The Blog


May 23, 2006

How To Prevent Self Doubt

In an earlier article (How to Get Exactly What You Want), I talked about how important it was have a solid expectation that you will accomplish your goals, no matter how difficult they may seem at the moment. Some people call this confidence, but it’s really more accurately defined by the word “expectation.” I’ll explain in a moment.

This expectation of success is critical because if you allow self-doubt (the expectation of failure) to creep in, you erode your chances of actually taking action on a consistent basis. That lack of action, rather than any setbacks in particular, is what keeps you from making progress on your goals.

Life’s too short to let that happen, so let’s look at the reason people struggle with self-doubt and some quick steps you can take in the next ten minutes to make sure you don’t get derailed from the things you want to accomplish.

Where does self-doubt come from?
Well, it basically comes from two levels of negative expectation – first, an expectation that the goal itself might not be possible, and second from an expectation that even if the goal is possible, it likely won’t be possible for you in particular.

Everybody thinks thoughts like these to some level on a daily basis. Let’s focus an effective, two step process on how to defuse their power to create self-doubt in the first place.

Step 1 – Remind yourself that the goal itself is not impossible for someone to accomplish.

There’s a lot of silent “self-talk” that goes on in your head on a daily basis. There’s a part of you that looks at the unlimited possibilities in front of you … and then there’s that other part of you that tells you to be “reasonable,” that the bar is set too high, that the goal just isn’t really achievable.

Now, the problem most people face is that they aren’t even aware that this conversation is occurring. They’ll just go through the motions and wonder why sometimes they’re motivated to take action, and sometimes they aren’t. That may describe you (and I know that it has described me at many times in my life, so I’m speaking from personal experience here).

The key to preventing self-doubt, though, is to take immediate and total control of that conversation. To learn to actively listen in to the quality of conversation going on in your head and to take command when it’s not going the way it needs to be.

The way to start doing this is to decide to look at the situation objectively – that is, to take yourself out of the equation. Instead of thinking about what you can or can’t do, look at the goal and remind yourself that it isn’t impossible for a human being to accomplish. Surely someone on Earth could do it (or has done it already).

The way to make this work is to simply rehearse a statement that you can use to interrupt the pattern of thinking that’s holding you back from feeling 100% confident that you can achieve your goal. Let’s say that your goal is to become completely financially independent in the next 12 months.

While that can appear to be a daunting task to many, it’s certainly not imposible. People do it all the time. So perhaps your statement would be something like this: “It’s not impossible to become financially independent in 12 months or less. It’s been done over and over again.”

Now, why did I choose to say “It’s not impossible …” rather than the more positive sounding “It’s possible …”? The answer is because I don’t want to give you a chance to make excuses to use the word “but.” You see, we often think “Sure, it’s possible, but .”

When you say “It’s not impossible …”, you subtly prevent yourself from the opportunity to come up with a good excuse to doubt your ability to make it happen. You’re forced to admit that there’s not some immovable, unstoppable force that’s preventing you from ever accomplishing your goal. Your focus is on the fact that the potential exists, regardless of how you “feel” about it at any given time.

Don’t make the mistake of taking this step for granted, because it’s absolutely essential. The generalized beliefs you have about life – what’s possible and what isn’t – completely drive your actions on a day to day basis. Like a puppet’s strings, they dictate where you can go. So you have to be sure and get them right and never lose sight of the fact that you can do almost anything.

Sidebar: Just to clarify things, this isn’t positive thinking I’m talking about here. I’m not saying you’ll succeed because you’re saying “I think I can.” What I’m talking about is realistic thinking – focusing on facts, not emotions. Looking at things objectively. Taking the personal fear out of the picture and acknowledging your potential as a human being – not as the collection of skills and experiences you call “you.”

So to sum up this first step, you need to have a strong statement (or a set of them) that you can focus on to keep your mind firmly rooted in reality – the reality that your goal is by no means impossible. It may be hard, and it may demand more out of yourself than you’ve ever given, but it’s not impossible. In fact, with the right effort and strategies, it’s actually inevitable.
Once you’ve objectively framed the goal in your mind this way, and you are utterly convinced that your goal isn’t impossible to achieve, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Step 2 – Remind yourself that the goal itself is not impossible for you – in particular – to accomplish.

This is where a lot of people get in trouble. We say, “Sure, it’s possible, but not for me.” This is where we move into the magical world of excuses, where every obstacle seems permanent and much too hard to overcome. We view ourselves as relatively powerless to change the situation:

In reality, though, we have an enormous amount of power. When we focus on our limitations, whether it be time, money, talent, whatever – that’s when we hand that power over to the side of us that says “you just can’t do it.” That part of us that focuses on what we can’t do has a long list of all the reasons why we’re not up to the task, and it’s pretty hard to refute it. You know the feeling I’m talking about.

So the trick of it all is to turn the tables and create a solid list of all the reasons you can do it – and why you, in particular, are just the person to get it done. It’s not unlike writing a resume. When you want to apply for a new position, you think long and hard about how you are going to verbalize why you are more than qualified to do the job. You list your skills, your education, your resources, and most importantly, your experience and successes.

When you hand that resume to a hiring manager, your expectation is that they will look at it and say, “Wow, this person is just the one to get the job done.” You can create that same feeling of confidence by writing a resume for yourself.

To do this and do it right, you really need to set aside some time and do some hard thinking. You need to brag on yourself and remind yourself of all the skills you have that you’ve taken for granted. All the resources you have that you can leverage. All the experience you have that you can draw from.

There’s so much more than you acknowledge right now, because you’ve let the challenges of your goals turn your focus to your shortcomings and limitations. But now it’s time to strike back.

Now you have to actually do this.
This is the important part, if you really want to overcome self-doubt forever. You have to take this advice and actually put it into action. Read over this post and do the work, and you’ll start seeing results immediately. And if you don’t feel like doing it now, or you’re saying to yourself, “That may be possible for you, but it’s not for me,” book mark this post and read it every day. Eventually you’ll get fed up with the excuses and decide to take action.

When you do take action, please send me an email at and let me know how it’s working out. So don’t lose the momentum – go ahead and start working on this now. You’ll thank yourself for it.