Saturday, 10 October 2015

Paralysis by Analysis - or "Stop Overthinking!"

Hey there!

So here is my first not-introductory post, and with it, I want to talk about one of the common obstacles that I see in the practice of developing a handstand; an eloquently phrased phenomenon called "Paralysis by Analysis."

So what is Paralysis by Analysis? In a nutshell - it is when you overthink something to the point that it interferes with being able to do it. To describe it I'm going to use a pretty ridiculous example..

Why can't I do this??

Imagine you are trying to pick a tennis ball up off the ground. You have a look and decide that you should squat down and pick it up. You bend at the knees and begin to reach down but then realise that you are bending your back too much! You stand back up, and think about what you did. Ok, no bending of the back. This time you unlock the knees, and reach down, but when you reach with your arm - your back curves again! So you start again. This time, you try to keep your shoulder blade back so that you can reach down and get the ball without curving your back. But now you can't reach it! Perhaps you need to push your knees forward? So you do that, and Argh! your back curved again! Better restart. Meanwhile the ball is still just sitting on the ground, and you've been unable to pick it up.

Okay so that's a pretty ridiculous example right? But hopefully you get the point. This is what I regularly see in handstand practice. In the information age - there is an overwhelming amount of information about technique out there. And that's great! But sometimes it is too much and it can lead to Paralysis by Analysis.

So before I go any further, let's have a real quick word about the purpose of drills. The purpose of drills are to teach you, and your Nervous System (or the common way of describing it is muscle memory) aspects of the technique of the skill in question. This is why they say things like 'Drills get the Skills' when you do the drills you are learning the motor patterns of the skill. When doing these drills - it is important to do these drills correctly and look to execute them well. This will ingrain into your Muscle Memory the key aspects of the thing your working on. So drilling is important.
Drills Get the Skills

But when I see Paralysis by Analysis (I am hoping you remember that term by the end of this post), it's not usually when performing drills (although sometimes it is), it's when trying to do the actual handstand. Have a think - has this ever happened to you? Have you ever tried to do a handstand and corrected something, then something else, then something else and just gotten nowhere? This brings me to the point of this post.

I remember talking to an excellent juggler who once said to me "It's the fine line between doing the drills and just kinda chucking it". What this means is when it comes to doing the skill (in this case handstands) then just relax and do the handstand. DON'T correct every little thing. Instead a better ideas is to focus on 1 (or max 2) key area to focus on - and put that to the front of your mind before and AFTER your attempt. During an attempt - your focus should be on doing the handstand - with a little bit of your attention spent correcting the issue. If you have done the drills then you should have a good idea of what you're looking for.

When one area fixes up (don't get me wrong, some things are harder to fix than others and take longer) and you can do it comfortably then move onto the next thing. Now does this mean that if you just drill and then relax you'll magically do a handstand? No - but if you take the opportunity to focus on specific key areas in this way then you won't encounter such Paralysis by Analysis and will actually give yourself a chance to improve.

There is one last tricky thing about Paralysis by Analysis I want to write about - sometimes just one thing is enough to give you Paralysis by Analysis and you get stuck thinking about one issue and it doesn't go away. So what do you do there? Well the easy answer is to go back to drills that work on it - but I'm going to give you one more thing that can help. Over-fix the hell out of it. What do I mean by that? Let's say for example your problem is that you just don't get all the way up to handstand. Something you can do to help that is to deliberately go way way too far. Of course - make sure it is in your abilities to safely do this - make sure you can bail out of your handstand safely (I'm working on a Tutorial for this) but go for it! Over-fix your problem drastically. Get used to going too far - knowing full well that it won't work. Help your body realise that it can do much more than you actually need from it. Then it's just a matter of finding your way to the middle.

If you find it hard to avoid Paralysis by Analysis then at the start of training, grab a pen and paper and write down the key area to work on. And don't try to be tricky by using double things "Pointing my toes and bringing my hips higher" -No! Bad! Naughty! Focus on one thing and when it is fixed up and settled - put a tick next to it and write the next one.
This technique helps with Blog writing too!
So in summary: 

Don't overthink things.
Pick one key area to focus on
When doing the skill, relax and think about the skill.
Focus on the key area before and after your attempt.
If you get stuck - Over-Fix it!

I hope this helps your practice! Until next time!


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