Union Views: Paralysis by analysis

Thought of the day? Don’t get splatted! (photo: Pixabay)
November 15th, 2020 4:56 am| by Steen Vive 
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According to a recent study, we have 6,200 thoughts every day. My first thought? Well, it’s no wonder I find myself procrastinating … 

Most will be things we’ve thought about before. Still, if 5 percent are unique, then you will have more than 300 original thoughts every day. Some will be related to a desire within you to make a major change – like applying for a new job.

When you think about making a change, your brain first begins to analyse what’s involved and the possibilities it would open up. It may also consider the downsides, like whether you are qualified or what would happen if you do not succeed. 

We need predictability
Some people need predictability in their lives more than others. We respond to change differently. Often, we are unsure what a change will bring. If the uncertainty frightens us, then the change process becomes stalled and everything will remain the same. 

Sometimes we assume that change is likely to be for the worse. This may be due to our inherent survival instinct: better safe than sorry. This instinct trumps everything else, even when it is illogical. The result is paralysis by analysis and nothing happens. 

In Danish, we say: “There is quite a distance from thought to action.” This has some truth, but you can shorten the distance if you practise cheating your brain by visualising the change.

Cheat your brain
Every day, look for a win connected to some change you are considering. If it is changing your job, then it could be that you have less desk work, a pay raise or a shorter commute.

I find it helpful to visualise myself in the new situation. I simply close my eyes and evoke positive images on my retina. Over time, these will nudge your brain to choose positive thought paths rather than those clouded by uncertainty and worry. 

I hope my tricks will help you to move from thought to action – and from a woolly wish to a concrete goal.

So, what is your hack? How do you gain the courage to change rather than being suffocated by paralysis by analysis?

Steen Vive 


Steen is senior advisor at Djøf, the Danish Association of Lawyers and Economists. He is a blogger and manager of various projects aimed at generating jobs in the private sector. In this column he writes about trends and tendencies in the labour market. Follow him on Twitter @SteenVive.