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5 Ways to Stop Second Guessing Yourself

5 Ways to Stop Second Guessing Yourself

Decide: 5 ways to stop second guessing yourself

    Some years ago I remember standing in my kitchen, staring silently at my boxes of cereal, trying to decide which to have for breakfast.  Was it a Frostie’s morning, or was it more of an Oat Crunchie’s day?  Or maybe granola?  I stood there for 5 minutes, until – utterly frustrated – I marched out of the house and went without.

    Fortunately I’ve learned to make decisions more quickly and more easily now, and when I notice that second-guessing and doubting starting to kick in, I kick it right back.  So here are 5 ways to stop second-guessing or, of you prefer, 5 ways to make confident decisions.

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    1. Test them against your values.

    So many times we have to make decisions without a framework and no way to judge between two choices.  When faced with a tricky decision it’s often a good idea to line up your choices and ask “Which one of these most honours the things that mean the most to me?”

    The decision that’s most in line with the things that mean the most to you – your core values – will be the best decision for you.  That might not be the simplest or most practical, but because it fits with who you are and what’s most important to you it will always be the best decision for you.

    2. Trust your gut.

    When I was growing up I used to love rainy Sunday afternoons watching Columbo, especially the bit at the end where he’d sidle up to the Bad Guy, say “Just one more thing” and then proceed to blow apart the bad guys alibi.  Just brilliant.

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    What Columbo had bundles of was a great trust in his intuition.  In every episode, from the very moment he first meets the bad guy, he knows ‘whodunnit’ – and he always trusts that.

    So look at what your intuition tells you is the ‘right’ decision for you.  Forget about all the “What if’s” and the myriad, tiny details – what is your gut telling you?  Listen to your intuition, it knows what it’s talking about.

    3. It just doesn’t matter.

    My decision between breakfast cereals wasn’t a biggie.  Whichever one I chose, there were never going to be any huge consequences and the ripples from that decision wouldn’t have been felt much further than the end of my spoon.  Sometimes it just doesn’t matter which way you go.

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    It’s easy to get wrapped up in second guessing yourself, going round in circles and over-complicating things, when – if you get right down to it – it just doesn’t matter. Going round in circles is only going to make you dizzy, so stop it.  Ask yourself this question – if your future happiness wasn’t dependent on your decision (and it isn’t, by the way), which way would you go?

    4. Have enough information.

    Go and get the facts before you make a complex decision.  By all means weigh up the pro’s and con’s so that you can get an understanding of what’s behind a choice.  But be careful – there’s a huge difference between knowing enough to make a choice, and knowing everything to make a choice.

    When you feel yourself pursuing every fact or every piece of information before you make a decision, stop yourself.  Ask “What do I really need to know to make this decision?” and focus your efforts on getting the best information relatively quickly, rather than pursuing all of the information you could get your hands on given a longer period of time.

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    5. Respect your doubts.

    We all naturally shy away from change, and we’ve developed a whole bunch of tricks that make it easy for us to avoid making decisions and stay exactly where we are.  That part of you is often called the “Gremlin”, and it’s the part of you that would rather avoid making decisions altogether rather than run the risk of making a bad one or screwing up.

    Your Gremlin is not the same thing as having doubts, which are valid concerns about a possible course of action, or reasonable concerns about what might be in store. Your doubts can help you prepare for change and get ready for what could happen.

    Your Gremlin is adept at feeding on your doubts and using them to get you to stay put, so knowing the difference between your Gremlin and your valid doubts helps you clarify what’s real and what’s imagined, what’s relevant and what’s irrelevant.

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    Steve Errey

    Steve is a confidence coach who helps leaders build confidence.

    New Years Resolutions Don’t Work – Here’s Why How to Be Confident: 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence 7 Ways to Stop Being Treated Like a Doormat I Like You a Lot How To Muster Your Confidence And Tell Someone You Like Them Stuck in Rewind. 7 Beliefs That Will Help When You Get Stuck

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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