The other day I had a conversation with a good friend who coaches entrepreneurs starting up their businesses. She notices that in the early stages entrepreneurs are very good at doing the "fun stuff". Deciding on a cool name. Incorporating their business. Designing a logo. Creating a website and marketing materials. Getting on social media. Developing a business plan. People in this stage are excited, inspired, and wonder why they never thought of doing this before. Their heads are full of possibilities and hearts light up with courage. Then something peculiar happens just when they need to take their new business on the road. Build their networks and generate sales. What started with clarity and enormous amounts of energy falls prey to doubt.
Whether you’re starting a business or university or looking to elevate your career. Maybe you’re in the midst of a personal transformation such as getting married or having children. Any change in one’s life can be overwhelming and stir up a variety of emotions.
Now, doubt and fear are often used as synonyms but I would argue they are very different.
Fear is that emotion or feeling that arises from a sense of danger. That danger could be real. But most often what we fear day-to-day isn't rooted in anything real at all. Rather, it's our imaginations running wild on us. Fear is our primal first warning system designed to keep you safe. It pushes you take quick action. We know this as the fight or flight response. So it can be a friend if we embrace it. Fear prepares us for those unforeseeable challenges. It keeps us safe. Without fear we could find ourselves getting hurt or completely disconnected from what it is we wanted to create.
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” - William Shakespeare
Doubt on the other hand can be very disabling. The root of doubt is duo. Meaning two. As having to decide between two or more actions. It's Latin ancestor, dubitare, means to hesitate, question, or waver in opinion. Essentially doubt is a kind of paralysis or inability to make a decision at all. Fear moves you towards an action. Either fight or flight. Doubt, rooted in a lack of faith or disbelief keeps you stuck in indecision. Once doubt sets in, it's enough to persuade us to stop what we’re doing entirely. Many great ideas never see the light of day because of doubt. So you can see how doubt can be more troublesome or dangerous than fear.
Most often doubt sounds like, “I’m not qualified!” “I’m not worthy!” “I’m not good enough!” “No one is going to buy what I'm selling.” “I can’t do this!” “It’s not the right time.”
If you’re stuck in doubt, don’t despair. There are simple ways to overcome doubt. And when practiced, eventually doubt will lose its hold on you.
Start with Curiosity
I don't prescribe to the idea we must suppress our doubts. When we deny these thoughts they have a way of persisting and recurring. What we doubt is most often born of some unmet need or conditioned thinking or false belief. Consider it part of your personal journey to see them for what they are - thoughts. Be curious and understand them. Through understanding you can get to the root of the doubt and reframe your belief around them. Then it will eventually lose their hold on you. I use a journal to put my doubts on paper so I can see them for what they are. Then I can begin to question them. “Is this real? Is this what I believe to be true?” Then turn it around and ask yourself, “What could I manifest, if I didn't have this doubt in my way?”
Remember Your Purpose
Reacquaint yourself with your long-term goals, short-term goals, or your higher purpose. Remind yourself why you're on this particular journey. Connect with what you've committed to as your contribution to your work, your people, and your tribes. Embrace the impact you're manifesting through what it is you're doing. This becomes your source of inspiration that will put you back on your path.
Make a Plan
One way of overcoming doubt is through a succession of quick wins. Short-term achievements build momentum and more importantly, confidence, faith and trust in yourself. Create a list of short-term goals. They can be hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. Keep them short and sweet. And find yourself a business coach, a friend or a peer who can keep you accountable for your plan.
One Task At A Time
Tackle an action item each day. And as your doubt loses its grip on you, take on a bit more. Work till the action item is complete in full before you begin the next one. Track your results in a journal. Get feedback from your peers, customers, and friends. And keep moving forward.
Overcoming doubt is very possible. It will take some practice, discipline and commitment. And be compassionate with yourself. You're only human. Fear and doubt are normal occurrences for even the best of us. So, be patient. Stay curious. Remain steadfast to what it is you wish to create for you and the lives of your people.
Charles Sue-Wah-Sing is a change agent and leadership coach with WAY. WAY empowers business leaders, entrepreneurs and their organizations to navigate change with purpose, trust, and courage. Visit ww.agentsofway.com for more information.