Ever hear the phrase “paralysis of analysis”?
For instance, in high school I spent a portion of every fall, 9th through 12th grade, toying with the idea of joining either the football team or the band. I could have done either. My P. E. coach repeatedly told my dad that I had some skills on the field–for we played flag football for a season and the coach had seen me in action. I could run faster than most guys my age and I was good with my hands, so the coach said. And there was something about my timing, a natural rhythm or something.
As for music, I’d grown up playing the piano. I had a short stint with the violin too, in fourth grade when a music teacher offered violin lessons to interested students. Sign me up, Mom, I said. She did. The group lessons, however, were very basic for someone who was already playing the first movement of Beethoven’s so-called Moonlight Sonata by memory. Within a few short weeks the violin teacher said I would need to move on to a private teacher if I wanted to progress reasonably. After discussions with Mom, wherein she emphasized repeatedly that unless I practiced regularly it wouldn’t be worth the investment, I decided that, no, I probably wouldn’t practice regularly–and keep up with piano and Scouts and soccer and track. So my two-month romance with strings reached its conclusion, coda and all.
By the time I was in high school I wasn’t even practicing the piano regularly anymore. I blame that on the fact that I didn’t have a piano in the house anymore. True victimization, I say. Anyway, I thought that by joining the band I could at least keep my musical skills sharp, and maybe even learn a new instrument or two. But what to play?
Thus each fall I’d vacillate between football and band, thinking up all the pros and cons for each. But in the end I never acted. That is, four falls came and went and I did neither. I was paralyzed in my analyses of the situations.
This paralysis of analysis hasn’t characterized my whole life. I’ve moved fourteen times in twenty years, often acting on an idea only half-baked. No, my wife would probably tell you that I don’t typically get high-centered between two possible tracks to follow.
Still, for all the times I’ve acted apparently rashly, there are a lot more things I actually haven’t done.
This past month makes a good example. The large parish I am involved with has lots of opportunity. Too much, in fact, if you ask me. In my role as priest I necessarily have to pick and choose. It’s not so much a question of what to do as what not to do. For every point made in a sermon there are several unmentioned. For every parishioner visited there are many I cannot. For every prayer said there are many–hundreds, maybe thousands–unsaid.
Free time is the same. I’ve got a family whom I love greatly. If I could, I’d spend every waking moment as we’ve spent the last few days–with each other, conversing in front of the fire, cooking, eating, cleaning up, playing bridge, reminiscing, loving on each other in general. But we all have responsibilities, meaning we can’t always fellowship as we’d like.
Now I’m the type of person who needs several irons in the fire, so to speak, at once. These are free-time irons, by the way, so that I can find something to do in a hurry when everyone else is preoccupied. Reading is good. So I always have a book or two on hand. But sometimes I’m not in the mood. Music is good too. But the piano is shared by seven, plus students, so it’s not always available. Besides, sometimes we want a little peace and quiet around the place. There’s also this blog, and Latin–good activities. And, for me, frankly, television’s a waste of time.
So, I’ve been analyzing a couple of potential projects this month–projects that will take some considerable attention and time. I couldn’t possibly do both at the same time, like being in the band and playing football. But neither do I want to get so caught up in my daily life that I suffer potential-project paralysis. So, what to do?
On the one hand, there’s the idea of buying an old motorcycle and fixing it up. Resto-mods they’re called by people in the business. You find a donor bike, a platform, then make it better than new by rebuilding and/or restoring its mechanical parts and improving it with today’s advanced components. It helps to incorporate a few top-quality customizations too. Anyway, a good one of these can fetch a pretty dollar when done well. But there’s always the question of how much it will cost to get it there, ready to sell in tip-top shape; not to mention where to find a ready buyer. These sorts of considerations paralyze me.
On the other hand, there’s the idea of writing another book. I’ve got a great idea. And I need some concentrated time to write it down, outline my masterpiece, and otherwise organize my thoughts. Just to get going, mind you. Then the momentum gained initially could carry me into finishing the work, over time, in the evenings. So, maybe I begin with a week off? Not gonna happen until after Christmas at least! But then there’s the thought of producing an entire manuscript that no publisher would be interested in–like has happened before with my Confessions of an Executioner. And when this happens, the rejection is very discouraging, at least for me.
So, caught between these two free-time potential projects all month, I haven’t yet acted on either. It’ll probably be the book–more cost-effective–at least I won’t lose any if I don’t make any. But of the two that one seems less motivating, or to put it another way more paralyzing.
Anyone got any motivating words?