Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. -Henry David Thoreau (paraphrased)
Here in the southern United States, there’s a plant called kudzu. Legend has it that kudzu was brought over from Japan to help farmers stop soil erosion.
The problem is that the southern environment is perfect for kudzu, so much so that the vines grow as much as a foot each night during the summer. If it’s not maintained – and in many areas it’s not – kudzu can completely engulf an area of land, covering trees, houses, and anything else in its path.
Doubt is like kudzu.
Doubt is one of the biggest enemies of success. Doubt tells us that we can’t reach our goals, that our dreams are unattainable, that we don’t have what it takes to succeed.
Doubt tells us to settle for a life that’s less than what we desire, to remain complacent even though we’re capable of achieving much more, to bury our talents rather than sharing them with the world.
You can prevent doubt from suffocating your dreams and here are 14 ways to do it.
Let the success of others motivate, not discourage you.
Comparison is the thief of joy, said someone (some attribute the quote to Theodore Roosevelt and others say that is misattributed).
It’s almost impossible not to notice what those around you have accomplished, especially in the social media age. It’s ok to see what people around you are doing, but don’t use it to put yourself down or beat yourself up about where you are in life. Instead, use it as inspiration and motivation to set your own goals and work toward them.
Stop trying not to compare.
I think it’s unreasonable to expect that you’ll never compare yourself to anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with making a simple comparison between what you and the next person has achieved. What matters most is the conclusion you make from that comparison.
You can think to yourself, “Sam has achieved so much more in life than I have. He has such great charisma and charm. I’ll never be able to achieve as much as he has because I’m just too shy.” Or you can think, “It’s amazing that Sam has accomplished so much. I bet I can achieve similar results if I work as hard as he did.”
Don’t get caught up in the (wrong) details.
Focus on the things that matter. I’ve gone through cycles of blog ideas, but I sit on them for so long because I can’t think of the right domain name. I can’t find the right theme. And weeks go by before I can make a decision when those aren’t even the things that make great blogs. It’s the content and the writer that makes a great blog.
Realize the amount of control you have in your success.
Success comes to those who work for it, who are prepared for the opportunities when they come, and who can work through hurdles efficiently.
Sure, things happen in all our lives that can make success – at least our definition of success – more difficult to achieve. How you respond to those events is what will keep you where you are or propel you forward.
You can’t always control the things that happen to you, but you absolutely can control how you respond to it.
Stop worrying about the possibility of failure.
The only way you truly fail is by giving into your self-doubt and not trying at all. Worrying doesn’t prevent failure, it just prevents you from trying.
No matter what you try to achieve, there will be obstacles, roadblocks, and setbacks. Learn from your failures and use the lessons to climb another rung on the ladder to success.
Remember that even the most successful people started somewhere.
We seldom have the opportunity to follow a successful person from the very beginning of their journey. We see them once they’ve already reached success and that vantage point is deceptive.
Some of the biggest websites, mobile apps, and other technology started in a garage. Famous singers got started singing to thin crowds in empty dive bars. Many of the top bloggers started with only their mom reading their blogs. Even real estate mogul Donald Trump started out with a measly $1 million loan from his father.
Recognize that success doesn’t look the same for everyone.
Don’t define success by what another person has achieved. Define success in your own terms and be ok with how you’ve defined success. Your final destination won’t be the same as any other person’s and neither will your journey.
You can certainly borrow from the experiences of others. Learn what worked and didn’t work for them. You’ll have to tailor even those experiences to fit your unique circumstances.
Stop trying to perfect it.
Perfection is unattainable. It doesn’t exist. If you’re trying to get it perfect, you’ll always end up discouraged.
Get started. Continue to improve your process as you go along, but don’t be crippled by a desire to release a perfect product, give the perfect keynote speech, write the perfect blog post. There is no such thing as perfect.
Stop overthinking it.
Negative thoughts can avalanche and paralyze you, leaving you unable to take action on the things you want to accomplish. Stop mulling over every single thing ad nauseum. Make a decision and commit to it. If it doesn’t work out, revise your plan and keep going.
Focus on the things that inspire you.
Think about your goal and dreams, the things you want to accomplish for yourself and for your family. Imagine the results of your hard work…
…a single mother reading something you’ve written and saying that you changed her life
…a small businessman struggling to maintain sales and having his business 180 after consulting with you,
…your kids one day saying how proud they are of how hard you worked to accomplish your goals.
Be inspired and stay inspired.
Remember that no one’s criticism is harsher than your own.
No matter what anyone says about you and what you’re trying to accomplish, nothing they can be any worse than the things you’ve said to yourself when you’re in the bowels of self-doubt.
If you can shake off your own criticism and forge ahead, you can get over anything that anyone else can say about you.
Read positive books, think positive, surround yourself with positive.
Proverbs 23:7 says “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” If you fill your heart (and mind) with negative thoughts of self-doubt, you’ll be a negative, self-doubting person. But if you focus on things that are positive and believe in your ability to achieve, you’ll do that.
For non-Bible believers, a similar quote from Buddha “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” And from the Dalai Lama, “In order to carry a positive action we must develop a positive vision.”
If you do a search for quotes on positive thinking, you’ll see the great writers, thinkers, philosophers, and entrepreneurs repeatedly say focus on the positive.
Think of everything you’ve already accomplished.
Did you finish college? That’s a feat on it’s own. If you graduated high school, you accomplished more than many people. If you got a GED, it shows dedication to a goal that many people would have given up on.
Instead of focusing on what you haven’t achieved, give yourself credit for the things you have accomplished. It takes hard work to reach any goal and to have achieved what may seem like the smallest objectives shows that you have what it takes to do more.
Be The Little Engine That Could.
It’s one of my least favorite children’s books to read – the sentences are wordy and underpunctuated – but the story of The Little Engine That Could is so motivational, despite it being fiction.
When the toys and dolls needed to get over the hill to the boys and girls and no other engine could or would bother to take them, the little blue engine saved the day by repeating a mantra “I think I can.”
When you’re faced with a task that’s more difficult than you expected or your goals seem so far out of reach, don’t focus on the difficulty, focus on your potential. Believe that you can. Squash the seeds of self-doubt before they have a chance to bloom and work toward the things you want to achieve.