Analysis Paralysis

I suffer from Analysis Paralysis, a term I learned of today that explains something I’ve been struggling with for years. Analysis Paralysis is a ridiculous condition in which I am so overwhelmed by all of my options that I end up not choosing any of them. I’m sure you’ve felt this feeling too.

I can never pick a book to read because there are too many that I want to read. I find myself asking,

“Which book will I gain the most from?”

“Is it worth my time?”

“Is there another book better than this one?”

I find the same struggle with choosing a career. I have been flip flopping on this topic for quite some time. It always boils down to things like,

“How much will I like this career over that one?”

“What is the ratio of time spent in school to how much money I will eventually earn?”

And most importantly,

“Am I smart enough to do this?”

I find that the question above is what stops me from pursuing most careers. I fear wasting time and energy trying to learn something that I think I could never excel at. What if I read a book about physics but then I find I am unable to be a physicist?

All of that time wasted! I could have learned something else!

I used to be afraid of having useless information in my head. Filling it with garbage factoids as opposed to the best possible combination of information. Whether this is something to be afraid of or not, (I cannot find conclusive information about our learning capacity) it is ridiculous to worry about.

When I spend all this time worrying about what I am learning, I am not learning anything. When I decide not to read a book, I never have the chance to know if it was something I would have enjoyed. As far as I can tell there is no limit to how much you can learn. I have also heard that the more you learn and connect things, the better the information is locked into your head.

Sure, I may never be an archaeologist, but does that mean I can’t read a book about it? By the way, I strongly suggest reading Lucy by Donald Johanson, it’s a great book.

I’m afraid of math because it is not my strongest subject. But does that mean I should never read anything about math in fear of wasting my time?

The truth is, you can become an expert in any field you want. You also don’t have to decide right now. Read about the subjects you’re interested in at this very moment. It’s ok to change your mind. Maybe, you can find a broader field that most of your interests lie in and study that.

For me, the grand majority of my interests fall into biology. Sometimes I lean more towards astronomy or physics but even then, it’s always associated with biology.

I think what I’m trying to say is, don’t be afraid. Analysis Paralysis is a real thing, but you can fight back. Sometimes it’s even nice to close your eyes and pick a book at random. You might be pleasantly surprised.


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