Analysis Paralysis: How to Unfreeze and Make Decisions

by | Mar 13, 2023 | Personal Development

If you’ve agonized for hours over responding to a text, you might have analysis paralysis. Have you ever researched a restaurant for weeks before finally eating there? You might have analysis paralysis. If you’d rather receive a failing grade than turn in an imperfect assignment, you might have analysis paralysis. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? 

Analysis paralysis is exactly what it sounds like … the inability to decide in a reasonable amount of time. This paralysis can be caused by clinical anxiety, fear of failure, or childhood trauma. Whatever the reason, it’s no fun and can be hard to work through. Here are a few exercises to help get you moving! 

A zoomed in image of a man wearing a suit and holding a magnifying glass up to some papers.

Have a Broad Perspective 

Often the reason we enter a state of paralysis is because the details seem so big. Imagine watching a colony of ants through a magnifying glass. You could spend hours there, mesmerized by their movements. It’s not hard to get emotionally invested in the little ant who is struggling to carry their leaf into the hill. 

Now imagine putting down that magnifying glass and taking a look around. You’re surrounded by trees and tall buildings, and towering mountain sides. In this moment you realize how very small the ant is. 

Some decisions will be anthills. Some will be mountains. It’s important to understand the difference. Often the decisions we can’t seem to make are very small in the scope of our lives. When you feel the paralysis take grip of your mind, take a step back and ask yourself how big your choice is … is it an anthill decision or a mountain decision (or somewhere in between)? 

Someone is making a list with boxes to the left side so that they can check them off.

Use the Process of Elimination 

Are there simply too many solutions that would solve the problem at hand? Try the process of elimination! Lay all the choices out in front of you (either literally or metaphorically). Then, start eliminating the choices you know you DON’T want. Once you’ve whittled down the list of options, your decision will practically make itself. 

One great way to practice this is with movie night. Have every member of your household suggest a few movies they would be happy to watch that evening. Lay all the movies on the table (or use post-its if you are planning on streaming them). Going in order, everyone gets to remove one from the running. No one can dispute the decision, and no one can put any back. Then, keep going in order until only one movie remains. By the end, you’ll have a movie that everyone will enjoy (more or less). 

The movie night exercise works well for groups, couples, or even just yourself. The next time you feel like there are too many options, give this method a shot. 

An image of two signs with arrows pointed in different directions. They both say “one way.”

Practice Making Decisions 

If you want to be better about making decisions, start making decisions! Here’s how. 

Every day, practice making tiny decisions. Things like trying a new hairstyle, choosing where to eat for lunch, or picking out a new brand of toothpaste are all great places to start. These are the decisions that have very little impact on the course of your life (remember to have a big-picture mindset!). By getting comfortable making these decisions, you’ll be able to trust yourself for the progressively bigger ones.  

It takes time to build trust in yourself, as trusting yourself will be the change that lasts. By using a few of these decision-making tricks, your analysis paralysis will be a blip as you fly past it, making great choices along the way.  

Are you ready to test a few of these ideas out on a new (and low-stress) decision? Pick a drink to try from this list of new coffee drinks and get sipping