Analysis paralysis and the melancholy of choice

Analysis paralysis is becoming a real problem. We’re so taken with opportunity, we fear making a choice. Losing what may be in favour of what you choose can start to hurt. It breeds melancholia. And it eventually takes that plethora of choice away. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Humans are not designed to cope with more than 4 options at any given time. Yet we crave choice. Boundaries serve us so much better. The structure that helps us create. The anchor that gives us something to return to. The rules that form the story. The productivity found within keeping to a schedule.

You can’t change your past. It is done, dusted and finished. You can’t cry for lost loves or blame people for the education you never gave yourself. Blaming society for keeping you down only serves to press your face further into the mud.

The future is a world of unknown. You can plan towards a future you would prefer. You can try and write all the maps and plans you like. But there are disruptions and breaks. Challenges that test us are a part of asking for what we want and need in life. There is no such thing as friction free living.

And the future remains hidden. There is no answer book waiting to be plucked from the sky.

This is not the negative it is often perceived to be.

There is only you. And that’s OK

What you do have is the present. You have the ability to choose to make a change. Or you can ignore it and keep going. There is freedom available to you in the choices you make. You can do things now that influence future outcomes.

You can realise your situation sucks and you can decide what you can and can’t realistically do to change it.

But one thing remains for certain. If your life sucks and you don’t make a decision to change anything, it’ll continue to suck. You don’t rectify a situation by employing the same strategy that lead to it. Succumbing to analysis paralysis won’t help you make the change you desire.

You may have smaller and larger decisions that will at some point cry out for a lion share of your head-space. Job opportunities, where to live, who to love, the person you want to be, travels that invite, ideas that please, moments that tempt.

Possibilities can be endless. And the fear of missing out on something wonderful by choosing one over the other is scary.

But until you select something on the list and start towards crossing it off, your list of possibilities will remain just that: a list of dreams. And they’ll become a list of dreams that will sour and bite you if you are not careful.

If making a decision is hard, remember dealing with the consequences of stagnation is a far greater burden.

We all feel melancholy for the choices we make. The ‘what if’ haunts us. We mourn for the opportunity lost.

But at a certain point, sitting side saddle in your life will erode your confidence. Being unable to make a decision about your future, relationships, livelihood and identity will cost you.

And as much as this may hurt, there are far worse things to live through than the pain of absence.

Wishing your way to melancholia

That melancholy for lost choices soon becomes an ebbing tide of melancholy for a life un-lived. The wanting to stay available to the 5 options presented may become the story of the one that got away.

Melancholia becomes regret. And regret becomes a punishment to one’s self for a lack of action. The kinder, gentler motion is to pull the rip cord. To go into free fall.

Because if you break with a sad past and a dark present, at least you’ve removed a set of talons from your flesh and can fly somewhere else.

Even if that somewhere else is unknown, it’s better than casting a still shadow on a past that is already too murky to see through.

Slicing through the rust of analysis paralysis 

Inactivity is like rust. Think of that old rat-rusted Kombi in a field. It looks fantastic is the coffee table books, surrounded by golden heads of wheat and rusting into decay.

But if it was sentient, do you really think that rusted, inactive car would choose admiration for its decay? Wouldn’t it prefer the freedom of open roads, new adventures and good times?

So how do you stop yourself from being stuck by your own desire to not make a choice? How do you stop yourself from being that rat-rusted kombi in a field, only fit for a coffee table book?

Here are some ideas to cut through analysis paralysis:

  • Focus on the simple things and get them in order. Choose the low hanging fruit in your life that helps you gain joy from making a decision. Making choices, no matter how small, helps build our confidence. And it lowers anxiety through making things less incomplete and uncertain
  • Setup a pillar and focus on it to get you through. The 3 pillars are having a home (shelter), a career (purpose) and relationships (community). If you’re missing all 3, pick one to focus on. Or if the world is a shambles, choose one to hang your hat on while you figure out what to do with the others
  • Match your goals with your integrity. Sometimes we refuse to make a decision because who we are is unknown to us. Let the world, money, study and what everyone else thinks fall away. Now ask yourself what is right for you? Who do you want to be in the future?
  • Live in the present. You cannot change the past or the future. But you can use the present to craft out more of what you want in the future. And to come to terms with your past. Stop putting distance between you and your present situation. Accept your situation. Clarity will come from removing the distance and deflection and replacing it with meaning
  • Look for small moments of happiness. Small moments of gratitude help us gain perspective. It’s easy to become cynical and make fun of everything to avoid the present circumstances. But chipping away at everything that happens around you is not only tiring for you. It’s tiring for the people around you. Instead, try looking for small happiness’ along the way and actively seek out moments to smile

Keeping it simple, silly

At a certain point, analysis paralysis becomes a choice. It becomes an option that allows us to jump off the hook, let things slide and avoid the choice conundrum altogether.

But remembering the beauty of choice as opposed to focussing on the burden can help. Think about the times where you thought you made the wrong decision that lead you to the right place to be later on. Or the times when a choice lead to happiness and contentment.

Choice is given to us so we can learn from our mistakes and prosper from the knowledge we apply. Only our attitude to life, freedom and the choices available to us will define what is a negative or positive outcome.

There will always be things in life you forego to take advantage of the things you go after. There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t had to choose between something else of equal appeal at some point.

But the reality is you can’t do everything. You cannot satiate 100 people doing 100 things each day. Nor can you date 7 women, have 4 jobs or live in 2 different countries.

Motion is what propels us forward. It also stops the mouse from being struck down by the snake. Think about what you need to do, but don’t become so caught up in the thought that over-thinking is all you achieve.

Step out of your head. Choose something to do. And do it.

Be kinder to yourself and the rest will follow, trust me.

Want to break the analysis paralysis cycle? Call on me for business coaching now! 

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