Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Doubts have an important function.
They help us survive by keeping us clear of risky situations.
When we start doing something outside of our usual programming the brain turns on the switch meant to deter us from danger.
That switch turns on things we have a hard time not noticing.
Sometimes we doubt ourselves.
Or whether the effort is worth it.
Or whether our plan will actually get us where we want to go.
And so we slowly slip back into "safe" behaviors.
Like the Benadryl people give their kids before a long trip to Grandma's. (Or my passenger-seat stressing husband before I drive through LA traffic)
Sometimes we resist the urge to quit by using sheer will power to push into new behaviors.
Dang! That takes some serious effort!
Sometimes we distract from the doubts by ignoring them.
My son used to do this when we would raise a concern about him driving on the icy roads late at night with his friends. When we asked him if he knew what to do if he started slipping, or getting tired, or went off the road and he would just say, "I'm not going to wreck!"
(May I just note that this distraction method did precious little to decrease concern???)
Sometimes we react to the doubts without thinking.
We simply stop.
Stop trying, pursuing, hoping.
What if you can use those fears to help you move forward?
Like hacking the system and using the strongest programs to slip past the fear grid and get doing that thing you really want to do.
Something we can do is to listen to the doubts and fears.
What are they telling you?
Do they indicate that you don't believe you can do it?
Great! You now know deliberately where your work lies rather than defaulting to a dull loss of interest and motivation or fear.
Many times when we take the opportunity to genuinely look at what our fears are...they actually aren't that bad.
Okay...so maybe I'll be embarrassed.
You may deliberately decide it isn't worth it.
At least it is a choice rather than the result of a lack of awareness.
I used my doubts to figure out how to get up in the mountains by myself.
I felt the hugest desire to get up there above the clouds.
Snow, rain, sun, I didn't care.
The backcountry just called to me.
But I was afraid of wild animals, getting lost, and freezing to death.
At first I reacted to it by getting mad at anyone who wouldn't go with me.
Then I considered bagging the whole idea.
I wondered if taking walks on the trails would do it.
And so I began analyzing my doubts one by one.
How do people who stay overnight in the winter in the mountains do it?
On my days off I would drop my kids off at school while wearing my winter hikers and my backpack stowed in the trunk.
I would hike up a little ways and try to make a fire.
Pack it up, pick the kids up, and research what worked and what didn't.
Next time I would hike a little higher and try to set up a tent and start a fire using different materials around me.
And then I would get back in time to pick my kids up, and research what worked and what didn't.
As I worked my way through, my doubts helped me know where I needed to focus.
"What if I get lost?" My mind would whisper in an attempt to stay home and read by the fire instead of pack up my snowshoes for a chilly day on the mountain.
And so I researched how to use orienteering and bought a compass.
Throughout the trial and error process I tried so many things.
I talked to so many people.
I asked random strangers in the sauna at the gym how to start a fire in the snow.
I asked men dressed in camo in the bleachers at my son's wrestling meets if they could help me identify the animal tracks I had taken pictures with o