Four Ways Your Self Doubt Can Be Productively Utilized

Assuming your worries don’t balloon into a full-blown crisis of confidence, you can use those feelings of self-doubt as fuel. Here are four reasons why your questions can lead to breakthroughs.

1. You’ll produce better work.

Doubts typically send us back to the drawing board — or the spreadsheet. Assessing our work through a clear, objective eye will inevitably strengthen the finished product. It’s good to poke holes in a concept or to approach an idea from a new angle. Just be sure to create parameters. Set a deadline or a threshold and stick to it. For example, once you’ve done five revisions on your business plan, it’s time to share it with someone you trust.

As psychologist Alice Boyes wrote in The Healthy Mind Toolkit: “I need both periods of self-confidence and self-doubt to create my best work. Both of these states help me in different ways. Sometimes I need confidence to crank out work or take charge of a situation. On the flipside, sometimes I need self-doubt to propel me to examine where might have blind spots and to motivate the effort involved in correcting these.”

2. You’ll know when to seek help.

Great work is rarely produced in a vacuum, and doubt often leads us to ask for help, advice or support. Other people can ease our worries or offer an alternative we hadn’t considered. Of course, there’s a fine line between seeking constant validation and consulting with someone whose perspective you value. Assess why you’re asking, and if the answer has little to do with your personal worth, asking for help is probably the right call.

3. You’ll pursue concrete goals.

The doubts I faced while building my company pushed me to create real targets. I knew the business wouldn’t thrive until I could focus all my time and energy on it. So, I set a “quit by” date. I pushed it out a few times, but I always knew I’d get there. Even though it might feel counterintuitive, questions and doubts can propel us to the finish line. The flipside of doubt is belief, and doing the work to quash your doubts will reinforce your belief that a big goal is achievable.

4. You’ll consider Plan B — and C, D and E.

Asking good questions is the only way to find alternatives. If you’re concerned a marketing strategy won’t cut it, that nagging worry will inspire you to find more options. Doubt can stoke our creative fires, as long as we make sure the blaze doesn’t get out of control. Again, establish limits. Whether it’s a timeline, a specific number of alternatives or an objective data threshold, find ways to ensure your doubt can’t climb into the driver’s seat.

From Self-Doubt to Self-Awareness

Success requires that we repeatedly ask questions of ourselves. When we harness the best elements of self-doubt, it becomes a powerful tool for self-awareness. Bill Gates famously established Think Weeks: seven days when he stepped away from the chaos of running Microsoft and took time to dream, read, plan and, most importantly, think. I highly recommend this approach. It’s an amazing way for founders and entrepreneurs to go deep into their ideas and, yes, their doubts.


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Written by MT


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