“Analysis Paralysis” describes the individual or group process when analyzing or overthinking a situation can cause forward motion or decision-making to become “paralyzed”, meaning that no solution or course of action is decided upon. – Wikipedia

“There is a fine line between preparation and procrastination.” – Jen Sincero

Analysis paralysis manifests itself in our inability to make a decision due to a few different behavioral factors. Some of these factors include our desire for more information, our fear about making mistakes, and creating contingencies based on unrealistic or low-probability risks.

Analysis paralysis can be tricky, it creeps in without you noticing it until you realize you’ve prepared for change but have never quite taken action to bring that change to reality.

As leaders, it is your job to take action and make the circumstances match your intended vision! Analysis paralysis is not helpful to a team, in fact, it can only harm it.

Herbert Simon, an American psychologist, mentions that we make decisions in one of two different ways. We will either 1) Satisfice, which is to choose the first decision that comes across our paths that will satisfy our needs, or 2) Maximize, that is, we will constantly look for better and more alternatives.

Maximizers are ultimately the ones at most danger for analysis paralysis. Due to their constant analysis, and willingness to wait for the best possible outcome, they put themselves in danger of never taking action.

Today, I wish to discuss some of the mentalities and forces behind analysis paralysis, and how we can observe, become aware, and alter them in order to become more effective people.

The Workings Behind Analysis Paralysis

Here are some of the key emotions that can affect our decision-making ability, as well as our ability to take action on the choices we have. They all have one thing in common, they connect with…

Fear

Fear keeps us from taking the leap of faith, usually do to internal doubt or a lack of faith within ourselves.
Fear keeps us from taking the leap of faith, usually do to internal doubt or a lack of faith within ourselves.

Fear has killed more dreams than anything else in the world. The good thing is that fear is entirely controllable, and 100% personal. What you fear, I may not.

This means that fears are accountable to you, personally, and that you are the only one that is holding yourself back due to fear.

Fear can cause analysis paralysis in many ways. Anytime there is fear for a desired outcome or change, it can be broken down into some key elements that control our ability to take action.

Here are some of the ways fear comes about.
1. The fear of failure
2. The fear of success
3. The fear of the unknown
Ultimately, what do these factors all have in common? The fear of CHANGE.

Change can be frightening to us in multitudes of ways. It doesn’t matter whether the change is ultimately good or bad, we are likely still afraid of it!

The fear of failure usually occurs because we feel we have high standards set on us, either by ourselves, or somebody who has placed those standards on us in the past.

We cannot afford to be perfectionists in a world that changes so frequently and rapidly. Ultimately, it is the thirst for perfection that hinders those with a fear of failure. Keep this in mind, mistakes are not the sign that you are going to fail, whether you learn from those mistakes certainly is.

When it comes to the fear of success, what it boils down to is a difference in expectations. Success can be feared for much the same reason that failure is feared. Ultimately, those who fear success feel as if that success places heightened expectations on them, and sets them up for failure later on.

The issue with the fear of success is that, oftentimes, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who fear success may never get to succeed due to a failure to take action in the first place! The issue with this is that people who fear success also fear failure. This leaves them in an unfortunate limbo-type situation in which they feel compelled not to succeed, but also compelled not to fail!

The fear of the unknown is different. Humans dislike ambiguity. In fact, that is why terror films are often more frightening than horror films. Think about this. Horror is seeing a big monster. Terror is feeling a tap on your shoulder, turning around, and not seeing anything. Many would agree that terror is more uncomfortable.

The very same ambiguity translates into our language. Horror: horrible: horrific all have relatively similar meanings. Whereas terror: terrible: and terrific have strangely different meanings.

I often say that a connotation is the mind’s defense against an ambiguous denotation. Why would words like “potential” be inherently positive when we have the “potential” to do bad things as well?

Ultimately, the fear of the unknown is what most fear stems from. We cannot tell the future, but we can certainly be afraid of it! The mind seeks constant comfort. Comfort means survival (in most cases), and the mind is obviously geared towards survival.

Overcoming Analysis Paralysis

So what do all of these emotions have in common? the fear of change. Ultimately, analysis paralysis is simply the nature of overthinking based on the fear of change in some way or another. For now, we will discuss some of the key things you can do to avoid this disempowering and self-debilitating mindset.

Include Others In the Process

Allowing other people to take a look over your work and aid you in making decisions is beneficial in some very concrete ways.


1. It implements a “sanity check” over all your work. Ensuring that you have thought out likely and probable issues to take into account.
2. It provides the ability to implement more experience, information that you may not be aware of, and whether or not somebody else feels prepared to take action.
3. You develop commitment from the team by allowing other people’s thoughts and concerns to weigh in on the decision-making process.

NEVER Wait

People who wait for the stars to align before they can make a decision are going to be waiting for the rest of their lives. We often think, “I’m just waiting for the right moment.” When, in reality, there is no “right moment.”

Waiting for circumstances to match your criteria is not effective. I often say, circumstances create weak people, strong people create the circumstances.

As a leader of a team (or even just yourself) action is always warranted. Do your best to control the situation you can control, and shape the circumstances to fit the changes you desire to see.

There will always be more information available later on, a better time to act down the road, or “perfect” circumstances in the future. But waiting for them is like giving away all the power you have to make a difference to the fates of the world. it is entirely disempowering.

Prioritize

Prioritization is the best way to determine which actions make the most difference in your goals!
Prioritization is the best way to determine which actions make the most difference in your goals!

Often, people who find themselves caught up in analysis paralysis fail to recognize the goal, but focus only on the meaningless small activities that they feel may make a difference.

Ask yourself, what actions are you taking now that are honestly necessary for your ultimate success in the direction you wish? There may be things you are avoiding by trying to justify other actions!

For example, reading an extra chapter of my book today may be a justification for avoiding having to make a phone call, or send an email, or go to a meeting, etc.

Sometimes the little things can blind us with details that are unnecessary, and ultimately, debilitating towards the bigger picture.

Prioritize your activities into ones that directly affect the desired outcome. Which are most important to your success? and are you doing them now or are you doing something else?

Break It Down

Choice theory is the idea that more options don’t exactly make things better. In fact, sometimes they can downright confuse us.

Most people think in terms of events. these events come across as single-time decisions that affect our lives infinitely from that point onwards. But this can be an issue and invite fear to enter our minds.

Breaking down the big issues or decisions that must be made into small bite-sized steps over time helps make them more manageable, and less menacing in light of the minimal impact they have on our lives. Change becomes easier when it feels like we don’t have to!

Conclusion

Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you move. If you don’t like where you are in life or within your teams, any movement will take you somewhere new.

Keep in mind that avoiding analysis paralysis has nothing to do with blindly taking action despite all odds or consequences! It has more to do with recognizing when you are no longer preparing, and instead, are simply avoiding a task.

Avoiding things has never brought people much good, especially when it comes to their fears. Let me ask you, are you afraid of change more than you are afraid of staying the same? I implore you to consider this idea: If you are not perfectly happy exactly where you are right now, then you MUST make a change.

Only when we can control our ability to change and better manage our fear can we lead and live effectively! Doing so makes you a force to be reckoned with!

Choose what is most important to you and your strategic mission at this very moment, and take action!

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Heres a Wikipedia article on Analysis Paralysis to whet your appetite!

Thanks for reading!

-Austin Denison