I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “I tend to overanalyze things” before. Many, maybe even most people, struggle with the tendency to overanalyze. We say this phrase when we make a decision and then think about how that decision could have been the wrong decision or could have been a better one. Sometimes overanalyzing can go on for a few moments, sometimes for a few months. We tend to overanalyze things due to a lack of confidence in a decision.
But I wonder if calling it “overanalyzing” is a bit of a charade. What we are really describing is “second-guessing.” We call it overanalyzing because it sounds more like a complementary trait. In reality, we are just second-guessing our decision because we lack confidence and feel insecure about our choice. Since second-guessing is a problem we can control, let's look at a few reasons why we struggle with second-guessing and a few ways we can overcome this behavior. This will help us eliminate second-guessing from our lives and assist us in becoming confident in our decisions.
Self-Reflection: A Cure for Second-Guessing
One potential reason we second guess decisions is because we lack confidence or feel anxious about making “the wrong choice.” After making a decision, we should stop to ask ourselves, "what was the source of our confidence to make this decision initially?" Was it impulse and just "felt right" at the time? Did we just react to the moment? Did we procrastinate, and now in an effort to meet a deadline or expectation, we “shot from the hip”?
When making decisions, our relationship with God is always in play. When we make a decision not grounded in the Word of God or directed by His Holy Spirit, it will be impossible to feel confident short of being a narcissist. The first step we must take when we feel our mind start to second guess the decision is to ask how we arrived at this decision. Self-reflection is critical to making this change. We must be brutally honest when evaluating our thought process that leads to a decision. Think about what we think about.
We must pray and ask God for self-awareness about our decision-making process and for help in establishing a set of principles by which we will make our decisions. For example, I use the phrase, “Nathan, you can’t go wrong, doing right” to help me make good decisions. I can never go wrong making the right decision. Now, what is right? When thinking through this, I generally start with the old testament's ten commandments, I bounce what I think is right off the teachings of Christ, such as “pray for your enemies,” “repent,” “take up your cross and follow me,” “go and make disciples,” etc. Whatever decision I make, I think through a few of these things and remember to be graceful, merciful, and humble towards others and myself. As you seek the Lord for self-awareness and help in aligning to the healthy principles you establish for yourself, you will begin to build habits of thought and decision-making based upon Godly beliefs and practices.
Journaling would be a valuable tool to support this. As we reflect on how we arrived at a decision, we can document it in our journal and begin to see patterns. It’s important that we journal and self-reflect on decisions we are second-guessing and those we are not. We should document a timeline of decisions we have second-guessed and those we never flinched about. We can use this data to trace back through our decision-making process to discover the source of our decision. We might find that decisions made in the flesh fill the list of second-guessing, while the decisions we are most confident about are grounded in the Lord. Either way, this reflection will help us gain self-awareness about past decisions while simultaneously forcing us to begin thinking about the future decisions we have to make and how we go about them.
Once we are aware of our productive decision-making patterns, we can use this information to pray and ask God to help us identify and combat the unhelpful beliefs, negative thought patterns, and demons that keep us from making decisions grounded in the confidence of the Holy Spirit.
Good vs. Bad Second Guessing
And to be clear, not all second-guessing is a bad thing. Here we are talking about a pattern of thinking that regularly handicaps us so that we are not satisfied with our thought life after making decisions. Second-guessing is a form of self-reflection, self-awareness, and situational awareness. For example, my friend asks for my opinion of a serious scenario, and I immediately find it funny and only want to point out the humor in it. After second-guessing myself about laughing and making fun, I realize that my friend showed maturity and grace wrapped in something that I only wanted to see as funny initially. This second-guessing or self-reflection is a part of building the skill of self and situational awareness. This is not the second-guessing we are referring to in this blog.
Here we are focusing on the repetitive thought pattern of consistently second-guessing our decisions.
Let Yourself Off the Hook
Self-reflection is important, but we also need to learn how to “let ourselves off the hook” when making a decision. We must realize that there is often not just one right decision. We don’t need to pressure ourselves into thinking that all scenarios only have ONE right answer, and the pressure is on us to find and make that one RIGHT decision. I usually think of life in terms of a math problem. In math, 2 + 2 = 4, always. But not every problem in life is a math problem. Even though I think in terms of math, life is not usually given to us in terms of a math problem. There is nuance in most situations we face. We can find peace in the decision-making process if we seek God’s will and direction and avoid the pressure of finding and making the one right decision.
Also, we need to come to terms with and embrace FAILURE. We are going to make bad and wrong decisions. This is inevitable. We can’t stop or control failure, but we can control our perspective on failure. When we fail, we learn. Failure is the feedback that develops our decision-making process. If we embrace failure as part of the trajectory of discipleship, we can free ourselves from the burden of “what if I make/made the wrong decision?” Failure is feedback, just as success is feedback!
To put it another way, there are generally two types of failure: experiential and moral. Experiential failure is the failure we receive as a result of learning to do something, such as learning how to walk or learning how to shoot free throws. Moral failure is the failure of doing something immoral, such as lying or cheating. When we conflate the two kinds of failure, we end up with a distorted view of failure. Experiential failure is a good and necessary part of learning. Moral failure is to be avoided.
Get comfortable with the idea that you will fail. It’s a good thing! We can use failure to build the skill necessary to “win” the next time we face a similar situation. In order to see failure properly, aim to minimize your losses and maximize your wins. Don’t be paralyzed by your losses, but don’t live in them either. It’s best to learn from them and work towards eliminating them moving forward.
The world will not end if you fail to make the best decision. Trust me; I have made plenty of them. Failure and bad decisions do not define us; however, how we respond to failure and what we do with failure's feedback will shape our futures.
Confident Decision Making
Second guessing is a natural part of everyone’s thought life. Chronic second-guessing will lead to us losing confidence. Decisive and informed decisions only come from confidence through wisdom and discernment. Wisdom and discernment only come from God. We must trust God enough to seek Him, His wisdom, and His authority when making decisions. This begins by building a deeper relationship with Him. As we trust in the Lord to help us with our decisions by reflecting on our behaviors and learning how to let ourselves off the hook, our second-guessing will be replaced with confident decision-making.
If you would like to work through a few skills that help improve your decision-making, check out the skill of Interacting with the Bible, the skill of Integrity, and the skill of Decision Making on our website. Be sure to scroll down to the relevant skill.
This blog was done in collaboration with Matthew Bagdonas.
Let's stay connected! Website: growingtruedisciples.com
Facebook Page: Growing True Disciples
YouTube: Growing True Disciples