Reader question… “Do you have any advice for someone like me who is having serious problems making decisions? I know the drill. I gather all the information I can and try to formulate a realistic plan while considering all the pros and cons and trying to prepare for anything that might happen as a result. I’m always afraid I’ll make the wrong decision and I have become very good at not making any decisions at all. I have noticed that this problem is spilling over even into smaller and less important decisions in my life. Do you have any ideas that might help me?” –from Amanda T.

There actually is a name for what you’re experiencing. It’s a syndrome called paralysis of analysis, or sometimes analysis paralysis… when your mind is so full of what MIGHT happen that you can’t think past those possibilities to make your decision.

When you are faced with an important decision, it’s always a good idea to gather information about the possible options and to use that information to evaluate the possible consequences. Analysis paralysis happens when you spend too much time analyzing that information and second-guessing all those possibilities… when you literally can’t make a decision because that excess of information actually prevents you from moving forward.

Northern green frog (Lithobates clamitans melanota)

I think it’s important to remember…

  • There is no such thing as not making a decision. When you procrastinate, you’re actually making a decision to let life and circumstances make that decision for you by default.
  • Every decision isn’t an irreversible, life-altering decision. Not every choice you make will be of vital importance.
  • There is no shame in making the best decision you can and having it turn out to be the wrong choice. There is no way anyone can make the perfect decision every time, and sometimes even the most spectacular failures can lead to new opportunities that will enrich your life in ways you never imagined.
  • Life is full of surprises. It just is not possible to plan ahead for every eventuality… also, some things work in theory and not in reality.

Don’t let your self-doubt keep you from making timely decisions. Make yourself stop over-analyzing and worrying about consequences. Make yourself stop obsessing about making a perfect decision. Concentrate instead on just doing SOMETHING… moving ahead and taking action will make a decision easier.

And it may help to remember that decision-making is just like any other skill… it gets easier with practice!