Too Much Information? When Does Analysis Create Paralysis?

I have been very fortunate to spend a good amount of time living both in and out of the United States for most of my life. I have spent extended amounts of time in Italy, France and Japan. It is a tremendous opportunity to learn a lot about yourself and the environment that you take for granted. You must learn customs, systems and languages and stretch your survival skills with every new encounter. What I have found to be most surprising, however, is my assimilation back into American culture after living abroad. What always trips me up, is relearning how to make simple choices while being bombarded with options. The information age now provides us with too much information to be able to make simple, intuitive decisions.

That’s why Sharon Begley’s article, I Can’t Think! jumped off the page to me. I have been a willing victim of analysis paralysis for most of my adult life, and it seems like the more information I have, the more likely I am to not make a decision, or make a terrible one that I have to live with afterward. The first time I came back from living in Italy, I went to the supermarket to buy milk. At the time, there were two choices for milk in Italy, the tiny and expensive fresh, cold milk, or the large and inexpensive warm milk that came in a box. It was an easy and thoughtless decision. When I came home, the choices were so overwhelming, that I couldn’t make one! There were nonfat, low fat, two percent, whole, organic, soy, almond, brand name, generic… I stood there for at least five minutes before I just thought, “screw it!” and grabbed the one that seemed the most familiar. When I bought my current car, it was like taking on a second job. I wanted a nice car, but not a high payment. It had to have low miles and certain amenities. I made myself insane trying to find the right one. So much so, that I would get tied up in little mental knots and decide to do nothing, despite the fact that my old car was literally smoking from the oil leaks. When I found one that fit all the parameters, I would be afraid to pull the trigger on it, lest there be some “X” factor that I had failed to take into account. By the time I made up my mind to do it, it would be gone.

There is a lot to be said for gathering information and making good, informed decisions. The key element however, is knowing when to stop gathering and analyzing, and just simply trust our gut and act! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to decide what to make for dinner. Should I have pasta or burgers on the grill? Then again, I do like soup…


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