How to stop overthinking and start making decisions like a pro
Paralysis by analysis, decision paralysis, overthinking, and procrastination – while we’ve all suffered from it at one point (or several) in our lives, for some people, being overwhelmed by choice can strike with even the most minor decision – from what to have for breakfast to whether to wear the white socks or grey. And with the average person making a staggering 35,000 decisions a day, it’s little wonder our freedom of choice can start to feel paralyzing rather than freeing. The number of decisions we make daily is unlikely to change, so what can you do to tackle choice paralysis, and are some people more prone to it than others?
What is choice paralysis?
As the name suggests, choice paralysis happens when we have several options to choose from, struggle to decide, and, ultimately, freeze out of fear of making the wrong choice. Sometimes we can feel so overwhelmed that we end up not choosing any of the options, or find the process so exhausting that we lack the energy to follow through with the choice we eventually made.
Who is most likely to suffer from it?
While choice paralysis happens to us all, certain personality types can suffer from it more than others. If you’re a particularly anxious person, tend to be obsessive about small details, are naturally indecisive, or are a total perfectionist, this can accentuate your tendency towards choice paralysis. Another factor that can make you more likely to suffer from choice paralysis is your upbringing. If you’ve been criticized for making the wrong decision several times in the past, you might be plagued with uncertainty and struggle to commit.
Think you might be prone to choice paralysis? Take a test here.
Paralysis and procrastination
Being overwhelmed by choices can quickly lead you down the path of not doing anything at all. We’ve all experienced that creeping fear of staring at a monstrous to-do list, not knowing where to start, and suddenly, cleaning seems like the best idea in the world. Anxiously procrastinating and choice paralysis often go hand-in-hand – which isn’t a particularly productive space to find yourself in.
How can you tackle it?
Avoiding choices altogether or being like Jim Carey in the 2008 hit movie ‘Yes Man’ are not your best paths out of this predicament. Overcoming choice paralysis takes some mindset changes, a bit of prioritization, and planning. Here’s how to tackle it head-on:
- Face the fear – notice the anxiety creeping in, and rather than skipping straight to a state of overwhelm, acknowledge the feeling, and remind yourself that there’s no such thing as a perfect decision. Common signs of choice paralysis are doubting your capabilities, overcomplicating your options, putting pressure on perfectionism, and procrastination.
- Prioritize and rationalize – choose the shredded cheese over the block of cheese? It’s highly likely that the future you won’t hold it against the current you. Thinking about whether this decision will impact your life a year from now can help put things in perspective and rationalize your thoughts. It’s important to differentiate big decisions from small, and if you’re staring down the barrel of a burgeoning task list, putting it all on paper can help you prioritize and feel more in control. Brain dumping is a popular technique to help free your mental capacity, and clarify what decisions really need your attention.
- Whip out the trusty pros and cons list – sometimes weighing up the pros and cons is the only way out of choice paralysis. It puts you in control of the decision and gives you focus when your brain is feeling anything but. You can shortcut this list by focusing on the most important aspect or outcome you want from the decision at hand – this will help you quickly whittle down your options and speed up the decision-making process.
Just choosing is often the best choice
Whether you’re overloaded with options or just struggle to make decisions, often taking the reins and committing to a choice is the best way to alleviate choice paralysis. By incorporating the above tips, taking control, and building confidence in your ability to make a good decision, you’ll soon leave the doubt behind and move on with certainty.
If choice paralysis impacts your everyday life, it could be time to chat with a health practitioner.