5 Ways to Start Fighting Back Against Analysis Paralysis

Some of us have been here. We have a decision, often any, that we feel the need to research, analyze, research, analyze in a repeated cycle. The problem is that we get stuck in this cycle and either delay the decision, never make a decision, or get pressed for time and feel like we have made the wrong decision. I do this all the time and for people like us, it causes stress and for me, procrastination. This is analysis paralysis.

Coming from the Marine Corps, I find the need to plan for EMDCOA (Enemy’s Most Dangerous Course of Action) and EMPCOA (Enemy’s Most Probable Course of Action) as well as everything in between. Typically, before planning a mission, you take all the intel you can gather to assess how you think your enemy will react and create a plan that will cover this action. My problem is that unlike in the USMC, the real world has way more possible outcomes to prepare for. Anything can happen in the heat of a battle but, as a Marine, we have trained and studied so much that our actions and reactions are second nature. There isn’t much thinking just acting and that is something I have had trouble with in my civilian life. 

I have learned that you cannot plan for every possible outcome as much as I would like to. Trying to do so leads to Analysis Paralysis. Defined by Healthline as a type of overthinking that essentially freezes someone meaning that they cannot make a decision. My biggest fear was making a mistake because, on deployment, a mistake or failure to complete your objective can have fatal consequences. In the civilian world, failure has been my biggest fear and if I make the wrong decision or mistake then in my mind that means failure. You may have other reasons for being afraid to make the wrong decision or fail but it can lead to analysis paralysis. 

I do not feel that you should have to change who you are, how you feel, think, or act, but I do think as people that face analysis paralysis, we do have to recognize when we are stuck, make the conscious effort to avoid it, and find the balance of the planning and preparation we need with action.

Here are 5 Ways to Start Fighting Back Against Analysis Paralysis:

Recognize the triggers

When do you begin to feel anxious, nervous, or stuck? Is it when you are faced with any decision? A financial decision? 

Once we can say, “Ok, I’m starting to spin my wheels here,” we can start to take other actions to prevent it or at least minimize the feelings of anxiety. Most of the time for me, it starts when I am faced with a situation that I have never faced. I look at the end goal and work backward, asking myself how to get there. Usually, this leads to a million questions and feeling overwhelmed. I have recognized that new decisions are a trigger.

What I should do is take a few deep breaths and think about the ACTIONS I can start to take NOW. Not everything in life has to be planned completely out before you start. Sometimes it is just about the journey and we should enjoy that.

Ask yourself if the decision is really that big

I love this. It is something that I have been working on for a couple of months now to try and alleviate some of the stress that has had me in a negative headspace. I ask myself (and this may be dramatic for some but remember, I am a Marine) “Will I die? Will someone that is depending on me die?”. As a Marine, there was a time when the answer could be yes but as a civilian, I have never faced this situation. 

You might ask yourself, “Will I lose my job?”, and I think we can examine that. I think the answer is, so what. Are you not capable of finding another job? I can understand the stress here especially if you have people to take care of. I am not saying that it wouldn’t be easy while you find a new job but there are way too many opportunities out there to make an income to stress yourself out completely. 

The point here is to try and take some of the pressure off yourself so that you can think a little more clearly and find the ACTIONS you can take. If you realize that it isn’t that big of a deal, just make a decision and move forward. If it is wrong, adjust and move on again. Spend the time you saved doing something you love. If the answer is a resounding yes, then that is perfectly ok. You now know that this decision will take some thought and planning but the important thing to remember is that you have to identify an ACTION you can take to move forward, even if it is only half a step. It is better than being stuck in the mud!

Don’t expect perfection

No decision is perfect and that is OK. How much time do you lose in your day trying to make something perfect? Spending hours perfecting a report at work only to have it sent back with corrections? You could have easily used your knowledge and experience to get it done and sent it off sooner without perfecting it. They can either accept it or send it back and you fix it faster than trying to perfect it before you send it off. I think this is what they mean by Just Do It (mentioned in the intro episode of the podcast if you want more context). Just build the report and send it. Take the Mud Dogs Podcast website for example. I have been sitting on this website and podcast for months trying to complete it. Meanwhile, I have not made the changes I want to make in my life because I have been sitting on it. That is why I am writing this blog before I have the first episode produced. The site is what it is right now and I am just going to publish it today so that I can START.  Have finally got to the point where I am ok with that. No one will die, and I won’t lose any income, house, or food because it isn’t 100%.

Set a deadline

I have not tried this idea yet but I like the logic behind it. When we identify triggers, we can easily set a deadline for ourselves to make a decision. It is all about the ACTION. For example, I just mentioned how I had not published my website yet for the podcast. I could set a deadline of 6 PM on 4/17/23 I will publish the site and this will help me from thinking and cause me to take ACTION.

Get some help

Help for everyone looks different. Analysis Paralysis could be a big issue for some of us and maybe not a big deal for others. You are who you are and that is ok. If you want to make changes in your life but constantly get stuck, ask a close friend, or if you prefer, seek professional help. It doesn’t matter where the help comes from as long as you get the support you need. That is what the Mud Dogs Podcast is all about. Just average people trying to make positive changes in their life one small step at a time.