While I have always been an over-thinker, there are some moments or seasons where this tendency is on hyper-drive. Sometimes it is late at night, where I find myself doing play-by-play on the events of the day, wondering if I handled everything right. Other times it happens when I am facing a difficult decision and find myself jumping back and forth between two different paths.
Just recently, I was in a season of over-analysis paralysis as I worked on a massive writing project. I would finish up a section only to look back and wonder if that really was the best way to approach the topic. No joke, I rewrote the introduction seven times. Seven times!
Tips for Fighting Analysis Paralysis
Have you ever run into analysis paralysis? Are you an over-thinker like I am? Maybe you’ve experienced the difficulty of making a decision or moving forward when it comes to a creative project. Or, maybe it had to do with a relationship or a potential career path. The problem with the information age is that most of us face a never-ending list of options – which means it can be difficult to ever settle on one path to best move forward.
Whenever I feel stuck, there are a few thoughts and tactics that help me push through over-analysis paralysis. Here are some tips to consider, especially if you find yourself in a season of over-thinking.
Be wary of feelings.
Often times I feel stuck because I don’t feel right about a decision or potential option. Feelings are not always bad and sometimes can be very helpful. I believe all of us have a conscience that can ping us if we’re doing something foolish or unwise, so it makes sense to listen to our hearts.
However, feelings can deceive us. Fear can sometimes mean we’re doing something right – we’re taking a risk or stepping out into the unknown in order to grow. On the other hand, feeling comfortable or at ease can often indicate we’re not doing anything at all when we should be doing something.
So, don’t get stuck waiting for something to feel right, because often times it won’t feel right till after we take a step of faith.
Get trusted feedback.
Since our feelings can sometimes betray us, we often need someone else’s feedback to help us move forward. Whether it’s having another like-minded author or artist give us their critical thinking on a creative project or a close confidante who can give us a fresh perspective on a relationship or career decision, feedback is critical and helpful!
Now, a side note on this: who you select to have this role in your life is very important. If you choose a “yes” person (someone who agrees with everything you do), this won’t help you get unstuck. In fact, you’ll probably just wonder if they’re telling you the truth. Or, if you choose an overly critical person, you’ll feel discouraged. So, you need to find a person you respect who respects you too. You need a fellow journeyer.
Teddy Roosevelt once said,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
You need to find someone who is in the arena to journey with you. His or her feedback will be immensely helpful. For me, this isn’t just one person. I have a person who helps me think creatively about writing and speaking projects. Someone else is really discerning when it comes to people. Another person is a phenomenal leader. But all of them are in the arena – they are investing their blood, sweat, and tears into making a difference, which encourages me as I try to make a difference.
Take daring steps today.
It is rare that someone moves from inaction into the perfect situation. A great relationship doesn’t just happen or fall into our laps (unlike what Disney films taught us). Great art is rarely made on the first try – it is a process. It often takes a series of imperfect steps that start to move us in the direction of discovering something amazing.
If you are like me, you are a perfectionist, which means it can be hard to put ourselves out there or take a big step if it doesn’t feel like everything has come together perfectly. But, a stagnant ship can’t be steered. We have to get moving. As Roosevelt puts it, we have to “dare greatly” and think less about the critics and more about the journey of discovering something more by moving forward today.
Over-analysis paralysis is common today. But, it doesn’t have to stop us. Let’s encourage each other to dare greatly and move forward, one small, imperfect step at a time.