Let’s talk about doubt.
Doubt is that sneaky little voice that rears its head when we are most in need of confidence. Before a big presentation, in the middle of a difficult project, when making business or life altering decisions, doubt is there gently assuring you that you probably can’t do it, have no business trying, and should probably maybe definitely just go back to bed.
It’s a fear of failure, of disappointing those who have invested in us, of disappointing ourselves. If we’re not careful, doubt can become a mental fixture–constantly present, hindering us from taking the risks necessary to succeed and stealing our joy. This is not a mental companion we need in our lives, and the cost is steep.
The good news is we all experience doubt. Sometimes it happens because we are tired, we’ve recently experienced failure, or our inner dialogue has taken a turn for the negative. The other good news is that there are ways to overcome doubt and keep it from dominating your decisions and cluttering your mind.
Put Doubt in Its Place
First, recognize that doubt is a feeling. It isn’t a fact, a premonition, or anything else. It’s just a feeling, and feelings pass. Putting doubt in its proper place will help you to avoid making decisions that will ultimately hold you back. We doubt because we think perhaps that we are incapable, that things won’t work out, or that the problem is simply too big for a workable solution. These thoughts aren’t true, but they are the fuel upon which doubt thrives.
Stop the Negative Thoughts
When we recognize the negative thoughts that lead us to a place of doubt, it is important that we stop them. It is helpful to visualize a huge red stop sign and tell your mind to stop. Whatever the rest of that negative thought was, let it go. Don’t even bother to finish it. Then remind yourself of the endgame. What is your goal? What are you seeking to accomplish? Do the next reasonable thing to move toward that goal. Don’t let doubt play around in your mind until it spirals into fear and anxiety. Stop it in its tracks and move on to the next productive thought.
Failure, although not a pleasant experience, is a vital one. It shapes us even more than success does. It serves as a great motivator and can help us learn hard lessons that we would have difficulty with otherwise. You will experience failure. And you will live through it and, provided you handle it well, come out on the other side a much smarter, more capable individual. Accepting that failure is a natural part of life will help you silence doubt. After considering possibilities and weighing your options, the only thing you can do is move forward with your decision, project, goal, etc, to the best of your ability. Fear of failure enables doubt to paralyze you, and success rarely comes when we play it safe.
Take a Break
We are most susceptible to doubt when we are tired and overwhelmed. It it absolutely imperative–for the sake of your mental health, your relationships, and your professional success–that you know when to unplug. Take a real day off. No phones. No email. No internet. Sound difficult? It is. But the rewards are prodigious. Taking a real day off will give you new perspective on your doubt and whatever problem you’re facing. The rest will enable your mind to deal with obstacles productively. And your relationships will get some much needed attention. Making a habit out of this will stave off mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion and help you perform better in every area of your life.
Make a Decision…or Don’t
Great amounts of pressure are rarely helpful when problem solving or trying to make big decisions. If you don’t need to make a decision right away, don’t. Give yourself some time–take a break!–and come back to it when you are rested. If a decision absolutely must be made right away, weigh the options, examine pros and cons, then commit to a decision. Once it’s done, accept that the outcome is outside of your control and move on to the next goal or problem. You cannot orchestrate the outcome of any decision. All you can do is your best. Whatever comes next is all part of the adventure.
If you are struggling with doubt, know that you are not alone. Try some of these tips and see how it changes the way you approach doubt. If you continue to struggle and cannot move forward, contact me! I would love to coach you toward your goals and give you the focus and tools needed to live your life confidently.