Analysis Paralysis

According to Wikipedia, the phrase describes a situation where the opportunity cost of decision analysis exceeds the benefits that could be gained by enacting some decision, or an informal or non-deterministic situation where the sheer quantity of analysis overwhelms the decision-making process itself, thus preventing a decision. That to me is just a long-winded way to say dysfunctional! Here’s how to avoid analysis paralysis in your life.

Many intelligent and driven people suffer from Analysis Paralysis. It is important to note that making a conscious decision not to act, is different from analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is the inability to take action because you cannot select between and among options. The former is healthy, the latter dysfunctional. To reach our potential we need to identify ways to eliminate analysis paralysis.

In the martial arts, the failure to act is generally met with an immediate and unfavorable result – fist meet face comes to mind. To avoid such occurrences, good instructors teach new students only a few basic techniques so that the selection process is essentially negated. When you only have one block, and one strike, your choices are limited. Moreover, these techniques are continuously drilled so that the student can perform them on an unconscious level. By virtue of their simplicity, students are able to understand and apply the techniques and thereby lay the foundation of an effective self-defensive capability. Students taught in this manner do not fall prey to analysis paralysis because there are no decisions to make. Instead, they unconsciously act using the basic techniques they have acquired.

One could argue that as students learn additional techniques, they become more likely to experience analysis paralysis. While this sounds plausible, it is not the case because the development of a strong base-line capability alleviates the pressure of selecting the perfect technique. Once removed, the unconscious mind, no longer encumbered by the filter of conscious thought, will intuitively select the appropriate action. Martial arts masters knew that building upon a sound foundation would enhance, not retard effectiveness. We can apply this principle to our lives simply by reducing the burden on conscious thought.
The key to freeing our mind so that it can perform in a natural state is to provide it with a base-line capability (solution), which while imperfect, will produce an acceptable result. Relieved of the burden of finding the perfect solution, our unconscious mind will freely work on identifying more creative, intuitive solutions. When faced with making difficult decisions, we should therefore make it a priority to first attempt to identify a “worse case” but acceptable solution. Once established, the pressure you are experiencing will diminish and the solutions you are seeking will become clearer and more accessible. The evidence is compelling. See for yourself, you have nothing to lose but your analysis paralysis.