The power of doubt

When you’re making your decisions on a day-to-day basis, how often do you:

Know you are right . . . . vs. wonder if you are wrong.

See from your own perspective . . . vs. see from someone else’s.

Feel certain you can make a deadline . . . vs. doubt if you can make it.

Know your work is excellent . . . vs. wonder if it is crap.

Denigrate those who disagree with you . . . vs. wonder if they have a point.

Feel like a leader . . . vs. feel like a follower.

Celebrate . . . vs. worry.

Know your group (marketers, iPhone users, Red Sox fans, gays, coders, Harvard grads, Democrats, Red Sox fans, Jews, white people) is the best . . . vs. try to stop thinking in groups.

We all live on this continuum every day. From the left side of these dichotomies comes our confidence — from the right comes our self-doubt. Egotists live on the left (and so did I, for a very long time). Those with imposter syndrome live on the right.

It took me a very long time to recognize that you want to live on the right between 10% and 20% of the time.

If you find yourself living too much on the left, recognize that no growth comes without doubt. Second-guess yourself occasionally. Listen to others and ask if they’re right. Make friends with someone different from you: different race, different religion, different department, different political beliefs. If you know your strengths, doubt can’t kill you, but blind faith in your own correctness can. Unless you expand your view of the world, you will stagnate.

If you find yourself living too much on the right, recognize that your experience matters. Remember all the things you did that turned out well — and how much you learned when they didn’t. Reflect on the high opinions others have of you; why not believe them? Glory in the work to keep the doubts at bay. And envy not the overconfident, for you can grow and learn while they cannot.

I’m right a lot more than I’m wrong . . . but not always. I’m confident much more than I doubt . . . but sometimes I wonder. How about you?

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One Comment

  1. I have always lived and breathed over on the right. Only doing, leading to excelling, leading to positive results and feedback have provided confidence. Too much self-doubt leads to hesitation – this I know from experience!