“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”– Chinese Proverb
Some days, do you wonder: what difference am I really making? You know your work has value, but some days it can be easy to doubt: is what I’m doing really making a contribution to the mission, the big picture in my organization?
At times it can feel like a struggle to find relevance in your work, or the opportunity to contribute. You can start to wonder why you’re even showing up at work. On a bad day, you fear that you’ll look back at end of your career and wonder what you did with it.
Doubt is normal
Wondering, fearing, struggling: it’s common to have doubts about what you are doing, particularly when you are doing the work of social change.
But as I often tell clients, just because you think something, doesn’t mean it’s true or that you have to believe it.
And often, when we are in the midst of change, or challenge, our inner voice of doubt tends to get stronger.
Expect that voice to get louder, in fact. It gets louder when you are making change, because you are challenging your own status quo: the normal, the current standard.
But just because you think you’re not doing something well, or right, doesn’t necessary mean that you are sinking.
When doubt shows up:
- Ask for feedback from a trusted source. Nobody does the big work alone, so ask a colleague or friend whose opinion you trust to give you hold up a mirror for you. We need advisors and mentors as sounding boards and coaches at least some of the time to help us see ourselves more clearly.
- Own the 2% truth. If 2% of your fear or doubt about yourself was true, what’s the nugget of wisdom to harvest? It’s mostly not true that you’re not making a difference; but what’s the part of that might be true? Own that, take it in, and see where it points you for action. Looking our fears in the eye helps us measure how much of them to actually take in.
- See your emotions as data. When you find yourself upset, doubting or worrying, take it as data or information, rather than as the truth. The emotions point you towards something that’s important to you (such as a value of yours): what can you do with that information?
- Get out of your own way. What if your doubt was just a signal you were going through some change? Instead of seeing doubt as a stop sign, practice seeing doubt as signalling: “proceed with caution”, or “uneven road ahead”. Instead taking the presence of doubt being a measure of your worth, try instead noting it as a measure of your humanness.
In the Comments below, I’d love to hear your tips on working with doubt and worry.
How do you manage the normal doubts that show up as part of taking on change?
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