Paralysis by Analysis [When the Pros and Cons List Goes Awry]

Paralysis by AnalysisA night out on the town or a quiet evening at home?

Two kids or three?

Mint Chocolate Chip or Rocky Road?

Every day we each make thousands upon thousands of decisions, some of them life-altering and some of them totally inconsequential.

There are some people who breeze through each of these choices, going with their gut and never looking back.

And then there are the wafflers.

The waverers. The commitment-phobes. The people who always say “I’ll go last” when ordering at a restaurant because the choice between chicken or fish feels insurmountable.

I confess, I am an analyzer.

Correction: I am an over-analyzer. Instead of jumping right into things, I prefer to sleep on it, carefully deliberate, consider all of my options, mull it over a bit, make a list of pros and cons, and on and on and on.

Sometimes this tendency has served me well, especially when my natural cautiousness has led me to pray and meditate before making an important decision.

But sometimes all of that caution isn’t about tuning into my God or my heart; sometimes it’s a way of avoiding what I know I need to do.

It’s called paralysis by analysis—when we spend so much thinking about doing something that we never get around to actually doing anything. And I know I’m not the only one who has suffered from this.

I’ve come to realize that at its core, paralysis by analysis is about fear—a fear of failure, of screwing it all up, of regret. For me, all that over analyzing is just a way of indulging a fear of moving forward, leaving me stagnant and comfortable.

But I don’t want to be comfortable all the time. I don’t want to make decisions out of fear.

Because in the end, our lives will be defined not by what we thought about doing, but by what we actually did. Tweet this!

Have you ever experienced paralysis by analysis? Are you the type to overthink things, or do you jump right in?

22 responses to “Paralysis by Analysis [When the Pros and Cons List Goes Awry]”

  1. Agree! I do my best to take action swiftly but I will then analyze my way through the action. I am very much an analyzer. Wayne Dyer said something interesting in the book Pulling Your Own Strings about how to analyze is violent because it means to pull apart where synthesizing is to put together.

  2. It all depends on the situation. There’s a difference between reflection and analyzing. Some things need time to process and prayer.

    Others are often best decided on the spot. Respecting what’s best for each situation helps to comfort the process for me.

    • Agreed. Reflection and meditation are certainly good things; the problem is when deep down I know what I need to do but I use the over-analyzing as an avoidance tactic.

  3. I can be such a waffler unless I’m ALL IN. That’s how people can tell I’m not all in, in fact. I waffle.
    Sometimes, mostly, I just throw myself in there. I have to.

  4. A little bit of both, though I think knowing about the downfalls of overanalyzing helps to rein in the indecision.

    Have you read Barry Schwartz’ The Paradox of Choice? In it, he writes that we’re actually constrained by too many choices. Given more choices than less, we spend too much time analyzing things, then feeling bad about all the options we missed out on than had we chosen from only a few options.

    It’s the opposite of liberating. Instead of freeing us with choice, we’re actually constrained by choice.

    • I haven’t read the book, but the concept makes a lot of sense! True freedom comes from having a few choices, not a million.

  5. I usually jump in with both feet, but then there are times I wish I would have thought about something a bit more before getting in to it. My husband puts off all decisions (usually until I make the decision for him). That drives me crazy!

  6. I’m a thinker, too. A lot of times it’s because I gain clarity by sleeping on it or having an epiphany while I’m out for a jog. However, you bring up an excellent point; it’s something I’ll have to ponder!!

  7. I guess I’m a bit of both. Sometimes I jump right in, but I’m also good at over analyzing. I tend to over analyze the big stuff. And, yes, I think fear has a lot to do with it.

  8. Oh yes I am a waffler and over analyzer! We have been debating a third child since before Henry was even born! Back in January I was pretty gung-ho to start IVF this fall. But at the moment???? I am feeling pretty happy with two.

  9. I do analyze before I make a decision, but I don’t usually over-analyze. I typically make a decision quickly and stick with it, even if I should change my mind. I’m working on that though!

  10. I get this so very much Katie!! I am driven by insecurities and anxiety that propels me to analyze every single move I make. It DOES paralyze me!! I am afraid of fear. And yet, I end up in deep. Fear can be freezing… paralyzing. And yet- if we do really take that deep breath and DO- it… the fear dissipates for a time. Until I process the heck out of it all over again and wonder if it was the right thing to do!

    Welcome to my world. ACK!

  11. I’m definitely guilty of over analysis. One of the ways this plays out in my life is spending too much time thinking and reading about how to do things right (for example, I’m signed up to waaaaaay too many newsletters featuring freelancing writing tips) and too little time actually doing them.

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