This article was last updated on September 18, 2019
We all know someone who’s never happy and fails at everything they do. Yet surprisingly, some of them are super smart. They’re good at math, have a rich vocabulary, or can do things most people are not capable of.
So why do these people fail? Why are they unable to find and keep a job, finish a project, or get things done? The answer is very often paralysis by analysis.
As its name suggests, this concept refers to the state of over-analyzing things up to the point that a decision is never taken. Basically, it’s the inability to act or decide due to overthinking possible outcomes and solutions. Think of it as a form of procrastination.
Let’s say you’re a graphic designer. You’re really good at what you do and have dozens of satisfied customers. You know that once you set up your own website, you’ll be able to showcase your portfolio and reach hundreds of potential new clients. You decide to go forward, so you buy a domain name and hosting. You start working on the site, but you’re never 100% happy with the results. But a year goes by and your website is still not online.
Despite your best intentions, you think your website simply isn’t good enough. Perhaps you dislike its design or believe you could do a better job on the copy. Under these circumstances, your project will never come to life. It’s the quest for perfection that stops you from getting things done.
Smart people often struggle with this issue. They are afraid of being anything less than perfect or doing sub-par work. As a result, they tend to overanalyze every situation and seek alternative options instead of taking action.
According to psychologists, most people make decisions in one of two ways:
The more time you spend making decisions, the less satisfied you will be with the results. Researchers claim that happiness is a matter of choice. More options in the decision-making process do not necessarily lead to a better outcome. On the contrary – people tend to feel less happy and satisfied as the number of options increase.
Paralysis by analysis keeps you from reaching your full potential. In fact, it stops you from doing anything, whether it’s starting a business or finishing a project. It also affects your personal and social life.
For example, you keep postponing moving to a new city or country because you’re never sure it’s the right thing to do. You overanalyze the situation and keep considering possible alternatives, but never actually make the decision.
As you see, this behavioral pattern has its roots in perfectionism and drives procrastination. The three P’s – perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis – are strongly connected and fuel each other. It’s like a vicious circle that keeps you from getting things done.
For those dealing with paralysis by analysis, perfectionism is what drives their actions and thoughts. It also keeps them focused on their failures instead of pushing them forward. At the same time, it limits learning and ruins the best experiences.
Let’s say you were booked to speak at a corporate event. Everything goes smoothly; the audience loves your speech and afterward someone even suggests a potential collaboration. Yet, you’re not satisfied with the outcome.
Deep inside, you feel that maybe you could have delivered a better speech or could have prepared longer than you already did. The desire to be perfect sours moments and ruins your happiness.
This attitude fuels procrastination. You are so afraid of making a wrong move that you never get started. On top of that, you tend to overcomplicate the simplest decisions, which leads to unnecessary stress. Sometimes, you feel so overwhelmed by the available options that you prefer to quit.
If you want to overcome paralysis by analysis, then this should be your mantra from now on. Like it or not, there is no such thing as perfection. No matter how hard you work, the end result will never be perfect. There will always be someone who can do things better or more efficiently.
You see, perfectionism is subjective. Just because you see a flaw, doesn’t mean others will see it too. That flaw is often actually far less important than you think.
Execution, on the other hand, is the driver of success. This is why so many people (who are not necessarily the smartest) succeed. They have an idea and go for it, instead of overanalyzing everything. But if you keep procrastinating, you’ll never know what positive outcomes you could be missing out.
According to venture capitalist Mark Suster, a 70 percent accurate decision made quickly and based on hard facts is better than a 90 percent accurate decision made after a lot of thought and analysis.
Entrepreneurs know that they are going to be wrong more than once. However, this doesn’t stop them from taking action. They see failure as an opportunity to learn and do things better the next time they try.Failure is always an option Click To Tweet
Additionally, overthinking leads to lower performance on mentally demanding tasks. That’s why Steve Jobs, for instance, wore the same black turtleneck every single day. He knew that we have a finite capacity to make decisions, this is known as decision fatigue.
The whole point is to stop overthinking and to just do it. The more you analyze a problem or situation, the more difficult it gets. Identify your desired outcome, consider a few of the factors that matter most, and then take action.
Stop wasting your time on small decisions, such as what to eat for dinner or what to wear at work. These things drain your energy and affect decision making.
Remember that perfectionism is not the key. Do your best under the current circumstances and make adjustments along the way.
Your website, for example, may not look perfect from day one. However, that doesn’t mean it should stop you. Hit Publish, promote your work and make improvements whenever new ideas pop into your mind.
Because no matter what, you should always keep going.
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