I admire people who can move with grace and beauty. Like a ballerina who floats through the room or a sprinter who runs with tight precision, their agile movements are spellbinding.
(My movements cannot be described with the same energy, but being able to waddle through rush hour crowds is good too)
Both the ballerina and sprinter have honed their skills to sheer, instinctive excellence. Whether they’ve poured their spirit into 10000 hours of toil or have buffed a natural aptitude for performance, these athletes do not need to think to perform. They just do.
When they, or anyone with finely tuned skills, start thinking about their performance, sometimes, something sad happens. A ballerina may miss a step, stub a toe and stop short of a full routine. A sprinter second-guesses their body and runs in a rougher, slower form. The performance breaks down and we are left with an uneven, limp spectacle.
What just happened?
The scenes described above are examples of analysis paralysis. This is not limited to elite athletes, and can happen to anyone who thinks too hard when they should just be doing. Cases of analysis paralysis are infamously recorded, and you may recall them as cases of an athlete “choking” in crucial moments.
Over-thinking happens when we worry too much about the outcome of an event. Doubt clouds judgement of our abilities and break the entire performance, even one you may be able to do very well otherwise. This breakdown also applies to goal making, because you find yourself overwhelmed with your options and use too much time and energy to decide what to do, rather than just doing it.
How to stop analysis paralysis?
Everyone innately knows what to do, but it’s hard. Reading these tips can help you work out better ways to stop the messes.
- Relax and stop thinking too much: This is a very hard thing to do, especially for constant worriers. Instead, set aside time to worry after the event and, when working, make a habit of committing to your work and not your anxieties. This is not easy; mindfulness requires practice and time.
- Take a break: If you have the time to stop what you’re doing, take a break and do something else. Then, return to your work with a refreshed mind and body. Of course, if you are running a 100-m dash, there is no time to do this, and this tip is reserved for your rote workouts. Taking a break before the race, instead, can help clear your mind and let you focus on the race.
- Make it fun: You do what you do because, hopefully, it’s fun for you. Sometimes the pressure builds and you lose sight of that fun energy. At this time, insert another bit of fun to go alongside your work. I once knew someone, who, before any race, would read pop magazines in the half hour leading up to the race, saying that they were fun to read, used little energy, and put him in a good mood. Eventually, he would look forward to the race because he looked forward to reading the magazines.
- Talk to someone: Sometimes you need to talk to someone about what you’re going through; by revealing your insecurities to another, you gain clarity over what’s holding you back. Seeking professional help, when available, can offer other perspectives and tools for you to use.
- Practice and Track: Since analysis paralysis can stem from a lack of confidence, practicing and tracking your progress show you how good you’ve become. Seeing this progress will restore your sense of abilities and your confidence.
Analysis paralysis is a daunting experience, undermining one’s belief in their abilities. It’s helpful to think about it and how to fight it.
Actually, it’s best not to think too much about it…