by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Thinking twice or even three times about a possible action or decision is often warranted wisdom. But are there times when over-thinking causes us to become stuck in rumination?

The time of year is upon us when many undergo their annual ritual of introspection. People ponder and consider how they can improve the way they live their lives.

Too much analysis, however, can be like kneading dough. And like dough, a problem can swell in size and seem larger than it really is. When this happens, a deluge of negative thoughts and emotions can overwhelm the over-thinker to the point of interfering with forward movement and progress.

The ruminator becomes so trapped in the past — focusing only on negative memories — that he also becomes pessimistic about the present and fatalistic about the future. So perhaps over-thinking is not the best way to keep New Year’s resolutions and reach goals.

Thinking too much can also result in indecisiveness. And indecision always leads to inaction. I’ve often wondered if the disciples of Jesus thought twice when Jesus asked them to follow him.

In the book of Matthew we read, “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And the Bible tells us, “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20)

And yet another time we read, “And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:21-22)

It sure doesn’t sound like these disciples belabored much over their decision to follow the Master.

Again, I’m not encouraging rash and hasty actions. Certainly the prudence of thinking twice is unquestionable in many instances. Naturally we want to make responsible decisions and wise moves. But there does seem to be some truth to the expression — “the paralysis of analysis.”

If you are dissatisfied with your life, one of the best approaches could be to act more like the person you want to be rather than sitting around analyzing yourself. Aristotle put it this way: “We become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlled by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage.”

Maybe instead of wondering whether or not you have time to talk a walk, you go take a walk. Or rather than questioning if you should go back to school, you register for a class. Or in lieu of hesitating to put in for time off, you take that vacation you’ve not had in years. And instead of complaining about the paint on your house, you go buy paint and change it. And in place of dreaming about taking time for yourself, you make that appointment to get a pedicure or a massage.

Or even instead of belaboring over whether or not you should order dessert, you order and enjoy it, my friend!

Whether or not you think twice about something, the end result always needs to be some decision and action. Don’t get trapped by contemplating, deliberating, chewing on and mulling over to the point of doing nothing — unless doing nothing is your decision, of course.

It could be that sometimes, at least occasionally, our best self-instruction is: “Don’t think — just do!”