Who doesn’t get uncomfortable with doubt? Yet, doubt can propel you forward…if you ask the right questions.
Doubt. Unsettling, isn’t it? Like a rock sewn into your shoe.
Yet, doubt’s embedded in your DNA. It evolved to be a strength. A trigger to pick up your head, look around, and consider if you’re using your time and energy effectively. If you’re engaging with other people productively.
You can use doubt to your benefit – but not if you let it shanghai you.
Derailing your self-trust.
Limiting your potential.
Putting you in a holding pattern.
You don’t have to let doubt keep you from achieving what’s most important to you. Through this 1-minute exercise, you can actually use doubt to drive you forward:
What are you doubting – specifically?
First ask, is what you’re feeling actually doubt? Fear and exhaustion can masquerade as doubt. So can being overwhelmed.
Consider, are you truly doubting ‘this’ person, project, or strategic decision? Or, do you simply need take a break and step away to regain focus? When you’re overextended and exhausted, you can lose perspective.
Tune in. Sit with your doubt. Pinpoint what’s actually giving you pause.
What do you need to better understand?
Doubt’s antidote is better information.
What can you get a better handle on? What feels slippery, shifting? Pinpoint it. Nail it down. Identify what’s bothering you and what you need to gain clarity.
Then – go after it.
Who can provide the support you need?
Perspective. Options. Choices. Who can give you these things – or direct you to someone who can? Consider who you can tap to help you think through alternative paths.
Reach out to that person, immediately. Don’t wait. Don’t bury the outreach on your to-do list. Just pick up the phone or shoot the email.
Give yourself permission to ask questions until you’re satisfied and you can feel your doubt transitioning to anticipation.
If you lost everything, what wouldn’t you lose?
Doubt can be a powerful motivator – if you continually ground yourself in what’s truly at risk.
My partner Dennis and I were just on a plane with an entrepreneur who’d built a multi-million dollar company from scratch. He’d continually taken bold steps. Talk about a case study in risk and trust.
Once we reached our destination, we met up again for dinner. We asked him, how do overcome your hesitation and embrace your doubts? To counteract his most stubborn doubts, he asked himself,
“What would happen if I literally lost everything? What wouldn’t I lose?
I’d still have my education.
My life experience.
My work ethic.
If every single investment decision failed, I’d still have all these gains. My connections. People who care about me. All my inner, intangible assets. Systematically going through this list helps me remember what’s most important.”
Perspective. Give yourself that gift.
…if the risks you’re taking don’t pan out;
…if your expectations aren’t met;
…if you find yourself let down;
…if you put everything on the line and lose it;
What wouldn’t you lose? What can never be taken away from you?
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.