Choices: How to Avoid ‘Paralysis by Analysis’

By Coach Josh Workout Comments Off on Choices: How to Avoid ‘Paralysis by Analysis’

The term ‘paralysis by analysis’ is a funny way of saying something very real. If you give a person two choices, they’ll choose their favorite. But if you give them three choices, they won’t choose at all. It’s too overwhelming.

Psychologists and Economists like Dan Ariely have written about ‘decision fatigue’, which references how worn out we can feel after a busy day of making endless decisions. We get tired, done, worn out, well cooked – and then we start making bad decisions.

Cookies instead of veggies.

Netflix instead of sleep.

Shopping for consumer goods instead of necessities. We know these decisions are bad ones, yet we make them anyway. It’s not because we hate ourselves, it’s because we’re tired of the process. We have a reserve of energy used for decisions each day and it’s possible for that well to run dry.

We’re used to thinking about it as willpower. I know i’ve beat myself up many times thinking that if I could just have more grit like my parents that i’d be more successful. But in this day and age, we’re making more decisions than ever before. Our ancestors got up at 6am because the cows were hungry. They ate oatmeal because there weren’t any eggs. They bought one Christmas gift just like everyone else, and they were probably happier for it!

Big names in business like Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos limit the number of superfluous decisions they need to make each day. Steve Jobs wore the same outfit and ate the same breakfast every single day so he didn’t have to think about it. If he used his energy reserves deciding on which shirt, which cereal, or which this that or the other thing, he would be too depleted for the BIG decisions that needed to be made later on!

So the question becomes, how we do we avoid burnout? The answer: forming habits.  Taking decisions off our plate.

Wake up at the same time, every day.

Eat the same breakfast, every day.

Go to the gym at the same time, every day.

Let someone else choose the workouts, every day.

We’re free and independent humans and we love having choices. But at some point, we have to take some off our plate. And when we DO have to make a decision, isn’t it better to do it fast and then correct your errors as opposed to hemming and hawing for hours?

In a fitness setting, if you’re looking to get in shape and change your diet, let’s look at what decisions can be taken off your plate so you have the energy to do so! Do a six-week challenge and follow directions (Whole Life Challenge?). Show up to a CrossFit class. Make some meals on Sunday when you’re fresh and rested. Save your willpower for the decisions that matter. Family decisions, kids, work, your employees.

For all you perfectionists out there, maybe you take those decisions off your plate and they’re not perfect. They don’t have to be so don’t stress about it. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

When I workout, i’m happy to have the class format that tells me what to do. When I leave, i’ve had a great workout AND i’m ready to solve problems in life.

Inspiration provided by Chris Cooper at


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