Here you are. A couple of weeks into 2019. You started off strong, ramped up, excited about what the year would bring. You had a couple of good weeks but now notice your energy starting to shift. You’re not following through as quickly as you’d like. You’re getting distracted. You’re procrastinating. You’re binge-watching Netflix again and that new year’s goal or resolution is feeling like a faded and distant dream you’re struggling to remember.
New year’s resolution, say hello to “doubt.”
Many great religious or spiritual tradition speak about the perils of doubt. In Christianity, there is doubting Thomas and in the Hindu tradition, the Bhagavad Gita speaks to the doubt Arjuna encountered on the way to fulfilling his dharma (path, vocation). The entire 18 chapters of the book is devoted to his wrestling with doubt, a “paralyzing affliction,” that has him flip-flopping between both sides of his Dharmic dilemma and unable to commit to either of them.
Doubt is paralyzing. Doubt is what keeps us stuck.
For women in particular, our minds are especially prone to rumination, worry, fear and doubt. It often shows up as perfectionism, second-guessing, procrastination, and other behaviours and thought patterns that keep us in states of inaction and away from our boldest dreams and truest selves.
Doubt is a waste of time and emotion.
Doubt brings you down a rabbit hole you don’t have time for. I’ve spent months and years down that hole. Because of my strong commitment to what’s important to me I’ve become better at dealing with doubt but still have moments where I’ll lose hours or days to uncertainty and fear.
Now it’s mostly just a pesky annoyance, like a persistent fly I can swat away. It comes back but it no longer overwhelms me. I see it as a distraction I don’t have time for. I’m committed to the path I’m on. Why would I waste time taking a side road that leads nowhere?
So how can you develop tools that help you deal with doubt and keep you on the path of what you care most about?
7 Ways to Deal with Doubt
#1: Know that doubt is a normal. There is a reason why religions and spiritual traditions talk about doubt. It’s part of the human condition. The bigger your new year’s resolution, dream or vision and the more you have to step out of your comfort zone to execute it, the louder the voice of doubt will become.
#2: Understand the role of doubt. Doubt is there to protect you. Doubt speaks directly from that lizard-brain part of you to the part of you that longs for safety and security. You can think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Often the road that leads to self-actualization (level 5) contradicts our needs for emotional safety and belonging (level 3). As we take steps towards what fulfills us, we are leaving and challenging the social connections, beliefs and conditioned tendencies that have supported us. And that brings up doubt and fear!
#3. Understand how your doubt shows up. Sometimes I don’t notice my fear-based thinking but I will catch my behaviour. I might start things and not finish them, procrastinate, do busy-work (then get resentful), or comfort eat. Watch your behaviours for clues on where you might be giving in to doubt. Scan this list of behaviours and see which ones apply to you.
#4. Make room for doubt along your path of goals, dreams and self-discovery! Maybe the voice of doubt eventually goes away but I’m not there yet. I’m encouraged by Liz Gilbert who, even after multiple writing successes, says fear (doubt) will always be along for the ride. Notice it’s there and visualize putting it in the back seat of your car. Doubt can speak up and voice it’s concerns but it doesn’t get to drive. To learn more about how your voice of doubt likes to speak to you, try this exercise here.
#5. Take an action. Doubt leads to hesitation and inaction. So taking an action, any action, is the quickest way to quell those fears. Get into the habit of taking daily action aligned with what you’re working towards. To support that habit try this journal here.
#6. Try fear setting with Tim Ferris. Sometimes there are valid concerns that come from doubt. Risks that need to be mitigated. Tim’s Fear Setting exercise will help you get clear.
#7. Connect daily with what you care about. Remind yourself daily of what’s important to you and why. If your connection with that is strong enough, it’s amazing what you’ll do to follow through. If this interests you, try this Heart-Sensing Meditation.
How does your doubt show up? How do you notice it? Please share what you’ve learned and what works for you!