That’s because it was -- or I thought it could be.
“Can I help you ma’am,” said the cheerful, red-faced, Justin Biebered sales clerk.
Those were the last words the poor kid spoke for the next 10 minutes, as I launched into an Oscar-worthy diatribe on the possible perils of electronics for children.
“I don’t think you can help me, Matthew,” I responded. “Should I buy this for my son? Is this the start of his foray into electronics? An addiction? Games are addicting, you know. Are there parental controls? There are so many articles about the dangers of video games. Did you know that tech executives in Silicon Valley don’t let their kids use electronics? You seem normal. Do you play video games? This thing is expensive. Shouldn’t he be saving his own money?”
“Uhhh ... ma’am, I just want to know if you, um, want to buy that iPod.”
“Right. So ... I think… no," I replied, trying to gain any composure I had left -- which was none. “I have to go. But, I might be back. Maybe.”
“Greeaaat, I look forward to it," Matthew said apprehensively, looking at me like I might hit him.
Analysis paralysis is defined as “the state of overanalyzing (or overthinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as overcomplicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person with analysis paralysis is often said to be seeking the optimal or ‘perfect’ solution upfront, and fears making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution.”
I know I'm not alone in suffering from this affliction. Hundreds of thousands of people -- especially women -- are afflicted by this condition. And I wonder if it might be killing us.
On the one hand, I truly believe it is our ability to analyze that allows for the continuation and evolution of our species. If women didn’t worry, wonder, think, overthink, rethink, decide and then change our minds on an almost constant basis, where would this world be? (Great! now I’m analyzing, the analysis process.) You may think this is a very dramatic statement, and you’d only be partially right. But I know for a fact, it is my ability to analyze – often better than my male counterparts - that has been extremely helpful for my family, my children, my business, and my life. Men may see it as confusing. But don’t be mistaken; it is an intuitive gift.
An intuitive gift we sometimes refer to as “gut decisions,” like how we know what our children need when they need it, which house makes the most sense for our families, where and how to really negotiate, and even that a co-worker, colleague or friend is in need of help. While we often chalk this up to “women’s intuition,” I think it may have more to do with after seemingly making a clear decision, women go on to think about that decision, and situation, for the next eight hours. OK, maybe 10 ... or 12.
But what happens when the good that is the analysis, leads to the bad that is the paralysis? When we take what is a finely tuned, productive skill and turn it on everything in our path: our lives, our children, our jobs, our marriages, our bodies? When we wonder, worry, think, rethink, recap, recount and reanalyze a situation until we realize – finally – we are flogging a dead horse. After all, we know life is not perfect, therefore, nor is any decision we make. So why not just make the decision and move on? And what happens if we don’t?
I'll tell you what happens: nothing. Nothing happens. Well, other than mental exhaustion. No decision. No direction. And this is, quite possibly, the most suffocating, indeed, most paralyzing, place to be. You can appreciate your good decisions, learn from your bad decisions, but you can’t sit, forever, in the middle of nowhere.
I do believe there is a lot of “gray” where we wish there were more black and white. I do believe decisions -- especially big life decisions about life, family, career -- need to be thoughtful, but I also wonder how much our overthinking -- or overanalysis of that overthinking -- is, in the end -- really helping us at all? Is the overanalysis really making things better?
Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
“Life is really simple.”
Hmmm ... Now let me think about that for a moment.