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5 Ways to Stop Self Doubt in its Tracks

5 Ways to Stop Self Doubt in its Tracks

Self-doubt is a killer.  Pure and simple, but when faced with one of the most deadliest of dream killers,  once you learn of its intent, understand its nature and where it thrives, you can stop self-doubt dead in its tracks before it can kill again.

Personally, I suffer from self-doubt very often, but then again, so do most people.  It seems the more creative you are, the more it appears!  For example, even as I begin to write this post I wonder; will it be read? Will it be interesting enough? Will I even like it?  However, the difference between my self-doubt and self-doubt of others is I have begun to understand that it will crop up from time to time and to accept it. The clue is however, in how you deal with it.

Learning to understand that self-doubt will always be hiding behind a door somewhere, ready to pounce (usually at the most inconvenient of times), is half the battle.  As long as you can remember the reasons why it does that, to remind you that what you are trying to do actually matters, you’ll learn to harness it and use it to propel yourself into action!

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With this in mind, here are 5 ways to stop self doubt in its tracks.

Whatever you are thinking, doesn’t mean it’s true!

Self-doubt will tell you, in its sweet little voice, things like, ‘you know you’re not good enough, so why even try?’ or ‘what are you doing, they are going to laugh at you’ with each thought, grinding away at your confidence, until you make a choice, to either believe it and do nothing or listen and decide to do it anyway!

It’s all about whether you believe your self-doubting thoughts or not.  Obviously, the easiest option is to give in and quit.  The better option would be is to hear it, understand that it’s there as a test and keep moving forward.  If you see it as a gift, rather than something bad, you’ll go far.

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Get some fresh air!

When you’re plagued with those self-doubting thoughts, rather than try to battle on, head out somewhere and tune out for a bit. This works for me! I normally grab the dog and go out for a walk.  I’ll breathe slowly, take in my surroundings and remember what’s important right now, which is to be present and relaxed.

Getting out and about in nature brings you back to a quieter state of mind and opens up your thinking for a few minutes.  It’s when you look around and actually notice the trees, the sky, the birds or whatever you might be surrounded by, you can provides your mind with the necessary space to unwind and get back to the present moment.

Turn to others for support

This is so important and can be anyone as long as it’s someone who understands you and knows where you are coming from, like a close friend, or a mastermind group, or even your therapist.  If you can reach out to someone from time to time, just to get you back up and on your feet again, is great, just as long as you don’t rely on them to do this all the time.  Remember, you are responsible for your own life and choices.

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I work from home with only my dog for company, if I’m not careful, I can sometimes not speak to a single soul for days, this is when self-doubt can run amok!  Luckily, I am involved in a mastermind group with 3 other entrepreneurs, whom I hook up with weekly to go through issues and problems, but to also share successes and achievements.  This is my sanctuary and without it, I’d probably be carted off somewhere by men in white coats! It’s so important and good for the soul to connect with those who support and encourage, so try to do it as often as you can.

Focus on the ‘why’ rather than’how’

When I have doubts, it’s normally centered on my business and whether I think I can ‘make it’ or not.  I have days where the self-doubt creeps in and out, whilst other days I have none whatsoever!

When I have one of ‘those days’ I reflect on why I am doing what I am doing, where I want to be and the core reason for getting up at 6:00 a.m. every morning to write.  This is my purpose in life and the reason why I am here.

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However, if I focus on the ‘how,’ I’ll get bogged down with thoughts of ‘how will I be able to get this done?’ and ‘how long will I have to wait until I can really make this pay off?’  When you remember that the ‘why’’ gives you a sense of purpose, the ‘how’ will just fade away as you’ll have utter faith that they’ll take care of themselves.

Take action and create!

Self-doubt can come up for many different reasons, it’ll normally appear just at the time you are about to make a decision or about to start something new.  For me, it’s when I am doing something out of my comfort zone like writing or creating.

When this happens it is important to do it anyway, to take action in-spite of the self-doubt. It’s the work and the action that’s the vital part in this story. As long as you continue to create and move forward, it’ll give you the ammunition, not to stop the self-doubt, but to stop the self-doubt from stopping you!

Now you have the necessary tools, when self-doubt rear its ugly head for you.  Are you going to let it stop you from taking action or are you going to push on through?

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Paula Lawes

Paula loves people and connecting. She writes about communication and relationships tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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