Overcoming the Paralysis of Analysis


December 14, 2012 by Will Ray

If you know me, you may also know that I suffer from horrible indecisiveness.

It is one of my least favorite things about myself, my inability to quickly choose a course and commit to it.  Example… I’ve been saving money for over a year to buy an iPad and golf clubs.  I have the money, I just haven’t decided on what to get.  I can get so bogged down in the decision process that it takes FOREVER to finalize something.

In these last two weeks I’ve had to make a number of decisions about our youth ministry events next year, so I’ve had a great chance recently to interact with my indecision.

It has its benefits, I suppose.  On the other side of the spectrum, I work with someone who makes decisions very, very quickly.  I admire the trait in that person that allows them to do that.  But I’ve also seen also how it results in possibly not the best decisions being made.

I’ve thought through a number of the reasons for why I deal with this.  Fear of screwing up, my personal makeup, not enough information, fear of what people will say, perfectionistic desires – any number of things.

But how do we overcome this paralysis of the analysis?  I am still admittedly awful at this, but these few things have helped me:

1) Gather lots and lots of information very quickly
Get someone to help you if necessary, but become an expert on the subject matter in a short period of time.  For example, I was charged with making a computer purchase for the church to fill a specific need.  I became an expert on the market for that type of computer through online research in a couple days.  When the time came, that knowledge helped me make an informed purchase on a good deal.

Once you have the information, organize it well – chart, spreadsheet, pro/con list, sketches, etc.

2) Involve other people
My indecision seems worst when I feel like I’m dangling out there on my own, and it’s all on me.  When I’ve bounced ideas off of different people, allowed them to question ideas and challenge assumptions, and bring in their point of view, I know I’ve come to a stronger conclusion in the end.

3) Set a deadline
I could research and debate some decisions nearly endlessly, it seems.  But when you set a deadline on yourself (or have one given to you), you’re forced to “sign on the dotted line” to go one way or the other.

4) Commit, don’t waffle
Changing course mid-stream isn’t very helpful, unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Most of the time, if you’ve done your research, taken your time, and talked with others, the decision will be right (or close to it).  Only change course if absolutely necessary.  Committing to something and beginning to move forward, only to quickly change course is confusing and uncomfortable for everyone around you.  Once you decide on something, lean in and make it happen.

Question: What else do you do that helps you make decisions?


3 thoughts on “Overcoming the Paralysis of Analysis

  1. This goes along with your last one, but I would say that you need to realize when you’re making a choice between two good options. Sometimes, we can get bogged down in “which is better?” when in reality, either would make a perfectly fine choice. Not worth the headache in that case.

  2. Nancy Ray says:

    Such a good post. Seriously, indecisiveness can really hold me back in so many areas of life. I think something else that is helpful is to stop thinking/agonizing after the decision is made. Just be content and move on!

  3. Will Ray says:

    Agreed on both counts. Move on when you can, and I’ve heard it said, “Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good.”

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About me…

Youth minister, financial coach and part-time wedding photographer, based in Raleigh, NC

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