Self doubt. No one is immune to it. New mothers feel it when they first realize the enormous responsibility associated with raising a child. Sales people feel it when the boss hands them their new yearly quota that is significantly higher than last years. Athletes feel it when they have to compete against a formidable adversary. It hits us when we look at a huge debt load that we are struggling to pay off.
Usually associated with some kind of personal challenge, self-doubt saps our energy and can even paralyze us from moving forward. Add to this all the other unexpected challenges that come along and it’s easy to understand how at times we can feel so overwhelmed.
Suppose you had been alive two or three hundred years ago living on the North American East Coast. You might have been amongst those who had a dream of finding a plot of land you could settle and call home. Like many pioneers back then, with little or no idea of what lay ahead, you would have bravely set off on a great adventure to the West Coast where land was abundant and the coastline was rumored to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.
And so off you went on your journey. Along the way, you would have encountered countless unexpected challenges. You would have run into the indigenous people of the land who took issue with you trespassing on their territory. If you had chosen to take a southern route through Colorado, you would have eventually encountered the Grand Canyon, only to wonder how the heck you were going to get your wagons across it. A northern route and you would have run head first into some enormous mountains called the Rockies. Raging rivers, rattlesnakes, scorpions, cougars and bears would have been other obstacles you might encounter.
Last week I was surfing through some of the more popular blogs and websites. I do this to get an idea of what is working for them and how I can improve this site. You see, I have a dream and a vision. It’s called having a high quality website that provides encouragement and helpful advice to its readers. For starters, it will have traffic of one million hits a month or two to three thousand unique page views per day. I firmly believe that I will accomplish this goal and more.
Despite that firm belief, as I surfed and looked at some of the successful sites, self-doubt hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like a pioneer might have felt after traveling many hundreds of miles only to run into the Grand Canyon. “How will I ever get that much traffic? Why would people want to read what I write? Is my vision really a delusion in disguise? Maybe I should just stop right here.”
Try to imagine just how populated the Grand Canyon would be if every pioneer that ran across it ended his or her journey right there and then!
Inner dialog of this nature does not help. I decided to take some of my own advice and look after the little things. I also went outside and did a bit of gardening. While I did this, I was able to change my perception.
You see, the Grand Canyon is actually a beautiful sight. To get past it simply requires a long walk, albeit an unexpected one! Step by step, we find a way to cross it and if we ‘choose’ to, we can enjoy the walk and enjoy the view. Those successful web sites don’t have to be seen as intimidating. Rather they can be a source of inspiration. They are after all the realization of someone else’s dream and proof of what is possible.
My vision will not happen overnight. It will take work and a commitment to excellence. Little by little, it will develop and become something special. I know I will run into some obstacles and have to make some unexpected turns or perhaps even modify the vision a bit. I know that I won’t always get encouraging feedback, but that’s OK. My vision isn’t about being encouraged. It’s about being an encouragement. All of that said, please never hesitate to send me feedback!
Whatever your challenges may be, you can overcome them. New mothers need to realize that billions of mothers before them have successfully raised children and they can too. Sales people need to understand that millions of other sales people also face a new quota and are probably experiencing the same reservations. It is simply a new mountain to climb. You have climbed many before and you will climb this one too. Athletes should learn from their most notable competitors and be inspired by them, not demoralized. People faced with insurmountable debts need to realize that they are not the only ones facing these difficulties and that even if they face bankruptcy, they will have only lost a battle, not the war. Tomorrow is always full of new possibilities!
If you have reached the Grand Canyon equivalent of your challenges and you don’t have the strength to go further because of self-doubt, then stop right where you are, pitch a tent and rest. Reflect on your journey so far and the many challenges you have already successfully embraced. Breathe in the air, take in the view and learn from it. In your minds eye, see yourself at your destination. As your strength returns, pack up your tent and keep driving ahead.
Even the most confident people have moments of self-doubt. Great public speakers and accomplished musicians still experience apprehension before a performance. I have heard them say that the day they don’t feel the apprehension is the day they will really start to worry! Over confidence can be very destructive.
I think that perhaps self-doubt is a mechanism that is wired into us so that we don’t become over confident. Stress is similar. In a fight or flight situation, stress triggers the release of hormones like adrenaline. This enhances our strength and focus, increasing our chances of survival. Of course, staying in a stressed state is very unhealthy. Likewise, staying in a mode of self-doubt is detrimental to our well-being. However, if it serves to give us sufficient pause to better assess where we are going and ensure our preparedness, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing. If we are attentive students, it can be very instructive. Learn from it and move forward.
Always bear in mind that while the destination may be your vision, the journey is where you will spend a great portion of your time. I believe that finding happiness in the journey is one of the great lessons we must learn in this life. If you are relying on the destination to provide you with that happiness, you will ultimately be disappointed and often feel the sting of self-doubt.
Feature Photo: Grand Canyon 1999 Chrisholtphotos.com
Originally posted at synaptici.com May 2, 2009