Everyone has experienced it at some point in their lives. Worrying about the outcome of this and that, being paralysed over the fear that the decision they are about to make may not be the right one. We hesitate. We think. We analyse. We freeze. Hesitation can be good at times, as it allows us to take a moment to think about what we are doing and process it; however, often it lingers on for too long and leaves us stuck in our path.
Hesitation can be the consequence of overanalysing a situation, the product of fear, or the outcome of low self-esteem. Regardless of the reason, there are ways to overcome it, and move forward with your life. Let’s look at four ways by which you can stop hesitating and start living.
4 steps to help you overcome hesitation
1. Understanding hesitation
There is no way anyone can overcome hesitation without first understanding it. One of the best ways to process your uncertainty and overcome hesitation is to write about it. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What specifically is going through my mind right now?
- Is there something that is disturbing me, or a fear I am experiencing?
- These thoughts, images, or memories that come to mind, what do they mean?
- What do they say about me?
- What is the worst thing that could happen in this situation?
Very often, the underlying element of hesitation is fear of the outcome. Exploring what outcome it is that you fear can help you identify what is holding you back.
2. Challenge your fears
Hesitation often leads to anxiety, which is quite simply a fear of the unknown. By challenging your fears and their associated thoughts, you can begin the process of truly overcoming them. It can be helpful to revisit and analyse those fears about which you wrote. Think about that worst case scenario you imagined, and visualise what would happen if anything and everything went wrong.
Let us say that at work, people are expected to give presentations at your monthly team meetings. It is expected that people take turns; yet despite being in this position for over a year, you have yet to give yours. At the end of each meeting, your boss asks who would like to volunteer to present updates on their project for the next meeting. Your stomach begins churning, your heart races, your palms become sweaty, and all you say to yourself is, “Please let someone else volunteer so that I don’t have to.” To your relief, someone does, and you are held over for another month.
Unfortunately, you are also acutely aware that because you have not given a presentation, you are less likely to be considered when promotions and raises come around. You feel stuck in a catch-22 and don’t know what to do. Do I risk giving a horrible presentation and embarrassing myself, or do I risk not getting a raise when appraisals take place?
At this point, you’ve identified that your feared situation is embarrassing yourself in front of your work colleagues and boss. You have also identified that avoiding your fear is hurting your ability to advance at work. You are hesitating. You are analysing. You are stuck. You are frozen. Again, your inability to overcome hesitation is keeping you from moving forward.
Ask yourself, “So what?”
This is when the challenge can really begin. As you are picturing this worst case scenario, ask yourself, “So what?” So what if you make a mistake in your presentation. How likely is it that you will make a mistake so bad that it would result in being terminated from your position? Chances are that you have seen many people trip over words in their presentations before, but no one said anything. Do you have any evidence that you will embarrass yourself? What would you say to a friend in the same situation? Is your fear in proportion to the actual event?
As you engage in this exercise, it is important to write everything down. Not only will it help you organise your thoughts, but will help you to see if your facts that support your fear are shorter or longer than the list of facts that do not support your fear.
Often the experience of paralysis by analysis leaves people feeling anxious, tense and wound up. Taking a few moments to do deep breathing can do wonders in helping you to think properly. One of the prominent symptoms of anxiety is an increased heart rate. When one’s heart rate exceeds 100 bpm, adrenaline is released into the body, causing it to enter a stress response. When this happens, it affects the part of brain that is responsible for problem solving, making it harder to think clearly.
The next time you find yourself in this situation, try sitting comfortably and place one hand on your chest, and one on your stomach. Try to breathe in a way that only the hand on your stomach moves. Breathing in this manner, inhale as deep as you can for four seconds, and hold it for another four. Then, exhale very slowly over an eight second period. Repeat this for five minutes and you should feel very relaxed.
4. Set goals
Sometimes people hesitate because what they are avoiding feels too daunting or overwhelming. Just the thought of it may lead them to want to run away and do something else. Setting goals and breaking them down can help make these tasks feel more manageable. For example, when someone says they need to read one chapter from a book, this sounds more manageable than if they say they need to write a book report [which involves reading an entire book, and then writing about it].
So, think about what it is you are hesitating about, and brainstorm if there is a way to set up goals to overcome hesitation. Break each part of the goal down to its absolute smallest possible component. This will allow you to pick up more easily where you left off, and allow you to see your progress. If we are being honest, crossing five things off a list sounds more enjoyable than crossing off just one, doesn’t it?
As Stanislaw Jerzy Lec said, “You have to decide, even to hesitate.” The next time you find yourself hesitant and frozen from making a decision or taking action, remember that you are already making a decision to hesitate instead of moving forward. Are you going to choose to stay stuck, or choose to move forward?
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