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Going with the flow vs. analysis paralysis

In Insight and Self Awareness by Liisa Halme1 Comment

Stuck in analysis paralysis? Do you have the habit of thinking some things over and over again, trying to predict the future, and unable to decide what to do – let alone take action? If so, you are not alone.


In our Western world where the logical, analytical mind is over-emphasised, we can get easily stuck in the pattern  that is ‘analysis paralysis’. Here’s why:

the logical, analytical mind, the neocortex part of our brain, consists of only a small part of our brain capacity, and the conscious mind (that which we are aware of) covers about 10% of all our decision-making. When we are taught to rely solely on the conscious, logical mind, we may learn not to trust or listen to the rest of our intelligence.

Our intelligence consists of our entire unconscious knowing, such as feelings, instincts and intuition – the part that just knows  without reasoning and analysis. We may brush it off as something secondary or not real, even though the parts of our brain involved just have a much quicker way of processing information – and access to a much larger database of information than our conscious mind can readily reach. That information consists of everything we have ever experienced, seen, heard, or felt. It’s also our connection to collective consciousness, that which is beyond our individual consciousness (like when you think of someone, and at the same moment they call you).

Fear can keep us stuck

Another thing that drives us to over-think is fear. Fear is a heavy, dense energy and tends to keep us stuck. We may treat a decision as over-complicated, with too many detailed options. Or, we may seek the optimal or ‘perfect’ solution upfront, and fear making any decision that could lead to less than ideal results. So rather than trying something with the openness to change it if a better solution becomes apparent, we don’t make the decision at all.

We may be afraid to make even a small mistake because we are worried that people will think less of us, and we fear feeling ashamed. Simply becoming aware of this fear and its root cause can help us move through it and see it for what it is, just an energy.

Riding the (alpha) waves

From a brain wave perspective, our over-analysing wavelength is the ‘beta state’. It is a state of high alertness and anxiety, and the state where most stress hormones are produced. In a ‘flow state’ on the other hand, where we are operating easily and effortlessly on auto-pilot with our subconscious mind guiding us, we are in the zone of the alpha brain waves. We feel more relaxed and at ease, we are able to learn much more quickly and allow our inner guidance to lead us. In other words, we are using the information database of the 90% rather than the mere 10% of our mind.

There are many great and pleasurable ways to learn to ‘ride the alpha waves’. For instance, when you find yourself stuck in analysis paralysis, you can try turning on some beautiful music, lie down for at least a couple of minutes and allow your body to relax and your mind to empty out. Let yourself get lost in the music and your own breath. This can help take you down to the alpha state, and the choices and answers will come easily, as if out of nowhere. Of course this ‘nowhere’ is your infinitely wise unconscious mind and intuition! 

Try anything, do something – take action

Once we take action – any action – we begin to feel better almost immediately. Instead of thinking about some hypothetical scenario in a head full of uncertainty, we are working on something that is really certain; our actions.

We can get caught in the chaos of analysis paralysis and be consumed by it. Or, we can realise that while we cannot control what will happen tomorrow, we can control the actions we take in the here and the now. By trying, moving, asking, engaging, experimenting, and walking forward, it puts us one step further than where we were yesterday, and we never know where that one step will lead us.

In order to make the best, most balanced decisions for ourselves we need to learn to trust our gut where our conscious mind isn’t able to give us a solution or a direction, ideally allowing the two to always work together.

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  1. thanks for the article Liisa. I am pleased to know of the importance of the unconscious mind in decision-making. This is particularly helpful for me in situations where I am lacking confidence in the workplace when I haven’t achieved competency with something – a time of discomfort for me. I have started a practice of leaving my desk and taking a 5 minute walk around the block, and now with the knowledge from your article, I will trust that more is going on than just stretching my legs. I also go to yoga classes regularly and I believe this is really helping me with managing any types of anxiety I experience, and again, this is consistent with what you are describing about riding the alpha waves, taking time to let my body relax and empty my mind.

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