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Beyond a doubt

I subscribe to the Jim Rohn newsletter. Recently, I received an excellent article called “Facing the Enemies Within.” It lists ways of thinking that are enemies of our efforts to succeed. One of them is doubt:

Sure, there’s room for healthy skepticism. You can’t believe everything. But you also can’t let doubt take over. Many people doubt the past, doubt the future, doubt each other, doubt the government, doubt the possibilities and doubt the opportunities. Worst of all, they doubt themselves. I’m telling you, doubt will destroy your life and your chances of success. It will empty both your bank account and your heart. Doubt is an enemy. Go after it. Get rid of it.

This article came at the right time, because self-doubt is the source of many of my problems.

As I described in my myrtle tree story, I’ve been struggling with a number of problems during the first months of this year. Problems bring up a number of emotions — frustration, anger, and fear — but the worst of these is doubt. We don’t just feel upset about the problem. We don’t just feel powerless to solve it. Doubt makes us feel that we don’t deserve to solve it. We feel that the problem came from an inherent flaw within us, even if it came from circumstances beyond our control.

The most corrosive aspect of doubt is that feeds on itself. Legitimate questions about a problem turn into doubts about ourselves. We go from saying “my plans failed” to “I failed” to “I am a failure.” We find ourselves in a downward spiral that leads to paralysis and despair. This is why doubt is so destructive.

Such an attitude is not only harmful, it’s useless. Life is about learning, and if we feel too down on ourselves, we stifle any efforts to learn and grow.

So, what are the antidotes for self-doubt? The Jim Rohn newsletter offered a few suggestions.

First, we have to gain some objectivity. We need to step out of the muck of self-pity and see the situation as it is. If you can’t do it yourself, ask somebody else to give you the proper perspective. Rohn suggests some problem-solving techniques:

To solve any problem, there are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, whom could I ask?

The real problem is usually two or three questions deep. If you want to go after someone’s problem, be aware that most people aren’t going to reveal what the real problem is after the first question.

Then, we need to remind ourselves of the good things we have done and are still capable of doing. This gives us the confidence to solve problems again. The newsletter offered this quote from Bob Proctor:

[K]eep reminding yourself that you have tremendous reservoirs of potential within you, and therefore you are quite capable of doing anything you set your mind to. All you must do is figure out how you can do it, not whether or not you can. And once you have made your mind up to do it, it’s amazing how your mind begins to figure out how.

As we gain some perspective and rebuild our confidence, we can develop the courage we need to reclaim ourselves from self-doubt. Rohn urges us:

Do battle with the enemy. Do battle with your fears. Build your courage to fight what’s holding you back, what’s keeping you from your goals and dreams. Be courageous in your life and in your pursuit of the things you want and the person you want to become.

We try not to let setbacks overwhelm us, but they do. We feel, so we doubt. But we can’t let those feelings trap us forever. This is why I was grateful for receiving the Jim Rohn newsletter when I did. It reminded me that we can’t let momentary setbacks doom us to lives of failure. We need to do battle with the thoughts that limit us, especially self-doubt.

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