How I overcame analysis paralysis
A couple of weeks ago I lay on my friend's sofa staring at the ceiling and overthinking. Overthinking to the point where I felt paralysed. I repeatedly asked myself the same questions; where will I be in 5, 10, 20 years? How will I get there? Did I have what it takes? If not, how do I fill in the gaps? So many questions, what felt like no answers and definitely no progress; a textbook case of analysis paralysis:
The state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralysing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or "perfect" solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, while on the way to a better solution - Wikipedia
After all that hesitating and hypothesising, I sat up, frustrated and annoyed, not knowing what to do. It was a weak moment where I felt like I didn't have much to show for my life and zero accomplishments. (A quick note on feelings - while they bring a lot of colour to our lives, they can also be driven by complete non-truths. So we have to actively manage them, not the other way around). I then remembered this amazing realisation about how we already have exactly what we need for this point in life, we just don't always recognise it. I reread what I had written and the bubbling feelings of doubt subsided, and I started to think about life with a bit more clarity and confidence.
The story could end here, but it doesn't. From this situation I saw that just 'knowing' something in theory wasn't enough, I had the realisation months ago, so why was thinking - and therefore living - in a way which was inconsistent with something I would consider to be the truth? In life, it takes more than just knowing something in theory to embed it into the fabric of your psyche.
Words look beautiful on the page, but they are learned on the road [of life] - Bobbie Houston
We’ve all had those existential question moments where we reassess the direction of our lives, careers, relationships, family, finances and many other things. When speaking with some of my closest friends about these big life questions someone, somehow always ends up saying something along the lines of: ‘I had actually written about this ages ago in my journal'. These journals are where they write their plans, dreams and most importantly revelations (new understanding) that God has given them in their life. Rediscovering what they already knew moved them away from a sense of panic, confusion snf unecessary urgency to a place of confidence, direction and focus. The biggest benefits can be summed up in three points:
- Reminds us of our own personal long-term goal or vision, as opposed to what everyone else thinks they ‘should do’ at this point in time
- Affirms who we really and our value in times of weakness or doubt
- Gives us the tools and perspectives to deal with the unpredictable nature of life
So, if you don’t keep a journal, today is the perfect day to start one. You don’t need to write in it every day, but do try and capture some of your thoughts on this journey. There is something special about writing things down; something special about transforming them from random ideas to something a bit more tangible and real. The next step would be to go back to it, because most things take some repetition before we can truly live them out.
We do this [get through life] by keeping our eyes on Jesus [the Word, the Bible], the champion who initiates and perfects our faith [the faith we need to sustain us from the beginning until the end] - Hebrews 12:2 (NLT), words added
'Going back' means revisiting the ideas that spilled out onto the page in moments of inspiration or intense creativity. Back to moments where we have a firm grip on our ability or our identity. A constant reminder of what's real even when there’s so much going on around us telling us what we should be doing and thinking. This is why God continuously urges us to remember, and not forget him - not because He's vying for our attention like a spoiled brat, but because reminding ourselves of what we call 'home' sustains us. Just like you can't 'save up' the good diet and exercise you did last week as an excuse to do nothing this week, we owe it to ourselves to continually cultivate God's messages to us as individuals. It's helps develop a healthy mind, which leads to a life well-lived.
So from now on, I’m making a conscious effort to go over what I've learned, read and experienced to remind myself of small foundations I’ve laid on this quest to figure out life.
And I’d love for you to do the same.
What’s on your mind? What are you trying to figure out, or get some guidance on? If you’re thinking 'I rarely write anything down so I guess that’s it for me' there's no time like the present, right? Let me know in the comments section below.
To get you started why not revisit some of the things we've talked about before?
- This is for when you feel overwhelmed
- This is for when it feels like everyone else is 'making progress' but you
- This is for when you start something new and exciting, but it turns out to be way more difficult than you imagined
- And this is why you should take the plunge and give people a chance to really see who you are.