Analysis Paralysis

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By Denise Smith of FA Design Build

The biggest obstacle faced by many homeowners is their own inability to make a decision. I call this syndrome Analysis Paralysis. The fear of making a mistake becomes so powerful that no decision at all is made. To compound things, Analysis Paralysis is more likely to strike when more than one person is involved in the decision-making process, common in many home improvement projects.

I recently worked with a couple who came to us midway through their project. They were hung up on choosing between a matte or gloss sheen in the finish of their wood. Although it was only a very small portion of the entire scope of work, this decision became the convergence of all the difficulty they had had in making decisions up to this point. Analysis Paralysis was responsible for putting the project on hold.

How many times have you searched and searched for the perfect item, only to come back to the very first one you liked? While this may seem coincidental, the phenomenon of the first choice being the best is, in fact, scientifically supported. Contrary to intuition, in a 2004 study Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University found that when faced with too many choices, the brain begins to physically shut down, and the quality of decision making steadily declines as more information is gathered. When faced with a choice, continual and sustained mining for information can actually be detrimental.

My advice to this couple, as well as to anyone else experiencing the inability to decide, is to try to remember their very first reaction to the products they are considering. The subconscious has made the decision quickly, processing the pros and cons at the speed of light. This emotional response, commonly called the “gut reaction,” will continue to nag you for as long as the debating over gloss level (or other small details) continues.

In the case of this couple, their first choices differed from one another’s. While this may appear to be a great obstacle, it is actually good, because instantly the choices have been narrowed down to two—the same number as sides on a coin. If only all decorating decisions were as simple as heads or tails!

Denise Smith is the design and sales consultant of FA Design Build. She believes

every person deserves a timelessly beautiful space, regardless of budget or circumstance, and has the unique ability to discern a customer’s inner design concept and break it down into a workable plan. She can be reached at


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