By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Thinking too much leads to paralysis by analysis. It’s important to think things through, but many use thinking as a means of avoiding action.”― Robert Herjavec, The Will To Win: Leading, Competing, Succeeding
Analysis paralysis or over-thinking happens to a lot of us in early recovery. We realize how many poor decisions we made and then experienced negative results and outcomes. We’re consumed with our past behaviors and poor choices and spend a lot of time thinking about those events.
We falsely believe that the right option is to analyze all aspects of each situation. Then we feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities and options, so we end up doing nothing or seeking relief from the feelings with a relapse.
Thinking About Our Past
Owning our past behaviors and poor choices doesn’t do much for self-esteem and confidence; however, if we’re going to start making better decisions, we’ve got to look at the past to learn from our mistakes.
Exploring our past and looking for self-defeating patterns of behaviors is valuable, but only thinking about them, or even analyzing the patterns, and not taking actions to correct these patterns keeps us stuck, which means we can’t live forward.
Recovery gives us second chances and sequels, which means we have the opportunity to make better choices and experience different outcomes. My mentor told me that when I had too many options and did pros and cons on them, and still couldn’t find the right solution – do nothing for 24 hours, but be mindful that an answer would show itself if I were genuinely seeking one. That advice gave me breathing room and helped me not over-think a problem.
Breathing Room to Make Better Choices
Like most of us in our addiction, desperation fueled many of my decisions. In my early recovery, I wanted to make decisions based on sounder judgment. When I thought about all the options, I would assign a value to them from a spiritual standpoint and often found the answer.
I found some comfort knowing I didn’t have to have all the solutions at once. If I was unsure, I tackled another issue in my life and waited for guidance.
I also created the illusion that each decision had to be right and perfect the first time. That wasn’t the case. However, I learned:
- Making a mistake wasn’t a failure.
- As long as I didn’t keep repeating the same patterns of poor choices, I moved forward in my life.
- Researching my options was demonstrating sound judgment, not just thinking about them.
- Being prepared to do something didn’t mean I felt “ready” to do it.
- Being uncomfortable making new choices was part of the process.
- Judgment was greatly enhanced when I wasn’t using.
- Setting unrealistic expectations for the outcomes was a waste of time.
Hammer or Screwdriver? That’s Always the Choice
Today, I still have to make decisions like everyone else. If I’m not using or repeating the same self-defeating patterns in my life, decisions usually produce favorable outcomes.
If the outcomes are not exactly what I want, I can change the approach, ask more knowledgeable people, revise the plan, or think about establishing a different goal.
I’m no longer living my life in an endless cycle of poor choices and adverse outcomes or simply spend countless hours in my head thinking about things.
I still make incorrect choices, but not as often. I may even take two steps forward, one back, and sometimes, one sideways, but at the end of the week, I’m farther along than I was.
And in my opinion, that’s progress. I’ll take it. How about you?
Writing and recovery heal the heart.
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