Battling the Twin Enemies of Doubt and Distraction
“Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” – Henry Ford
Of all the self-defeating habits that steal our happiness and kill our chances to reach our dreams, I have come to believe that the two biggest culprits are doubt and distraction.
Doubt and distraction. Call them the dream killers.
It’s not that we lack dreams. Most everyone I know has things they’d like to do with their lives – things that have been in their hearts since they were young.
For me, it has been to write stories and poems that stir people’s hearts. For you, perhaps it is to run for political office. To learn a language. To travel the world. To be the CEO of a big company. To become a chef and cook amazing soufflés.
These dreams help give our life passion and purpose. They get us out of bed in the morning. They get us to go to school and study and get jobs and venture out into the world to make our mark.
But then we hit a thing by the name of failure. Our novel gets rejected. We lose a run for an office. We don’t get the promotion we were hoping for. Someone tells us our soufflés are lousy.
Doubt creeps in. We question ourselves. Am I good enough to do this? Am I smart enough? Talented enough?
We start comparing ourselves to others. Look at that other guy over here. He’s smarter than I am. More talented. More connected. Better looking. No wonder he became a successful novelist, CEO, politician, a chef – whatever.
When I got into the corporate world at the age of 27, I was terribly anxious. There I was, editing NPAs (new product announcements) for a big public technology company, being introduced to people with fancy titles and big offices, when I didn’t know a darn thing about corporate life or technology or even what an NPA was supposed to do.
I believed, at that time, that the people in those big offices were smarter than me. A different breed of person. They had to be, to have such big titles and be making so much money.
It took me a while to realize that these bigwigs weren’t any smarter or more competent than me. They were just more confident and more determined.
The same is true across all professions and disciplines. Are the best-selling novelists the most talented writers out there? No. They’re just very determined and very good at promoting themselves and connecting with audiences.
Conversely, do the best writers become the most successful? Not if they don’t believe in themselves and get their work out there in front of people.
Doubt is a poison. Once we allow it into our thinking, it spreads. We not only doubt ourselves and our capabilities. We begin to doubt our dreams. Maybe that’s not what I really want. Maybe that’s not a realistic dream. Maybe I’m wasting my time.
Into that fertile ground of Doubt marches his twin brother Distraction.
Distraction is every bit as pernicious as Doubt. Maybe even more pernicious, because while Doubt says maybe I’m wasting my time, Distraction says I have plenty of ways to waste time – let’s do it.
Distraction is what happens when we doubt ourselves. We’re not fully committed to our dreams because deep down inside we don’t believe we can achieve them.
So instead of taking action on our dreams, we lose focus and turn our attention to other things instead. Our smartphones. Facebook. The football game on television. The newest episode of Game of Thrones.
Doubt and distraction feed on each other. We allow ourselves to get distracted because we doubt ourselves. We then doubt ourselves even more because we haven’t accomplished anything.
Distraction is dangerous because dreams, like plants, require lots of care and attention to bloom. Lose focus on them and before you know, they’re dried up and dead.
Distraction is dangerous, too, because there are so many opportunities to be distracted in today’s always-online world. The average American today spends nearly five hours a day on his phone, and nearly an hour a day on Facebook.
Unless your dream is to be on your phone checking Facebook, all that time isn’t getting you closer to your dreams.
The antidotes to Doubt and Distraction are Belief and Action.
Believe in yourself. Believe in your unique gifts and talents. Believe in your dreams.
Believe you have what it takes to achieve your dreams. Believe fiercely, because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.
Then create a game plan to achieve your dreams, and take action.
Thoreau wrote: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
I love that quote. I try to live by it.
Now, back to that novel of mine …