Overanalyzing every decision you make is a terrible habit to fall into. We’re all guilty of it. Our feelings of uncertainty drive us to overthink. Collecting more data and noodling about every potential outcome might make you think you are advancing toward a goal when you’re really just spinning your wheels.
Our subconscious drives 95 percent of our decisions, according to Gerald Zaltman, a Harvard Business School professor emeritus, who studied consumer-buying patterns. How you feel about the decision stalls your progress. If you feel uncertain about choosing, guess what? You’ll just keep thinking about it. The project or business doesn’t start until you do.
The first step is taking control. Despite what you might think, you are always ready to start. If you make the wrong decision at some point, you can adjust. You don’t have to know all of the answers, you just have to start and then you’ll figure them out.5
Richard Branson is a great example of someone taking action. He had never flown a plane and didn’t know anything about engineering them, but he started an airline regardless.
It’s simple: He started his business and then figured it out along the way. If Branson tried to think his way to starting a company, he’d still be in his head. Instead, 22 years and nearly $3 billion later (he sold Virgin America for $2.6 billion this year) his airlines are leading the world in aeronautic innovation and commercial spaceflight.
Try the following strategy. It takes less than a minute and will help you break analysis paralysis.2
What would my idol do?
Early in my media career, as I was trying to break into the business and build a platform from scratch, I was constantly uncertain. I devised a simple strategy that helped me ignore my feelings of self-doubt so I could make important calls. I picked someone I admired and thought about what she would do in my situation.
I chose Martha Beck, an author and Oprah Winfrey’s life coach. I wanted to build a business and media platform similar to hers, write a magazine column, and build a training company. Whenever I was faced with a choice and I doubted myself, I asked, What would Martha Beck do? as a way to help me make decisions based on what I wanted, not how I felt.
Asking this question is a form of cognitive restructuring. By stopping your thoughts and asking yourself a question, you interrupt your emotions and can focus your mind.
Now the hard part. You need to do it. What would your hero do? No thinking. No reconsidering. No uncertainty—just push yourself. Trust me, you’ll figure it out from there.
Another tip: When in doubt, flip a coin. My Martha Beck strategy uses logic, but flipping a coin taps into your heart and soul. If you must choose between two things, label them Choice A (heads) and Choice B (tails).
As the coin flies in the air, you’ll secretly root for one or the other. That’s how you’ll know what you truly want.