our bodies gets our brains moving again and this will help us make a choice.

Quieting your mind and stilling your body in meditation may allow you to discover your true feelings on the matter. Preparing a quiet space inside allows answers to rise up above all the same thoughts that have been churning around in your brain.

Think About Something Else
Focus all your attention on something other than the problem you face. Read a book. Watch a movie or an episode of a show. Listen to a friend’s dilemma and try to help them. Another part of your brain will continue to mull over the problem while you are thinking about something else.

Do More Research
I have often found that this yields new information that I had not previously discovered. Maybe I used different search terms. Perhaps a blog post or article has been published since I first researched my options. Possibly some site has improved their SEO and moved up in the search results. Regardless of the reason, there is now additional information to review that may lead to a decision.

Talk to a Trusted Friend or Mentor
They may have additional information or a fresh perspective that will help you decide. Just talking about a problem can feel like taking action. And sometimes we realize the right solution when we hear it out loud.

Use Your Imagination
Pretend a year or more has passed since you made your decision. Think about what your life is like. Start in the morning when you wake and describe the whole day. Don’t leave anything out. Be as vivid as possible using all your senses. What colors do you see? Is the sun bright in a blue sky or does it look like rain? What do you smell? Where are you? Are you living in the same place or somewhere new? What’s it like where you are? Who is with you? Where/what do you eat? Where do you go? Who do you meet? What do you do? How do you feel? Write or type everything out and wait a day or 2 and repeat the process with all other possibilities you are facing. Then you can pick the choice that rendered the best day. The day that was most meaningful or pleasant or more aligned with the outcomes you are trying to create.

Pick One Option and Take Baby Steps in That Direction
Just like you would drive a car before you buy it, test drive one of your options and see if it feels right. Take small, reversible steps that are still big enough to get a feel for how your life could be. When considering a move to a new area, I go to the neighborhood at different times of day and walk around. Are the people friendly? Do I feel safe? What kind of vibe do I get? Once, when I was interviewing for a position at a university, I ate lunch with a group of students to get a better feel for the school and students served. It’s possible that you don’t know how you’ll feel about something until you try it out. I may like all the ingredients in a recipe but find them distasteful when they’re all mixed together. If you’re still not sure after you have tested the water a bit, try another activity listed here.

No matter which recommendation(s) you try to get out of analysis paralysis, it is always a good idea to practice self-compassion and adaptability. We all make mistakes and occasionally have to make decisions without enough information. At any given time, we can only do our best. Let that be good enough.

Life is change. And while we are making changes, the unexpected can still happen. Being flexible will allow us to keep moving forward in life. Nothing in life is permanent. Situations and people come and go with or without our intervention. We get stuck sometimes – mentally, emotionally, in a job, or in relationship – the trick is to get unstuck so we can move on to bigger and better options. Self-compassion and adaptability will help.

What do you do when you get stuck in analysis paralysis?

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