** Revised and edited 2/21/2021
Are you willing to experiment? If so, read on. Think of something you really want – really really want – and then talk to yourself like this: Will I be embarrassed? Will I look dumb? Can I really do that? When will I find the time? It may not work out… I need to learn it first.
What did you discover? What happens to your motivation when you think of something you are dying to do, and then, that desire cues a monologue of questions and statements that leave you, well, dis-empowered and in doubt of yourself and abilities?
As some of you know, my mom passed away recently after a long battle with an illness, and as we were going through her personal effects, we found letters from an Italian artist. We had known that there was a time in her life when she was passionate about going to Italy. Back in the 1990’s, mom had immersed herself in everything Italian: She was learning Italian, cooking Italian, and filling her home with Italian art. Where did all of this interest come from? If you knew my mom, she was pretty coy about divulging that kind of information. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that it was a phase inspired by one of her best friends who happens to be Italian.
That explanation was not true.
Love, or the possibility of love, can make us want to do things we would not normally want to do. At the time, and for a couple of years after, mom was committed to going to Italy. But the longer she delayed the trip, the more she gave herself reasons not to go. Her passion for “all things Italian” waned until her books were covered in dust and her cooking reverted back to her normal fare.
Decades later, I am having a conversation with her about regret. When a person is faced with a life-ending illness, he or she can become more open about what matters most. So when I asked mom what her greatest regret was, she answered immediately, “Not going to Italy.”
When I asked her why she didn’t go, she told me that she was afraid. I probed a little bit more and asked, “What were you afraid of?”
She quietly said, “It not working out.”
At the time, I didn’t know that my mom was talking about a relationship. The risk she was referring to was more than just a “bucket list” trip. To mom, the doubt she faced was whether her “happily-ever-after” would materialize or would she become trapped in a horrible mistake? In the end, the stakes were just too high for her to act.
You can cue faith just like you can cue doubt. You do it by directing your focus with questions and statements about what is most important to you.A tester said this
What would you have done in her place? Go? Stay? There are still a lot of unanswered questions about this relationship, and who is to say whether her choice was the wrong one. The thing is, though, after all those years, she still regretted not going.
The key question to ask yourself is this, “How does doubt stop me from getting what I want?” That was the question I spent the week researching.
First, what exactly is doubt? Doubt is that midpoint between belief and disbelief where our “what-ifs” stop us from taking action in order to keep us safe. Great job, Big D, if our goal is security. Not so great job if our goal is to LIVE in capital letters.
Second, how do we cue doubt? We cue it by directing our focus through questions and statements on to what we believe is most important at that time. Doubt, it seems, serves our present need for security.
If you want to have more meaningful experiences to live a life without regret and to have a life that makes you excited and proud to call your own, then you have to put doubt where it belongs: on sheet of paper as you assess, and then, mitigate risk.
Below is a framework I use to put doubt in service for the life I want to lead. My hope is that it will help you, as well.
- Be clear about why you want that thing. Remember, the reason has to be greater than the pain you will have to go through to achieve it. Hence, you focus on what you want and why you want it.
- Understand the risks. This means, you list, on paper, all your doubts, fears, and challenges so you understand what you are up against. Notice I didn’t write “focus on them.”
- Decide whether to proceed. Are the risks worth it? This means COMMITMENT. RESOLUTION. A “NO TURNING BACK” kind of decision. You have to be all in to have extraordinary success. Is what you want worth the struggle of learning what it takes to get it?
- Mitigate the downsides. Now you need to handle the challenges as best as you possibly can. Your goal is NO REGRET.
- Believe in your ability to figure it out. Trusting yourself is the key to no regret AND to handling doubt. You were created with amazing abilities to bring what you imagine into reality. You are a steward of yourself, and as a steward, your goal isn’t to only to protect, but also, to serve what is in your best interests.
When you use this framework to redirect your focus from doubt to the right kind of action, you take back control of yourself and your life.
My wish for us all is that we can look back on our time here without regret. My mom can’t go to Italy now, but I can make sure the lesson she shared helps others to get where they want to go!
I believe in you and your ability to figure out the next right steps for you!
Thank you so much for reading and until next time,
With love and respect,