Do you act impulsively or do you only take risks after lots of contemplation?
Which of these tendencies do you think is preferable?
I’m often accused of being an impulsive person.
Growing up, I was the kid who ripped the classroom sink off because he wanted to be first in line to wash his hands. I was the one who broke the window to get into my basement because I didn’t have the key.
Ok, maybe there was an element of impatience there (and that’s still an issue), but you get the point. I was constantly being scolded and told “think before you act”.
And all this conditioning eventually got through. Throughout high school and college I thought my way so far into my head that I got stuck in there. I couldn’t decide on the “perfect” major to study. I couldn’t approach girls because the circumstances were never “right”. Hell, even simple decisions like when to workout or what to eat became difficult for me.
I’ve since actively re-trained myself to be an “impulsive” person. And I’m all the better for it. I make faster progress on my goals. I rarely fall into neurotic, compulsive thought patterns. And, at the end of the day, I get more of what I want.
Society trains us to “think” instead of “do”
You see, I believe that society’s tendency to “think” things through is a terrible one. We’ve become a society of thinkers instead of doers.
We’re trained this way from our youth. Our entire schooling system is built upon thinking, after all. Every class we take, aside from physical education, is structured so that we absorb a lot of information, be it historical facts, laws of physics, or economic principles.
We don’t DO anything besides sit in a desk and listen, read, and write for hours upon hours. Then we’re “tested” and we must regurgitate it all back, verbatim. Even problem solving classes like math often require a “proof” to show exactly how we arrived at our answer.
It’s commonly accepted that the best way to solve a problem is to consider all of the information you can get your hands on. All of the angles must be considered before making the “correct” decision. This is complete and utter bullshit. The costs of OVERTHINKING things are simply too high:
- Increased social anxiety from wanting to think about the “right” thing to say
- Chronic worrying that prevents us from quitting jobs we hate or ending unhealthy relationships
- Crippling indecision that causes chronic stagnation in our goals, careers, and personal happiness
Yes, some information should be considered before making a decision, but we are EXTREMELY intelligent and intuitive beings…
We simply DON’T need to study every single angle to make a good choice.
Our first instinct is almost always right
“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” – Malcolm Gladwell
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink he makes the convincing argument, through various anecdotes and studies, that our split-second decision making capabilities are far more accurate and fined-tuned than using a more drawn-out, analytical process.
This seems counter-intuitive. I mean, more information equals better decisions, right?
Wrong. As Gladwell asserts in the above quote, it’s not more information that allows us to make “good” decisions, but rather a better understanding of the situation, the information we have access to, and how that information is relevant to the decision at hand.
He gives an example about a museum that’s considering purchasing an ancient Greek statue. It costs millions and millions of dollars. But the museum is unsure whether or not the piece is authentic, so several “experts” are called in to run tests on the stone that it’s made from. After various tests are run to analyze when it was made and where the stone originated, the museum decides to buy the piece.
Some time passes and an art historian quite knowledgeable about the era the statue supposedly came from visits the museum. As he lays his eyes on the piece, he immediately says that something is off and expresses his hope they didn’t actually buy it. After further investigation it turns out he’s right, the piece is a fraud, and it was a giant waste of money. The point being – his split-second decision was more accurate than the drawn out, analytical process the museum initial utilized.
What this means for you is that when you’re faced with a tough decision, where there’s no obvious answer, you’re better off making a quick call and going with your gut. This will usually be a better choice and, perhaps more importantly, it will sidestep the various costs of overthinking the choice.
2 common areas where “analysis paralysis” cripples men
1. Women and dating
When it comes to women and dating, indecision can be the difference between meeting a girl you’re attracted to or letting the situation pass you by.
Whether it’s a cute girl you notice at the bar or someone you have a “crush” on at work, overthinking the decision to make an advance will almost always backfire. There will never be a “perfect” moment to approach and the possibility that she’ll reject your advance is always going to be there. Thinking about it more WON’T change anything.
2. Career and business
Indecision by analysis paralysis can keep you in a job you hate, prevent you from starting your own business, and stop you from going after what you really want.
Too many guys won’t quit a job and try and get something better because they over-think all the bad things that could happen. And this paralyzes them indefinitely. Too many guys don’t step out on their own and try to start a business because they analyze every little thing that they’ll have to do rather than just jumping in and going for it.
3 ways to break free and overcome “analysis paralysis”
1. Practice small decisions
By practicing making small decisions quickly you’ll train yourself to make the big ones quickly too. Choose your dinner from the menu in 10 seconds. Pick the restaurant you’re going to eat at instantly. Decide what you’re going to wear instantly. Make up your mind if you’re going to be attending a particular event or going out without hesitation.
2. Ask yourself if you’d do it tomorrow
Another powerful way to make a decision easy is to ask yourself “would I do this tomorrow?” This distances you from the decision and allows you to make it with a clear mind, that’s not affected by laziness or self-doubt.
3. “I can do it” affirmation
When you’re facing a tough decision – like quitting a job or breaking up with your girl – repeating to yourself “I can do it” will pump you up and motivate you to move forward despite fear or uncertainty.
Make faster decisions – because obsessively thinking about them will only FUCK YOU OVER…
When in doubt – always TAKE ACTION…
Or as David Deida put it:
“Men who have lived significant lives are men who never waited: not for money, security, ease, or women… Every moment waited is a moment wasted, and each wasted moment degrages your clarity of purpose.”
Just found your blog! Nice post!
Totally agree! I think guys who work in front of internet connected computer are especially prone to this, since they can research any subject before they take a decision, witch is not really practical in the “real world” where Just Doing It is often the best way to move forward!
New follower here!
Hey Chuck – happy to have you here.
And great point on how the internet contributes to this problem.
I am totally agree with you. I am the classic example of it. I want to lose some weight and doing research on it on internet but now i am just end up with research only.not doing anything just overthinking about it instead of doing it.i think,should do,learn from failures and improve and move further.
There are two fields where your subconscious mind is always better than your conscious mind:
Evaluating people and their signaled intentions
When that little voice in head reminds you of something important, or warns you about a person’s intentions, listen.
Couldn’t agree more
Another good idea to this wonderful post- meditation. I find that a few to 20 minutes a day allows me to think things out and get them into a priority and figure out what is important and what is not.
Great job on the blog and keep working on those books. They are very helpful and keep up the service you are providing to men!
Trevor, thanks for the addition. Meditation definitely helps me maintain a clear perspective. And thanks for the compliments bro!
If you have to sit down and consider your options, you were never certain in the first place. This always leads to regret about the decision later on.
As we age we make our mistakes and learn from them and our decision processed is much more honed with age.
Unfortunately there are those out there that no matter how much you try drum that into their head you end up saying to yourself that your time would have been better spent trying to convey the same message to the cat.
“If you have to sit down and consider your options, you were never certain in the first place. This always leads to regret about the decision later on.”
That’s an awesome quote.
I am speaking from experience haha…
Good stuff David.
Making regular small decisions extremely quickly (e.g. what you’re going to wear, if you’re going to be attending X event) help you build up that confidence to run with your gut on the larger decisions in life.
Thanks SJ – those are some great examples of small decisions to practice with – I added them to the post.
Been considering breaking up with my girl for some time now. She’s great but the timing just seems off, life-wise. Need to stop over thinking it and act.
Hey Mike, this is one of the toughest decisions we all face. But if it’s been on your mind for that long, then it’s probably best to step up and make the call. Good luck.
Personally, I find keeping calm is the best way to combat overthinking
I believe we all possess an instinctual confidence that could be described as that little voice telling you what the right decision is even when we feel uncomfortable about carrying it out. Facing it and taking action tend to serve me better than trying to analyze every aspect of the matter; which tends to lead to inaction and procrastination. Through some time management training I have had, I have kept the following pearl of wisdom in the forefront of my decision making process and it describes exactly what you are stating here. It is best described by the two terms: Action and Activity. Taking action is not a time waster and moves toward a goal. Activity takes time and is not moving you in any goal oriented direction. Activity would be akin to doing all your research to assure yourself you are making the right decision, yet you still remain uncertain. If one learns to maximize and commit actions and learn from their value, and decrease time-consuming, non-committal activities, it will serve to move one forward rather than keeping one in their current situation either for too long, or indefinitely.
Thanks Wayne, I like this idea of action vs activity. It’s like activity makes you feel good for not doing absolutely nothing, but in reality it’s just the same… worse even, because it often prevents or delays the real action.
great post procastination definatley a big issue
just came across this post and it is true, reading more and overthinking things will only fuck you over. will try to practice being more impulsvie and decisive in everyday life. thanks man
Thanks Martin – get after it!
I sometimes get analysis paralysis with my music. I sort of question is the arrangement of the song good enough or does it need better instruments etc. This delays me from putting it online. I now found out reason why I struggle to put online is I am not good at lyrics and I find it hard to fix or change them, then this results me trying to escape reality and work on other songs. So even with music writing there is alot of overthinking involved for me.
Thanks for the comment Vic. I often get lost in these finer details as well, and lose focus of the big picture. Reminding myself of the overarching goal and “why” I’m doing what I’m doing tends to help me get back on track. Keep grinding brother!
That was true.
Overanalyzing and overthinking sometimes are the results of fear.
the fear of being wrong and everything will crash down and cause turmoil.
A one must believe in themselves and sum up some confidence that they are certain of the ability to make decisions and act upon them to have results.
the try to be perfect is another reason of indecisiveness.
Man, this is a solid post. Having an educational understanding of Analysis Paralysis, this post adds some much-needed chutzpah to it. You are exactly right, the world inundates us with “tough” decisions. I recently went shopping with my wife and “patiently” watched her decide the proper shade of grey paint for our house.
It was literally mind-numbing. I get it, though. She didn’t want to make a regretful decision. Like you said, if you just do it, more often than not the decision is the correct one.
Have you heard of Herman Simon and the term he coined? He calls people who overthink decisions Maximizers and those who just “go with it” satisficers.
When presented with a task, Maximizers will sit back and analyze all the details, while satisficers will go with their gut. The gut decision is often the correct one and the Satisficer will usually be done the task before the Maximizer even begins.
I’ll be back man.
Thanks for the insightful comment man. I like the idea of maximizers vs satisficers.
I am very bad in social. I have very high fear of talking but still I am so jealous of those that can talk and be so witty in making others laugh so easily. I think the main reason for this badness is because I am not allowed to talk to anyone for 16 years. Just allowed to talk 2 years ago.
The daily problems I faced
1. I think too much of what to say, how to say and when to say about almost everything.
2. I worry too much and scare of what Others think of me if I talk about something.
3. I always scared to speak up and this fear obstruct me from speaking clearly.
4. When I manage to speak up, my fear made me always stutter and fail to deliver my speech clearly or exciting. So, it always come out boring or awkward or most of the times, I will need to repeat again because they cannot hear what I said.
5. I cannot find anything to talk about. One person advise me to talk about just anything. I try it but all I talk about are super boring and I just don’t know what to TALK. (Example, I just completely narrate what I see or hear)
I know this is “abnormal” but these are problems I really face. Even speaking in my mother language, I could not speak clearly. I don’t know whether fear is the reason or not.
I will really appreciate it if you can give me some useful advices.