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It’s Good to Feel Stupid: 5 Thoughts on Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt

It’s Good to Feel Stupid: 5 Thoughts on Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt

I was lifting with the owner of my gym. She was doing clean and jerks. I was squatting. In between sets, I asked if she had ever competed in an Olympic weightlifting meet. “You should do one. They are a lot of fun and you’re definitely built to be a weightlifter.”

“That’s what everyone tells me, but I don’t know,” she responded. “Competitions make me kind of nervous. I just think: what if I miss this lift and all of these people see it?” Let’s pause for a moment.

Remember, this is someone who OWNS a gym. She misses lifts every single week and sees hundreds of other people do the same. And yet here she is, letting her fear of being judged prevent her from doing something that she’d like to do. This little conversation reminded me of why I hate “fear–based decision making” and got me thinking about the importance of overcoming fear. Let’s talk about how you can get past fear and self–doubt and do the things that you want to do.

Fear–Based Decision Making

Fear–based decision making is when you let your fears or worries dictate your actions (or, in most cases, your lack of action).

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For example…

  • “I’d love to visit Africa, but what if something bad happens while I’m there? I’ll go somewhere else instead.”
  • “I’d love to write a book, but what if people hate it? Maybe I should read more before I start writing.”
  • “I’d love to get in shape, but what if I look stupid at the gym? I need to lose some weight before I go.”

The unfortunate result is that you don’t do the things that you say are important to you. Just to be clear, I’ve made this mistake many times myself. In fact, for two years I came up with all sorts of reasons for why I shouldn’t start this very website. I’ve also come up with excuses for not building businesses, not starting projects, not applying to schools, not applying to jobs, and on and on.

In other words, this is a mistake that we all make. But, that doesn’t mean it’s alright to continue making it. After all of my mistakes, there are a few rules of thumb that I now try to keep in mind…

1. Don’t pick goals where the stakes are low.

When the gym owner chooses to avoid competition and only miss lifts in her home gym, it’s a way of keeping the stakes low. But failing in a safe zone is just a clever way of holding yourself back. If you fail inside your comfort zone, it’s not really failure, it’s just maintaining the status quo. If you never feel uncomfortable, then you’re never trying anything new.

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In other words, feeling stupid is a good thing.

2. Nobody is rooting for you to fail.

Maybe you’ll succeed. Maybe you’ll fail. For the most part, nobody cares one way or the other. This is a good thing! The world is big and you are small, and that means you can chase your dreams with little worry for what people think.

3. Just because you don’t like where you have to start from doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started.

I wish I was a better writer when I started writing. I wish I was a smarter entrepreneur when I started building businesses. I wish I was a better photographer when I picked up a camera. But more than anything, I’m glad I chose to start even though I wasn’t very good in the beginning. Feelings of fear and uncertainty have a way of making you feel unprepared.

  • “I should learn more before I take this test.”
  • “I should practice more before I compete.”
  • “I should get this degree before I start this business.”

Here’s a tough question that forces you to consider the opposite side: How long will you put off what you’re capable of doing just to maintain what you’re currently doing?

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4. Stop making uncertain things, certain.

Who says you’re going to fail? Just because someone else got rejected from that job doesn’t mean you will. Maybe the publisher hated your friend’s book, but that doesn’t mean they’ll hate yours. Maybe you tried to lose weight before, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lose it now.

You’re not destined to “miss that lift.” In fact, maybe you’re destined to succeed. Stop acting like failure is certain. It’s not.

5. The only real failure is not taking any action in the first place.

We all deal with feelings of fear, uncertainty, and vulnerability. And unfortunately, most of us let those feelings dictate our actions. For this reason, the simple decision to act is often enough to separate you from most people. You don’t need to be great at what you do, you just need to be the one person who actually decides to do it.

You can enjoy a lot of success by doing the things that most people make excuses to avoid.

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James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

Featured photo credit: Dave via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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