Analysis paralysis is when you need to make a decision, and you overthink it to the point where you don’t make a decision at all.
“The best thing is to do the right thing; the next best is to do the wrong thing; the worst thing of all things is to stand perfectly still”
-Alfred Henry Lewis
I, like just about every other human on the planet, have an immense fear of making the wrong decision. This wasn’t a huge problem for me until recently, when I had to choose things like what college I want to attend, and what major and career path to follow.
I made my decision about a month ago, and still, about 12 times a day I’ll go back and forth between being super excited to go to college, and thinking, “Maybe I should just drop out and become a truck driver…”
For this, I am thankful for Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Basically, if you have 20 minutes to do your homework, you’ll do it in 20, but if you have two hours, you’ll take the full two hours.
This holds even more true for decision making. I had to make my college decision by May 1st, and so at the end of April, I felt read to make the choice. Had the deadline been June 1st, I’d have felt so lost, despite having the same amount of information.
Now that I’ve made my decision (Stockton University), I feel as though it is the right decision. It is a beautiful campus, and I got a good scholarship. However, I think if I had chosen my second choice, UMass Amherst, I’d be able to justify it just the same.
This proves that the very act of making a decision is the most important part. I know I’ll be happy at Stockton, but I think I’d be happy at UMass too. Had I fallen victim of analysis paralysis, I’d miss the deadline, and not be going anywhere this fall.
This was a forced deadline. Picking a major doesn’t have this. Many universities have soft deadlines, like needing to pick a major before junior year, but it is no secret that the earlier you choose your path, the easier it is to progress.
In the last six months, I’ve bounced around from Hospitality/Tourism, to Philosophy, to Journalism, and quite a few more. The added pressure is the fact that this decision will probably still affect me in some way 25 years into the future. Also, it isn’t a debate of, “Which thing will I like more?” but rather, “Which thing will I be able to do every day for 40 years, without growing to hate my life, while also earning a salary capable of supporting myself and possibly a family?”
Thus, analysis paralysis. Half of my days consist of researching new careers, and finding the pros and cons to each, and trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to narrow down my choices. Modern life has made it incredibly easy to fixate on over analyze. At this point, with resources like Google, and countless online career experts, it seems almost irresponsible to not research these things heavily.
This is where The Paradox of Choice factors in. This theory by psychologist Barry Schwartz states that with more options, consumers will be less happy. Before these life altering decisions were forced on me, I’d have been reluctant to accept the fact that variety and choice could be a bad thing. But now I understand. At this point I want to print out a list of majors and throw a dart at it.
There is a great scene in Aziz Ansari’s Master of None where the main character, Dev, wants to go to a taco trucks, and so he spends nearly an hour researching the best taco trucks in New York, and when he finally makes the decision and gets to the truck, he finds that they’ve run out of tacos.
This passing scene resonated with me, and my obsession with running to Google with all of my problems and having the wise people of the internet make my decisions for me.
I do not fault the system of today’s common life path. I fault myself, for not learning the skills of decisiveness earlier. Like I said, I was never forced to make decisions when I was little. We all know someone who, when asked where they’d like to go to dinner, always responds, “You choose.” That is 100% me.
I know that this is annoying. I know that it would actually be nicer if I just said, “Let’s go to the Panda Buffet!” And I know it would save time.
So I’m trying to get better at making decisions. I’m trying to halt myself from running to Google every time I have the slightest of problems. Because that is how you grow as a person.