What is Analysis Paralysis and How to Defeat it

It's easy to get lost in the weeds! In this episode we discuss how to make snappier decisions and move forward, and ways to help coaching clients do the same.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

What is “Analysis Paralysis”?

“Analysis paralysis describes the process that an individual or group engages in when overanalyzing or overthinking a situation. This often causes forward motion in decision-making to become "paralyzed", meaning that no solution or course of action is decided upon.” - Wikipedia

Why Does It Happen? 

In psychological terms, analysis paralysis is considered an anxiety response. It is helpful to recognize these feelings as anxiety and name them: worry, fear, and rumination. Naming our feelings lets the prefrontal cortex wake up and disrupt a spinning brain! If you're finding it tough to stop overthinking, a therapist or coach can also help you identify underlying causes or triggers. 

What We Can Do

When caught in the grip of analysis paralysis, it often helps to understand why you’re having trouble making choices. Consider:

Did a previous decision not pan out so well? 

If you find yourself replaying a memory, you might have trouble trusting yourself to make a different choice moving forward.

Is the perceived judgement of others interfering with your ability to get clear? 

Many of us worry about other people judging us for making a certain choice. It's common to think that the “wrong” decision will affect your future or relationships with loved ones. Not only that, it can feel particularly tough to make a decision that affects other people. 

In these cases, it helps to normalize and validate how you (or your coaching client) is feeling. Most people find making a decision or completing a task challenging on occasion!

Tips to Overcome Rumination

Life is active. To fully live one cannot just “think.” One must DO. - Noelle Cordeaux, Lumia Coaching CEO

1) Set a decision deadline... with a default course of action

It can be helpful to establish a deadline for research, thinking, investigating, mind mapping, brainstorming or anything else you feel is important. When the deadline passes, stick with the default decision you chose in advance - unless you really got somewhere and changed the deadline based on real information or new outcomes.

2) Try something, change later

Just start. This involves making yourself engage in the task for a certain amount of time, before you can go back to research. This works well when you want to explore options, but can’t really learn more about them without actually trying something out. 

Pro Tip: Working with a coach is a great way to bust through the "thought-to-action" barrier!

3) Leave hard choices open-ended

The above strategies work on a principle of removing the rational objection to getting started. In the first, you’ve indulged in a reasonable amount of research time, so you can’t justify that you didn’t have time to think about it. In the second, you give yourself the option to back out, so you can’t complain that the decision is too weighty. In the third, you get started on the stuff that would be the same for either option, so you can’t use research as a reason to procrastinate.

Pro Tip: Taking action always feels better. Most things are not set in stone. There is value in pushing forward with a choice just to see what happens.

Further resources:

Healthline: How to Beat ‘Analysis Paralysis’ and Make All the Decisions 

Scott H. Young: How to Push Past Your Analysis Paralysis

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