I spent years spinning around in circles trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. What was my dream career? What was my purpose? How could I make the biggest difference to the world? What would excite me for life?
I knew that I wanted to help people. But how? Oh how many hours I spent on the computer researching careers and courses, then getting myself all confused, and not doing anything. Money, timing, indecision, uncertainty, and other complexities got in the way.
It didn’t help that I had so many interests and passions. My Dad once called me a Renaissance Woman and boy was he right. Being multi-passionate only made my search for a clear direction in terms of career and purpose even more difficult.
I found myself in a case of analysis paralysis. I spent so much time in my brain, analysing my options, weighing up pros and cons, swinging from one side to the other. I ended up so confused that I couldn’t make a decision at all. I was paralysed.
If there was one thing that I did know for sure, it was that being paralysed and doing nothing sure wasn’t going to get me any closer to finding my answers. All it was going to do was ensure that I remained in my Government job for life – something that I actually did know for sure I didn’t want.
Below are the seven main strategies that I have learned to use to overcome analysis paralysis.
Listen to your intuition
When you are struggling to make a decision, people will often say to listen to your heart. “What does your gut say?” they ask.
Sometimes when we take our head out of the equation, ignore reason and logic, and tune in to what “feels right”, we get a sense of what direction to take. Personally, I have found that my brain will often disagree or throw caution toward my ‘gut’ instinct. For this reason, I have historically followed my head over my heart.
When I was on maternity leave with my first son, I made a conscious decision that it was time to take action on finding my dream career once and for all. I made a conscious decision to start listening to my heart over my head. To take the risk, and see what happened.
For the remainder of the year, I turned it into an experiment – heart over head – every time. The results were amazing. I started to step outside of my comfort zone and learn things about myself and my desires that I would have never learnt otherwise.
Identify what you know and don’t know about the issue or decision
We often find ourselves getting so confused about what decision to make that we miss the biggest clues concerning the answer. Writing a pros and cons list can sometimes even add to the confusion.
I have found that identifying what I know for sure, what I’m not sure about, and what I am confused about, can sometimes help me identify a step to take.
For example, when I was trying to decide between applying for a Master in Clinical Psychology or studying another course, like a life coaching course, I wrote a list about what I knew for sure and what I didn’t know for sure.
I knew that I wanted to help people. I knew that I wanted to feel like I was making a difference in the world. I knew that I wanted to own my own business one day. I knew that I wanted to work one-on-one with people and some day have an online program. I knew I wanted to write and eventually author a book.
I wasn’t sure that I would be able to emotionally handle listening to people who were experiencing severe mental illness on a full time basis. I wasn’t sure that I’d love the Master in Clinical Psychology course and that it would be worth the financial and time investment. I wasn’t sure that people would take a life coach seriously. I wasn’t sure what I’d specialise in with either option. I wasn’t sure what employment options were realistic for both, and how long it would take before I was qualified to run my own successful business.
This is a completely different focus to a pros and cons list. It didn’t talk about which course was cheaper, which one had a better curriculum, or which one had a better reputation. It went down to the core of what I wanted for myself and my future.
Sometimes taking a slightly different approach and focusing on what we do and don’t know about a decision can help us find clarity around what to do, or at least identify some steps that we can take to get closer to finding clarity.
In the example provided, this exercise helped me realise that Clinical Psychology was not right for me at this point in my life and ultimately was part of the process that led to my decision to enrol in the Beautiful You Coaching Academy.
Free flow journal exercise
Some of the biggest epiphanies and ‘ah-hah’ moments that I have experienced when trying to overcome analysis paralysis during different points of my life have resulted from a date with my journal.
After experiencing a frustrating moment of confusion, I would purge my thoughts into my journal. Uncensored. Free-flowing. From my heart and head and onto the paper.
Getting your thoughts out of your head and in writing can introduce a stillness and peacefulness within you that then opens up a sense of clarity around your experience or indecision and what you need to accept, let go of, or do to move forward.
Take a break
Often when I am confused about making a decision, or feeling stuck or blocked when doing a piece of work, I have found the best thing to do is take a break.
Sometimes this means stopping to do something that I enjoy. For example, reading a book, meeting a loved one for coffee, going for a walk along the beach or through the bush, listening to music, or playing with my son. Shut down for a while and throw yourself into something that you love, trusting that when you return to pondering the issue at hand, you’re cup will be full and inspiration might follow.
On bigger issues, this sometimes means sleeping on it or leaving it for a day or two before returning with a fresh head and approach.
In doing this, it is important to return to the problem at hand. Don’t avoid it for life. Just take whatever break is required to let go for a while, enjoy life, live a little or a lot, and return with a fresh head and perspective.
Speak to your best self
When we are in a place of analysis paralysis, it is often self-doubt and our wavering confidence that gets us there. Our ‘inner critic’, negative thoughts, or mean girl start to play tricks on us and ultimately confuse us.
I have found that asking a variation of the below questions can help me find clarity and refocus in these situations.
- What would I decide if I loved myself more?
- What would I do if I was my most confident and inspired self?
- If I was the best and most confident version of myself, what decision would I make, or what action would I take to help me find clarity or decide?
Sometimes reminding ourselves to consider decisions from a place of love and appreciation, rather than from a place of fear and self-doubt, can reveal real gems about what it is that we truly want to do.
We are often much more clear about what we want, than what we think.
Start taking steps now
I believe this is the most important step.
In order to break free of paralysis by analysis, you have to take steps now. You have to act.
I have found that when I am most stuck, it can help to ask myself “What is one step, small or big, that I can take right now to help me move forward or find a bit more clarity about this?”
By taking steps in a direction, even if we’re not sure whether it is the right direction, can open and close doors that bring about so much clarity and inspiration.
Reach out for help
One of the best steps to help overcome analysis paralysis is to reach out for help.
Sometimes this can be as simple as seeking advice from a loved ones. Other times it can be reaching out to strangers who you feel might have some experience or wisdom in the area you are confused about. Sometimes it might be beneficial to invest in yourself financially by engaging a professional to help you through the issue at hand.
I know that personally, reaching out for help by contacting loved ones, coaches, and other professionals has been a vital step in me moving forward when I’ve felt stuck.
I hope that the above strategies help you when you are feeling paralysed about a decision or issue. I’d love to know in the comments below whether you have used any of these tips yourself and whether they have helped you find clarity and direction.
Let’s soar together,