Doubt: The Number One Enemy of Growth and Progress


Have you ever dropped a project after devoting a considerable amount of time and energy to it? … Did you pick it up again later? … And did you drop it again? … Then decided to work on it again?

I’ve done it more times than I can remember.

The opposite is also true. I wanted to start so many things, but felt unprepared, or it wasn’t the right time.

Do you have things you want to do, but have been postponing because of uncertainty?

How about feeling that the people around you don’t care, or the world is against you?

Sometimes everything seems to add to our pain and struggle.

Underneath all of our desire to give up, our hesitation, or reserved feelings towards life and others rests one powerful emotion: Doubt.

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt” ~William Shakespeare

Doubt is:

The antitrust: It casts its dark shadow onto our intentions and actions. It can destroy our relationship with ourselves and others. Doubt distorts our perception and ability to see the world for what it is.

Corrosive to the heart and soul: In the absence of trust, doubt wears down our resolve and confidence. All past accomplishments and convictions get pushed to the side, as we fixate on weaknesses, fear, and limitation.

A joy thief: It alters our mental and emotional state to the point where we dread more than we enjoy—even the things we used to look forward to.

Hostile to the present moment: Doubt usually stops us from doing (or enjoying) something in the present moment. It has an uncanny ability to find fault with what we’re experiencing in the present.

Doubt takes our attention away from the present moment and pushes us into the future. We start to:

  • Avoid a potential (i.e. not real) danger or failure, or
  • Chase a promise (i.e. not real) of something more exciting that is yet to come.

Unpredictable: It appears out of nowhere. We can be enjoying something, minding our own business when a thought of doubt arises hijacking our emotions and focus. All of a sudden we’re not sure any more.

Devious: Doubt can masquerade as intuition and gut feeling. But it’s not. Intuition comes from a much deeper place of calm knowingness, not fearful uncertainty.

Doubt plays on our inherit dislike of uncertainty. It plants its seeds in our hearts and feeds our fears and insecurities. It shifts our focus to look for more trouble that serves the same doubt.

Universal and unavoidable: Everyone faces doubt in varying intensities—from a subtle whisper to a loud emotional fit.

Because doubt is a shadow of faith and trust, it will always exist in one form or another. We can’t avoid it and we can’t suppress it.

The good news is though we can learn from it and make a conscious choice not to feed it. And the universal nature of doubt means that we can deal with it like so many others did (and still do).

How can we face doubt and continue to grow?

Doubt at its core is a fearful emotion. And working with any emotion can be as simple or as complicated as we make it out to be. The following steps will help in dealing with doubt as it appears.

Notice the feeling but don’t act on it. Noticing brings the feeling to our conscious awareness before our mind kicks into defensive mode. When we pause and notice, we can choose how and when to act (or not act at all).

Allow the feeling to be. Fighting a feeling is the easiest and most painful way to make it stick. It creates more struggle, which feeds the same fear.

Sense the body’s response to doubt. Like any other emotion, the body will have a response. Feeling the emotion in the body allows it to pass through without lingering more than it needs to.

Let go of the energy of doubt. After we let the emotion pass through, we can make a conscious choice to let go of doubt. We allowed the emotion to come through and we can let it go, and not hold on to it, after the physical sensations subside.

We can repeat the process above (from noticing to letting go) as many times as needed in a particular situation till doubt is released.

Commit to action and doing the work that matters. As you continue to deal with the emotion, do your work.

Even when we’re not 100% sure, working on something we view as important is much better than stopping and fretting about it.

When we deal with doubt consciously, we can transform its energy. And then …

Doubt can become:

A Reminder: Doubt can remind us to go back to our most basic truth—love. Where there is love, there’s no doubt.

A Teacher: Doubt can teach us a thing or two about ourselves and the world. We see where we lack trust and, as such, can make a different choice.

An opportunity: When we become aware of doubt, we connect to a deeper part of our being—a place of stillness and peace.

Fighting to eliminate doubt doesn’t serve us. It’s like fighting to eliminate uncertainty from existence. That’s a losing game. Instead we can feel doubt and work through it. And once transformed, doubt becomes the doorway to trust.

“Faith keeps many doubts in her pay. If I could not doubt, I should not believe.” ~Henry David Thoreau

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