No Irreparable Harm

One of the tricks to moving past the paralysis of choice is to get a better sense of what’s really at stake.  You could focus on how much is to be gained by the contemplated action or — more likely — you worry about how much harm can befall you if the steps you take are ill-advised.  Of course, the more you think about the downside, the more you “catastrophize.”  And the more you catastrophize the more likely you are to remain stuck in indecision.

In the course of my blog move I’ve had ample opportunity to catastrophize.  You would think I was considering neurosurgery rather than merely upgrading a blog.  To be fair, much of the worry came from the fact that I am not a programmer and, therefore, assumed that the whole house of cards would come tumbling down if I didn’t treat the blog coding with great respect.  However, this process of experimentation in public as I slowly upgrade my blog has taught me that it isn’t quite as fragile as I feared.  In fact, this experience has reminded me that very few things in life merit the warning displayed in the picture above.

So what’s the better approach?  When you find yourself imagining the parade of horribles that could result from your proposed action, stop to consider whether that action is likely to inflict irreparable harm.  If the answer is yes, cease and desist until you’ve completed a thorough analysis.  If the answer is no, proceed.  In my case, I’d been obsessing about WordPress themes for days, but seemed incapable of actually making a choice and moving forward.  However, once I took a realistic look at what was at stake and  learned that any choice I made could be undone with little fuss, then I was able to move forward.  As a result, my blog now has a new look.

If we are serious about innovation,  and we understand that our innovation must be timely and cost-effective, then we’ll have to find ways to move past paralysis and catastrophizing towards “safe-fail” methods of learning and growing.  In other words, our bias should be towards action, provided we do no irreparable harm.

[Photo credit:  tankgrrl, Creative Commons license]

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2 thoughts on “No Irreparable Harm

  • January 9, 2009 at 8:51 am
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    In similar fashion, Mary, the “aspirational thinking” you introduced me to makes one focus on the positive, beneficial side of one’s business (or personal) plans, dodging catastrophising altogether.

  • January 9, 2009 at 11:47 am
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    David –

    Too true! It is far better to focus on what is working well. If fact, the thing that helped me persevere was knowing that this was a useful learning (and empowering) experience.

    However, for those of us who cannot get past the fear of the negatives to focus on the positives, remembering the “no irreparable harm” rule can be freeing. And, sometimes even optimists need to use a combination of both approaches.

    – Mary

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