Listen, we all know studying is important. We have the book and a study guide, and maybe we’ve even taken a practice quiz or two. We want to pass our certification exams. We know why it is important to us. Yet thinking about this makes the situation worse rather than motivating us. All productivity, dedication, and motivation comes to a complete halt. If you have ever experienced this, know that you are not alone. This phenomenon unbiasedly affects many people of every age, gender, and race. At this moment, we are experiencing study paralysis.
Paralysis is usually equated to a physical state in which one cannot move or perform body motor functions. The term “paralysis” also relays the notion that the ability to move, function, or operate has been stunted by some type of outside factor. Tasks and goals can have a paralyzing effect on one’s thoughts and mindset rather than one’s physical body. Study paralysis occurs when outside factors affect our ability, focus, and maintained motivation; it literally removes our physical and mental ability to study.
In most cases, it is the interpretation of our current study status that causes this paralysis. Are we focused on the end goal? Are we feeling pressured to pass? Is the amount of work that goes into studying overwhelming? If you are a procrastinator like me, let’s challenge ourselves to go a step further. Are we truly just procrastinating or are we suffering from the effects of study paralysis?
The term procrastination is a sweeping generalization used as a reason why a task is not completed in the desired fashion. Times, dates, and deadlines are our biggest obstacles. When we begin to look at study paralysis, we will find that mindset and personal well-being regarding our tasks and goals are the factors that cause our frozen state. If you have ever felt stuck and overwhelmed before you even began studying, this may be due to analysis paralysis.
Analysis paralysis usually occurs due to anxiety and overthinking a problem. The individual can feel saturated with information, variables, and various factors that contribute to their paralysis. Ultimately, this causes them to shut down or stop the pursuit of the end goal. We usually chalk this up to being indecisive. However, the root cause of this indecision is feeling overwhelmed and the anxiety associated with potentially making the wrong choice.
In analysis paralysis, we are focused on the end goal of our study. Remaining present in the moment can help combat this. Yes, the ultimate goal is to pass the exam; however, we must begin studying to do so. The only way to figure out what does or does not work for us in our study practice is to start. Make a list of all the thoughts and study options in your head and begin by choosing one at random. You will quickly learn if the choice is right for you.
Paralysis can also be experienced after the decision to study has been made. If you have ever sat down to study only to experience racing thoughts and an influx of ideas, you may be experiencing project paralysis. I experience this form of paralysis most often. It’s as though my brain is so excited to get started on a task that when I actually do, a million different ways to complete it come rushing in. This paralysis can be deceiving because, while I feel like I am involved in the project, I haven’t truly made any progress.
In project paralysis, we are looking at the entire scope of studying. We stack every single topic, definition, and chapter onto a study plate and cannot figure out why we aren’t making heads or tails of it. Breaking down each area of study is an effective tool to use when experiencing this form of paralysis. A solid outline can direct us with laser focus, and assigning dates and times to tasks can be helpful. However, be wary not to fall into analysis paralysis when using a calendar.
The worst word in the English language is “perfect.” This ambiguous term has a traditional definition, but is completely based on one’s perception of what “perfect” is. In the case of perfection paralysis, this usually means that the way we study is more important than the act of studying. We convince ourselves that we must study perfectly in order to pass our exam, so much so that it prevents us from studying consistently. Perfection paralysis causes us to freeze, dwell, and obsess over the possibility of having a flaw.
This type of paralysis is usually the result of being overwhelmed, and having undefined goals and unrealistic expectations. How are we defining the word “perfect”? List the terms that would make you feel perfect in the project. For each term, decide on an action or tool that you can use to achieve your desired outcome. For example, if we have decided that perfect means our notebook is completely organized, then we may find that having color-coded highlights helps us achieve that. Instead of thinking it isn’t perfect because our notebook isn’t organized, we say we are making it organized as we go. Our end result will be perfect because we have defined what that means to us, set a goal, and started to achieve it.
Action breaks paralysis
The typical response to study paralysis is shame. Why am I like this? Why can’t I just do this? These self-blaming thoughts come into our minds and live there, rent-free. They certainly don’t help us actually study or support the results of our hard work. Like all forms of paralysis, study paralysis can be short-term, long-term, and even permanent. If we take the time to understand why we may be experiencing study paralysis, we will find that there are actionable steps we can take to reengage with our certification materials and course content.
What characteristics of each type of paralysis resonated with you? If you have found yourself nodding your head and having “Aha!” moments with any specific aspects of the paralysis described above, start there. Remember, the opposite of paralysis is movement. You are capable, intelligent, and worthy of this time. Studying is hard enough. Don’t forget to be your biggest supporter and give yourself a pat on the back when you’re feeling stuck. You’ve got this!