Wondering and Wandering: Analysis Paralysis and the Case of CAN DO vs. SHOULD DO


I recently had a consultation with a friend and ex-colleague and we talked about his state of being in the world today.  He had an all to common challenge in which he's been very successful in his work life and other business related extracurricular activities, he's quite talented in a number of ways, and he wants to continue expanding, learning, and trying new things.  He has several options available on his current track that seem appealing and others he's been considering not on the current path.  However, he's sort of in a holding pattern at the moment, for a variety of reasons, but one that seemed to be contributing is what I described as the "CAN Do vs. SHOULD Do" facet of Analysis Paralysis. This is the issue where, in your set of options for a change that you're considering, there are a relatively large number which is making it difficult to buckle down and pursue one or a few a step further.  One way to dramatically cut down the number of options you're considering is to eliminate those options that you merely CAN DO vs. the ones that you really SHOULD DO or in other words, the brightest ideas and options out of the set that could be bogging you down.  "Ok fine" you say "that's nice, how do I know what I "should do"?"  This post is one approach to help in doing just that.

The options that you CAN do are simply those that are in some way appealing, you have the requisite abilities or skills, and perhaps the resources to pursue.  Those that you SHOULD Do are all those paths (or perhaps you need get more resources say) but critically, these are the options that are in alignment to your Values.  That may seem either esoteric, cliché, or way outside your field of vision but I'm going to try and boil it down for you.

Your values, to me, are those set of core principles or criteria by which you: filter or frame your world of experiences/perceptions, how you judge your decisions and actions as well as those of others, and those elements of a persons character you find most appealing (in yourself or others).  Some people have explicitly stated or explored their values in some way while others would be challenged to articulate even one and why they hold it if you were to ask.  An easy approach for someone doing this would be to write down those values you think you hold or perhaps do a simple google search and find the large variety of exercises intended to get you along the path of a deeper understanding of the values you may hold.  Another way to understand your values is that when you act IN alignment with your values you feel most energized, appreciative, fulfilled, or strongly committed to your chosen course of action.  When you act OUT of alignment, after some time, you tend to feel depleted, stressed out, tired, ungrateful, etc..  Of course some people find ways to rationalize their actions to force fit them into their perceived values but that's for another post!


So how do you tell the difference between CAN Do's and SHOULD Do's?  Well, first understand your set of values that you feel MOST strongly about. Second, I really suggest you complete an exercise like that described in this post on davidprestin.com on How to achieve fulfillment and focus in business, life, and transitions.  Once you discover the common ground for what energizes/excites you, what you're really good at, and what can most serve/benefit the world, you can then layer on whether these alternative options fit with your values or which one fit more than others.  The one's that aren't in alignment are more than likely options that you CAN Do but aren't really the ones you SHOULD Do.  This isn't a perfect model but I think it can help decrease your options you may be considering for a transition or change in your life.

A further approach here, to expand your mind and either explore a version of your options that's bigger or longer term oriented or perhaps articulate a deeper sense of your values is read and complete exercises in the book "The Magic of Thinking Big" by David Schwartz and the "Clock of the Long Now" by Stewart Brand.  These books may help you think differently than you have in the past and in these explorations you may uncover new, awesome ideas for your Next Callings or find new or nuanced values you can then use to make better decisions.