Crossroads: Dealing with doubt

It’s the dreaded ‘D’ word, the word puts a road block on the path that could set us free and enrich our lives beyond our dreams, the word that destroys before anything is built, and the word that can put us in the prison of regret, that word is doubt.

Doubt destroys and defines your reality. It’s synonymous with fear and uncertainty and ultimately it stops you from doing things that can change your life for the better. I’m sure every one of us has experienced many forms of doubt, whether it is in our ability in school, sports, talking to the opposite sex, getting a job or simply our outlook in life, nonetheless for most of us there is always that little voice in our heads that tells us we are not good enough or I can’t do it because…

Whatever form of doubt it may be it only serves to limit our potential in life. Doubt isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, it is a natural survival mechanism which protects us from doing things that may endanger our well-being but like anything in life it requires us to strike a balance. Ok, now the next question to ask is how do we rid ourselves of the doubt that obscures us from our true desires?

This is extremely simple BUT not easy. What do I mean by that? For instance we all know that the way to lose weight is extremely simple, exercise more and eat less and you will lose weight but we all know that saying one thing and actually doing can be worlds apart. It requires discipline, pain and sacrifice, you will need to watch what you are eating each and every day and stick to an exercise regime that will involve lots of intense physical activity in order to achieve your goals, and even after weeks of slaving away at this rigid regime results may seems to be negligible.

Doubt is simple in the sense that it is all in the mind! Just think about those confident individuals who are always optimistic and full of life, it seems like there is nothing they can’t achieve right? Well, what’s the difference between you and them? The only true difference is the mindset that they cultivate within them that fortifies them against doubting their potential. For most of us it is that inner voice that tells you not to do something, the paralysis we feel when we are facing the challenge right in front of our face but most of all it is that crushing sense of self-worthlessness that you experience when you walk away.

The great news is that there are many ways we can defeat doubt and live up to our own potential! Here are few simple effective strategies to cultivate a doubt free mindset.



Translate negative to positive

STEP 1: Translate into the positive form

The first thing is to translate the idea and feeling of doubt into something more positive and pleasant. Instead of seeing a goal as something you are unable to achieve, change the way you address it mentally and emotionally, view it as a fun and enjoyable challenge instead of an unsolvable problem. The words you use will paint a different picture in your mind. Your job is to paint something that is pleasant rather than painful. This will take practice and conscious effort to translate your ‘self-talk’ into something positive that will drive you into action. As with everything great in life it will take lots of practice.

For instance, instead of saying “I can’t do it” say to yourself “I can do it”, Simple right? Or you can frame it into a question which will instantly empower you, “How can I do it?” or “What do I need to do to achieve it?” You can see from the language that it offers a sense of possibility and optimism which is exactly what you need to do to get rid of doubt. Negative language simply breeds hopelessness and excuses that will never serve you in the long run.



No Excuses

STEP 2: Remove excuses add empowering reasons

We make so many excuses why we shouldn’t do something but we rarely make reasons why we should do something. Think about when you procrastinate over something such as cleaning up your room, you get home and you know that you should be cleaning up your room but you start saying “I’m too tired from work” or “I need to make dinner first” or “I have to work on tomorrow’s presentation”. Whatever reason you give these are mere excuses to avoid the pain of cleaning up your room.

It’s exactly the same thing when it comes to an obstacle in life, say we are offered a job in another country but it requires you to immerse yourself into a totally new world. You decline the offer because you doubt you can live in a world of uncertainty. You start making excuses to not take the role such as ‘It’s too far away from my friends and family”, “I don’t know the language”, “It’s too hot over there” or “I don’t know anyone over there”. Whatever reason we give, deep down inside we know it’s merely an excuse to mask our ‘imagined’ pain of moving to another country.

So what we must do is to give us more reasons why we should do something and focus on these reasons with a positive outlook. Of course you can’t be blissfully ignorant of some of the sacrifices and obstacles we must overcome but it helps if our focus is on all the greater, constructive positive reasons why we should do something instead of making excuses not to.

‘Greatness fears no consequence’

~ Michael Jordan




STEP 3: Create your vision

Your vision is possibly the most important tool you will ever need. Without a clear vision you will have nothing to work towards and directionless. It is why every great company has a grand vision of where they want to company to be in the future. Now having a vision doesn’t mean you will eliminate doubt forever, it merely acts as a guiding compass that will help you find your way to your goals.

It is important that before you embark on any adventure or before you set any goals you should spend some time creating or visualising a vision that really engages you. There is no point having a vision that is dull and demotivating. You want to be able to see yourself achieving the goals you set and feel the sweet victory over doubt that is why your visions should be framed with a positive outlook rather than a negative one.

Never underestimate the power of the vision! Athletes are renowned to use visions as a part of their intense training. Let’s take the example of gymnasts for instance, before a gymnast actually performs a routine or learns a new move they usually visualise themselves performing it. If they can clearly see each individual tuck, turn and twist they must do to perform the move then they are more likely to be successful. Having a vision in this case helps the gymnast to overcome any inherent doubt they may have when learning a potentially risky move.

The reason why visions are so powerful is because they engage our visual cortex the part of the nervous system that processes light stimulus from the eyes. A lot of what we learn is from what we see (Monkey see, monkey do!) and when we engage in creating a vision for ourselves we are stimulating the same sensations which foster learning. If we can clearly see it in our minds then there is a good chance our bodies can learn it as well.

So if you are experiencing doubt then simply visualise yourself overcoming the challenge at hand. There will be a good chance that you will eventually overcome it by following your vision instead of simply walking away due to its apparent difficulty or associated pain.




STEP 4: Build up certainty

The opposite of doubt is certainty (or confidence), it is the cure for doubt and it will foster greater levels of confidence and help you achieve much more in life than you ever thought possible. Doubt is like being thrown into the middle of a dark jungle, you are directionless and overwhelmed by the strange and potentially hostile environment. Certainty on the other hand is like building a foundation for yourself to climb upon (whether you decide to climb the trees or build a mound). Once you build yourself high enough past the canopy you can see above the jungle and far beyond the distance to where you want to go. This is effectively your vision. Once you see and know your destination you climb back down and face the jungle yet again only this time you have direction. There is still the prospect of the bewildering unknown facing you however you can always count on building up another foundation if you are unsure which way you are going.

I believe the greatest journeys you will ever have are the ones where you know where you are going but you don’t know how you are going to get there.

“The journey is the reward”

~ Chinese Proverb

There are many ways you can find certainty on your path of doubt and uncertainty. It is solely dependent on the person but here are examples of potential sources of certainty. The idea behind each source is that it gives you a sense of grounding that you can fall back on when you lose your sense of self confidence. For ease of illustrating this concept let’s use the situation of moving overseas.

Friends and family – Making new friends is definitely beneficial especially when there are so many customs or behaviours that are unknown. Friends and family can guide you to ensure you don’t get into trouble for violating laws that pertain to this particular country.

Career – This speaks for itself, especially when it is a line of work which you are familiar with. Your career will provide you with financial stability and give you purpose or something to work towards (provided that you actually derive some sort of fulfilment from your work).

Exercise – Apart from making you feel great, improving your health and well-being, exercise is a routine which can give you a sense of certainty from the positive impact it has on you.

Hobbies/recreational groups – Doing things that you enjoy (especially those that involve socialising with others) is a great pillar of stability and gives you a sense of fulfilment and enjoyment that is obviously constructive.

Education and training – Learning new skills such as the official language will give you greater confidence to communicate to locals and enrich your social life.

There are literally hundreds of different ways you can seek certainty in various different situations, you just need to find out what empowers you and makes you feel invincible (confident).



Just do it!

STEP 5: Just do it!

Nike got it spot on right with their instantly recognisable slogan ‘Just do it’. Nothing kills doubt faster by simply doing what you are dreading and seeing that the doubt is in most cases illusions we’ve created ourselves. I know that in most cases when people face difficult situations they become paralysed and physically just can’t ‘do it’. This is where the foundation you built from the previous steps 1 - 4 gives you the fuel to soldier on.

It is usually taking the first step that requires the most effort and courage. With a solid foundation it is far easier to do so. Once you ‘Just do it’ it becomes easier each time, until the point where it becomes effortless. This applies to almost every challenge you went through in life. Think about the first time trying to jump in the deep end and swim. The first time was probably terrifying however if you took baby steps towards that goal or were brave and just took the plunge into the deep end the first time, it becomes increasingly easy each time (provided that you have a good support or foundations to fall back on).

We must realise that pain is necessary for us to grow and improve ourselves, the key here is to note that the fear of pain is usually a figment of the imagination and that once you ‘Just do it’ and realise there was no pain you’ve conquered your fears.

So the next time you face a challenging situation know that the fear we create for ourselves is all in the mind and that we can overcome it by just doing it and embracing the uncertainty, it will set you free from the shackles of doubt that bind us from living fiercely.

Final Words

Whatever you do in life you will encounter doubt, it is simply human nature. The key to life is to not let those doubtful situations stop you from achieving your goals and ultimately growing as a person. Instead cultivate a strong fortified mindset that is impervious to doubt. See doubt as an opportunity to do something new and exciting, with that mindset there is no limit to your potential~