Analysis Paralysis

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I want to help men understand the idea of “analysis paralysis” and when and how they do it. I want to help them understand that sometimes their minds and intellects are distracting and diverting them from their goals rather than helping them to achieve them.

But how do you intellectually explain to someone that their over-intellectualization is just them avoiding their anxieties and emotional problems, their real problems. How do you get them to understand that when they perceive everything through an intellectual lens? How do you show them that most of their planning and studying has been a means to AVOID their goals rather than a means to ACHIEVE their goals? How do you distinguish between that fine line of planning just enough and planning way too much? Where is that line?

I think the line between analysis and over-analysis is where more thinking makes action less likely rather than more likely.

But a certain internal awareness is required to recognize this. And I’m afraid the men who are disconnected the most from their emotions are going to see this idea as merely another invitation to analyze their own thoughts and actions even further, rather than getting in touch with the underlying emotion and anxiety, thus once again avoiding their goal.

I wish I could figure out a way to write in such a way to tap into each reader’s personal self-awareness in such a way that they actually feel themselves over-analyzing, over-thinking, and making something far more complicated and drawn out than it needs to be. They can feel the avoidance, the mental garbage, the thought vomit spewing out drowning out their ability to act.

I suppose any technique used to do this would require playing with perspective — presenting thoughts in a first-person perspective, but making an obvious meta-perspective of satirical analysis of said first-person perspective. That way the reader can directly relate to the immediate writing while being forced into a meta-awareness of the writing — a postmodern form of life advice.

How many paragraphs should I make it though? Studies show that most readers tune out after 500 words or so, yet my metrics show that articles of 2,000 and more words are read and shared the most often. Ironically, a blog post lacking in analysis paralysis would be short, yet the first-person meta-perspective technique described above would necessitate a longer post to fully communicate the point. Should I be blunt about being blunt, or be long-winded to demonstrate why you shouldn’t be long-winded?

And then there’s the issue of vocabulary. Do I use big, fancy, psychological words to play up the whole over-analysis spoof? Or do I keep things simple and to the point. I’ve always worried about user readability. I’m kind of a dork and over-use big words and maybe that turns off some readers. Who knows, maybe I could have twice the readership if I wrote like a 15-year-old. And if I had twice the readership, that means potentially helping twice as many people. I should apply the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scale to some of my articles, cross-reference them with my traffic metrics, and then tabulate those along with my marketing surveys to find the correct readability and proper vocabulary based on the site’s reader demographics, performance of prior articles, expected education level of various readers, and then of course, a qualitative analysis of commenting histories.

And fonts. Research shows Arial is most readable, but I feel like a Serif font demonstrates a more erudite tendency to over-think simple situations. Also, they’ve found screen resolution has a great deal to do with font readability. I imagine most of my readers are young and savvy and not reading this at a low resolution, but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

Readability is so important. I really, really, really want the reader to get the point that they should not be over-thinking simple situations, that they should just get to the point and go for it and learn from their failures. I think (hope) that constructing a post which is over-thinking a simple post about over-thinking will not cause readers to over-think the simple post.

And then there’s the formatting techniques to increase readability such as catchy headers, lists, and sparse and short paragraphs broken with double line-breaks.

Perhaps I should create simple lists for people: “7 Signs You’re Over-thinking Your Life,” or “5 Most Common Situations You Think Are Difficult, But Actually Aren’t” or “10 Reasons Why Your Mind Is Screwing Up Your Life,” or perhaps “6 Ways to Think About This Blog Post Too Much.”

Wow, this is getting pretty dense. It’s a lot to keep in mind. I should construct some sort of model to organize all of the important information I’ve uncovered about writing a blog post about over-analyzing blog posts. I should organize the information in a simple, and easy-to-understand matter. Yes, that’s important. That way, I can write the blog post quickly and easily when I finally get around to it.

The model should have three primary components: aesthetics, theoretical content and organization. I’ll create a 7-point step-by-step process for organizing the blog’s content as well. Theoretical content and framework should come first, organization second, and finally aesthetics. Perhaps I could compare my model to other blog posting models and combine their frameworks to get a more complete understanding of how I should explain analysis paralysis to my readers. Yes, in fact, while I’m at it, I should dig up some books and research on prose, persuasion and presentation. Three P’s. I like that. I’ll write that down and organize all of my sources into one of each of the three P’s and then transpose all relative information into my aggregation of blog post models (mapped out in an Excel spreadsheet for easy comprehension), and then from there, recreate my original 7-step process for writing the post itself.

Wow, I’ve already accomplished so much, I can’t wait until I actually do something.

 


 

So often, people take simple situations and over-complicate them. They do it out of nervousness, anxiety or pride. They assume, since something feels difficult, then it must be because they lack the proper knowledge to do it, not that it’s merely emotionally difficult for them.

Intellectualizing situations distracts us from the difficult truths: that she simply doesn’t like you enough to call you back; that there’s no guarantee that your new business will make money; that no matter what you say to someone when you meet them, there’s always chance they will reject you; that no matter how much you plan every minute of your vacation, you will not enjoy parts of it; that breaking up with your girlfriend will be incredibly painful no matter how you go about it.

Analysis paralysis allows us to avoid a difficult emotional situation while feeling like we’re accomplishing something by analyzing it. Our minds lead us into an illusion of progress and effort without actual real progress or effort.

The best answer to most problems is usually the simplest one.

She’s not playing head games by not texting you, she just doesn’t like you. The only way you can know if your business idea will work is by trying it. You won’t know if someone will like you or not until you speak to them. You won’t know if you like your vacation until you go on it. There’s no easy way to dump someone, so just do it.

Stop thinking and act.

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31 Comments

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  • Reply

    Derrick

    3 months ago

    I have a big problem with this. I find only meditation is helping me through it.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      3 months ago

      Yes, meditation helps with this a lot.

      • Reply

        Zak

        16 weeks ago

        Fucking good article man. You are so right: the hardest part about this is that one doesn’t realize they are doing it. As Derrick said, meditation is the only way I have found to short circuit this cycle. I went on a 3 day silent retreat… it literally took me till the 3rd day to realize how much I was running on autopilot with my thoughts of fear/guilt, then followed by mental stressing about how to fix it, always overcomplicating things…. and BOOM! No action!

        Its a frightful trap that people can be stuck in for years I expect. Maybe this is why some people said that the 7 day vipassana retreats were so effective for them.

  • Reply

    Machiavelli

    3 months ago

    Well played, sir.

  • Reply

    Paul

    3 months ago

    Haha it took me several paragraphs to figure out what you were doing. I thought you were off your rocker for a moment. Genius article. Bravo.

  • Reply

    NONSENSE

    3 months ago

    Thanks for a great article! This came up in my last therapy session and I’ve spent the last week over-analyzing the concept of over-analyzing.

  • Reply

    Jones

    3 months ago

    Thanks, I needed that.

  • Reply

    Chris

    3 months ago

    This…hit…home….pretty, fucking, hard.

  • Reply

    trent845

    3 months ago

    Brilliant concept for this post, Mark. I suffer mightily from this condition. And yet I occasionally have an incredibly intimate encounter with an attractive woman who I’ve just met. Maybe I see her from across the bar, and before you know it, we’re in a corner of the club in a deep conversation, or making out on the dance floor.

    In the euphoria that follows that encounter, I rack my brain to see whether I can figure out what I said and did that led to my success, so I can repeat it. In nearly every instance, I have no memory whatsoever. Because I wasn’t thinking. I was doing. In the moment. I wish like hell I could always be in the moment, but then, so does the Dalai Lama.

  • Reply

    Dr. Jeremy

    3 months ago

    I think you nailed it! Even the comments are shorter. Including mine :-P

  • Reply

    Sid

    3 months ago

    When I find myself confused, conflicted, ambivalent, but need to make a decision, I just consider what Conan the Barbarian would do in my situation, and I do that. It’s a clear, easy way to cut through the noise and make a call, because even if the call made was a poor one, the fact that it was done is still positive.

    If you act and mess up, at least you acted. If you sit and don’t achieve anything, then you failed at the task at hand, and you sited. By acting, you at least have one positive, regardless of the result.

    Now, introspection is a beautiful thing, but only when you have the time to do it. When I have a spare moment and feel conflicted, then I embrace the conflict, imagining myself Majnun, and let it all play out and indulge my every thought and whim.

    Distinguishing between the moments when you need to act, and when you can indulge your thoughts is a sign of wisdom. One time, I was feeling up a girl in a hostel, but she suddenly felt the need to figure out where she would sleep that night, because someone stole her place in the hostel. I let her do it, because getting in her way would seem desperate. At that time, a friend with me asked me to share what was on my mind, as I seemed introspective. I said I was fine and there was nothing to discuss.

    She came back and we got back to it, and the night ended well.

    Some people will say my decision to not get in her way when she wanted to figure out where she would sleep was beta and indecisive. It wasn’t: my eyes were still on target, and while I waited, I indulged no interior monologue, nor did I let my friend draw me into an introspective quagmire. When I’m alone and have the time, I let myself become an introspective theater, but when the moment is ripe and a call must be made, then I just imagine what Conan would do and do that.

  • Reply

    Jack

    3 months ago

    Cool post.

    “How do you get them to understand that when they perceive everything through an intellectual lens?”

    This is a great question, I guess it starts by understanding that “This is Water”.

  • Reply

    Halo Effect

    3 months ago

    Awesome. You me me realize I’ve done a lot of this in the past…

    • Reply

      Halo Effect

      3 months ago

      *made me. Y U NO HAVE EDIT BUTTON.

  • Reply

    luda

    3 months ago

    GREAT article… I realised I’m actually guilty of this because I fear the truth might not be what I’m looking for. But it has to be done

  • Reply

    Eagle

    3 months ago

    The first thought that shows up in your mind is usually the right one.

    Mark, your writing is getting better and better and better every time.

  • Reply

    Jones

    3 months ago

    OK, here’s a topic I want to see addressed: relationship game; in the sense of: if I’m interested in sizing a girl up for longer-term potential, how does that alter all the normal prescriptions about approaching and escalating? Neither of the most simplistic answers seem adequate: one, do it the same way, move as fast as possible; two, err on the side of caution – because, at least for people like me, this seems like a recipe for hesitation and inaction.

    My hunch is that one should focus on emotional connection, seeking that out as actively as possible, and letting physical escalation trail a step or two behind.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      3 months ago

      Yes, you kind of answered your own question. When learning “pick up,” most guys are trained to screen women sexually (looks, receptiveness to touch, etc.).

      For a girlfriend, you want to screen for personality, emotional chemistry, and lifestyle compatibility. It requires a little more thought and effort, and often takes longer, but not necessarily.

  • Reply

    Nicholas

    3 months ago

    Simple and clever idea, I enjoyed it.

    Like many other commenters, I have historically (well, maybe not over-analyzed, but) used intellectualizing as a way to stay emotionally aloof and protect my ego/self-concept from any hurt and damage. As I became aware that it hurt my relationships I began to slow down, with vipissana meditation and mere attempts to “feel.” But I am impatient, or, my ego is impatient – paradox. I am in a hurry to slow down and feel.

    Any thoughts (or feelings) or recommendations from anyone on “getting in touch with my feelings.” (Man, it hurt to type that but I don’t know how else to say it.)

  • Reply

    TA

    3 months ago

    Mark,
    I wanted to share a couple thoughts with you and see what you think about them? I have an inkling that the world we live in has been designed and it has evolved based on people’s lack of understanding of their primal sexual needs as well as needs to connect with, engage with and be intimate with other people(not necessarily physical).People often mistake it for love and other forms of desire and in a sense that is what fuels people to go out into the world , to a place where they feel they deserve better. That is essentially what drives people to run to big cities, to go to hollywood and struggle or travel and travel or to make friends but even stick by old friends (just to feel wanted) .
    Basically the point I’m trying to get at is the entire world we see around us from entreprenuers, to social workers to people who wanna go to business schools and nightclubs and bars and male bonding and sports, essentially stems from lack of awareness of basic human needs.
    That’s a big reason why so many people get married so soon , and with all this awareness we have about women because of the entire community we can see the missing links in the marriage but the people that are married(in most cases the guys) cannot do so.
    Now while powerful information which makes us aware of this can definitely help us , what I’ve started to notice is if we short circuit this entire phenomena with “game” or with daygame or stuff thats thrown around the 21 convention etc( i.e. everything and anything to do with material related to the community), it can alienate us – in a certain sense- from society at large, because most people we come across in our lives have zero to very little awareness.

  • Reply

    Mauricio

    3 months ago

    Reading this book, the words reminded me of you and your philosophy, Mark

    In Contrast to Social Standards By Mitchell West.

  • Reply

    kall ross

    3 months ago

    Yay. <– phew, glad to get this comment off my chest.

  • Reply

    Matty

    3 months ago

    Great article! I have a huge problem with this, especially when it comes to woman. I think i’ll probably be taking a break from the forum. Post Masculine and The Social Man are the only forum I read, but I feel it’s becoming a way for me to avoid actually taking action, and when i am in a situation where I talk to a girl, I have so much shit rattling around in my brain it’s ridiculous. There was a post up recently that read something along the lines of “what is game”, and the response was a convoluted flurry of postulation and theory. Interesting maybe, but mentally exhausting, and counterproductive for a guy whose just getting started. A few attractive woman have popped up in my life, and my first thought was to post and ask for advice on the forum. I then realized how absurd that is. I know exactly what needs to be done, i’m just avoiding doing it. The forums a great place, but too much mental noise.

  • Reply

    Progress

    3 months ago

    Good article!

  • Reply

    Jaynee

    17 weeks ago

    Oh my, oh my, oh my my my my my. It’s a bit eerie that I should happen to c

  • Reply

    Jaynee

    17 weeks ago

    Sorry about that. It’s a bit eerie that I should happen to read this article just as I have spent the last few m

  • Reply

    Jaynee

    17 weeks ago

    months doing this very thing over a finished manuscript I’ve been sitting on, all because it happens to be my first expression of a well hidden love. The prodding I have felt all throughout was not for nothing.

  • Reply

    Shaun H

    16 weeks ago

    I literally laughed out loud once I realized what you were doing. I was laughing at myself too, which is always good.

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