Most of us have, at one time or another, been guilty of over-thinking a decision; painstakingly evaluating every detail and outcome until we were so confused and overwhelmed, we did nothing.
We develop our thinking patterns at a young age which carries over to adulthood. If we had critical parents, siblings, friends or teachers, we may have experienced the agony of what it was like to make a mistake after independently making a significant decision. Now, you may find yourself in a place where you over-analyze every detail and decision you make which can be paralyzing your life and career. The perfectionist in us kicks in and we don't make a move until everything is ideal, sound familiar?
Here are six easy ways to avoid over-thinking those important decisions and ideas in your life:
1. Determine a Deadline: Set a date and outline your plan on what it will take to get your idea or project done whether you know yet if it is a good idea or not. Imagine for a moment that your big decision/idea is the best thing you've ever come up with. Before you paralyze yourself with why it won't work, envision it as a huge success. Working toward a positive outcome is much more inspiring and momentous than playing the devil's advocate, assuming the worst.
2. Mitigate Risk: Now that you have your deadline, give yourself a period of time to analyze -- just don't get bogged down with the analysis, research and data. Go old-school and quickly make a list of the pros and cons for your decision, idea or big move. You started with a gut feeling and know deep in your heart when something feels right. Go with your instincts and realize that even the most cautious decisions can still have unintended successes.
3. Embrace the Mistake: There's a saying that you can't succeed if you are unwilling to fail. Think of all of the innovations, inventions and ideas that have stemmed from what could have been considered a mistake. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Disney also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and didn't read until he was seven. One of Einstein's teachers described him as "mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams."
4. Break the Cycle: Stay in integrity with yourself and lead with example. If you're a parent or manager and can't make a decision, chances are you're passing this trait on to your children and team. Break the cycle so that they know it's ok to fail in your presence and culture -- and better to make a decision than to procrastinate and never get anything accomplished. Give them tools such as critical thinking skills while empowering them to make big choices on their own.
5. Nothing's Perfect: And what a boring world we would live in if it were perfect. Calm your critic down and write down a list of the "what could go wrongs." Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could possibly go wrong? Chances are, it's not as bad as you might have imagined. Can you live with it? Does the benefit outweigh the detriment?
6. Hire a Coach: When faced with a life changing situation or to make a life changing decision, it is smart and often advised to get a second opinion. Making a life changing decision deserves and warrants the same consequence. You can't always count on an unbiased, nonjudgmental opinion from a friend, family member or colleague. Human nature shows up and hidden agendas may emerge and derail you, making it even harder to make a decision. Consult a life coach, a professional who can give you sound advice and help steer you in the right direction which will be well worth the investment.
Faced with "analysis paralysis" you may come up with too much data and choices. Too many choices can be confusing and uninspiring. I recently read a study by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, two social psychologists that demonstrated that grocery store shoppers who were offered free samples of 24 jam flavors were less likely to buy any jam at all, than those shoppers who sampled only six flavors. Apparently, when there are too many options, it can make the decision to choose more difficult.
To simplify, over thinking often goes hand in hand with low self confidence. You need to learn to trust yourself and believe that you have the ability to make good, solid, positive, life-impacting decisions. You can build self trust by staying in integrity with your soul and staying on track with your purpose.
In the end, it doesn't just come down to what's worse, doing something or doing nothing. It comes down to wanting to reach the finish line and get the job (at hand) done. Innovation and moving your life forward requires that you listen to your heart, make occasional mistakes and try new things. When you need to get into action, put your stake in the ground and break free of the paralyzing effect of procrastination and don't look back.
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