Getting Past Doubt.

Doubt is paralyzing. It grabs you by the shoulders and says, “There is no way in hell you can keep this house, Cathy.” “There is no way in hell you can ride a bike for ten miles.” “There is no way in hell you can run in a marathon.” It’s the super glue that suddenly holds your shoes to the ground. It’s the snooze button on your alarm that keeps you from the training run. It’s the second, third and fourth chocolate chip cookie that keeps you on the couch, instead of calling the mortgage company. Doubt is insidious and pervasive. It’s the devil’s advocate running amok in our head. You and I both need to shut it down.

I have struggled with self-doubt my entire life. My bet is that you have it as well. The thought that only the people who were blessed with magical powers; the chosen few who can actually achieve their dreams. But as I sit here, almost 57, I have overcome that nasty self-doubt and when I really reflect, I am pretty fortunate and, dare I say, happy.


Here are the secrets to getting past doubt:

  • The Rule of 10-10-10. I have used this in coaching. Suzy Welch wrote on this in her book of the same title. When you are faced with a decision, look at the ramifications for each way in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years. So, in a major decision like holding onto your house or foreclosure, it’s important to follow the process. In 10 minutes, either holding onto the house or letting it go is devastating. In 10 months, the credit implications of walking away could be catastrophic but the financial burden of staying could be paralyzing. In 10 years, the equity in the house could be a financial boom and the credit fiasco would be a long-ago memory. When faced with doubt in a big decision, be sure to look at the long-term ramifications.


  • Notice that you’re alright right now. This is from Rick Hanson.  Our negative biased brain wants to look for negative meaning in everything around us. So that rustle in the bushes is a venomous snake instead of an innocent bird. Doubt is partially built on this same negative brain bias. Thoughts of I am too old; too fat; too slow start to paralyze our forward momentum. In reality. If you take stock. You are alright, right now. I say this because if you are reading this post, you aren’t on a sinking ship or in a burning building. I have shoes on my feet, a roof over my head and, thank goodness, a good WiFi connection.


  • Take stock. It is so easy to dwell on what is not going right instead of what is going well. Take stock of your accomplishments. This does not mean you are a narcissist. It means that you can take ownership of what you have done. I’ve lived on both coasts. I’ve traveled to South America and Europe. I can speak Spanish reasonably well and I bake a damn good loaf of bread. I have two fantastic kids who I raised through some pretty rough transitions in my life. Most importantly, I’ve made a difference in many people’s lives through my coaching and facilitation. There are several people out there who started running in 5k’s and half marathons because of me. That is incredibly gratifying. Taking stock keeps doubt at bay.


  • Be mindful. I’ve written about my daily meditation practice from the Art of Living. It keeps me grounded in my breath. I believe I am more present because of the practice. It’s not easy but I try to be in the present moment and not anticipating tomorrow or dredging up the past. I have recently started swimming laps. Swimming laps takes away all the distractions. There is no iPhone, no television, no music, no conversation, or mindless eating. All you have is your body, the water and your breath. I’m not thinking about my grocery list or if my daughter will call or about last night’s failed meatloaf. I’m not dwelling on doubting my abilities or skills. I am in the present moment. Whether it’s mediation, swimming, yoga or a walk, find a way to get present. It keeps the doubts at bay.


  • Yes and. This is the rule of thumb for improvisational comedy. It’s also a great way to brainstorm. So instead of saying, “No” or “Yes, but…”, you are keeping your options open. So if I am doubting I can keep my house out of foreclosure, I say, “Yes, and I can rent out a few rooms,” or “Yes, and I can get a second job,” or “Yes, and I can run a cooking class out of my kitchen.” It makes everything possible instead of impossible. It keeps your doubts under wraps.

I have not perfected this and there are times that when I get a phone message from my attorney or boss that I immediately assume the worst. But almost immediately, I take a moment to reframe the situation and wait for more data before jumping to catastrophic conclusions. Doubt is nothing but fear rearing its ugly head. You may have a small lapse but keep moving on.

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