This guest post is by Blake Powell from beatwritersblock.com. He gives us practical tips to overcome the doubt that we all face at times.
I held my hands over my head and sighed as the words blurred together.
The blinking cursor on the screen in front of me seemed to be taunting my progress, asking me if I could really pull this off. I felt like I’d lost touch with the characters I created and I didn’t even know where I was taking the story anymore. My mind was flooded with doubts and I was tired, tired of it all and ready to give up. Nothing made sense anymore.
The fruitless long nights and early mornings were taking a toll on me and I felt my resolve slipping away from me, burying beneath my efforts. Maybe it was time to return to the grind of “real” life.
I wasn’t cut out to be a writer if I couldn’t even finish the first draft of my novel.
These are the kind of doubts that run through our heads every day, and that night I had become so clouded by my doubts that I let them hijack my ambitions and push me further away from my dreams.
Why We Can’t Allow Our Doubts To Consume Us
One day I had enough. As I caught myself making another excuse of how I would work on my dream tomorrow, I stopped and asked myself one simple question.
Because I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to amount to anything when it was all over, trapped in an endless cycle of dead-end jobs for the rest of my life. I would never become a writer, I thought, because it was too difficult to pursue. The truth is that it’s possible to move past your doubts and reach your dreams without actually removing doubt from your life.
Last November I completed the first draft of my novel by implementing these strategies into my life, and here’s how you can do the same to meet your own goals by bypassing doubt.
Identify The Doubts That Are Blocking You From Making Progress
We all carry doubt and it’s important to analyze it before we can stop it from hijacking our lives. Picture a day in your life and think about how many times your mind feeds you doubt. These can exist in the form of affirmations (“I’m not good enough!”), feelings of failure and low self-worth (“I failed before, so I’ll fail again”), and/or feelings of misplacement (ex. “I’m so different from everyone around me, and nobody understand my dreams so why even bother?”). The next time you get caught up in your doubts, simply stop and identify what they are. Once you identify your doubts it will be much easier to move past them.
Focus On Who You Want To Be, Not On Where You Are Now
For years I struggled with my fears of becoming a writer. But the more I bought into the belief that I couldn’t write for a living, the less I actually wrote and the further away I became from my dream.
It’s never impossible to become who you want to be. It’s easy to forget this simple fact because the more we hear something, the more often we are to believe it. As our doubts only gain power through our belief in them, the key is to acknowledge their presence but not act on them.
I want you to try an exercise with me.
Think of your thoughts as a bubble popping above your head like a cartoon character, and then capture the next thought that comes into your mind (don’t censor it as it’s important to have the thoughts as true as possible). If it helps you, ask yourself who you want to be and what you’re working towards. What’s stopping you from reaching your goals? Then, once you identify your doubts, realize you have three distinct options on how to deal with them.
Option #1: You can allow the thoughts to exist in your mind, but choose not to engage with them and leave where they are.
Option #2: You can pop the negative thought balloons, attempting to will more positive thoughts into mind.
Option #3: You can engage with the thoughts, allowing them to change how you feel about yourself.
It seems simple now, doesn’t it? We really should be choosing option #1, as it’s the only one that really makes sense – but in reality, many of us choose options 2 and 3 in this scenario every day in our lives.
The only way to deal with negative thoughts is to acknowledge their existence but choose not to accept their reality. Because if you feed into them you’ll only fuel their fire, and if you choose to shun them you’re only giving them more power by thinking about not thinking about them (tricky, huh?). I know, it seems passive to identify the existence of doubt and do nothing about it. But I haven’t given you the secret sauce for the recipe yet.
Never Stop Moving Forward
You cannot control your thoughts no matter how hard you try. In fact, the harder you try to control your thoughts the less likely you’ll be able to change them.
Because our minds are separate from our body, they carry a will of their own. We cannot control our thoughts like we can move our hands or our legs, but we can condition our minds to move past negative thoughts and sidestep them in the long run. Think about it this way: can you stop yourself from feeling pain? You can certainly try — and we as humans are hard-wired to avoid pain — but in the end we must accept that life comes and goes and there’s nothing we can do to stop ourselves from experiencing pain.
We can’t do anything to control the thoughts we receive. Since it’s fruitless to try and change the thoughts our minds produce, why not focus our efforts towards moderating the thoughts we do have? The problem was not that I created the thought that I wasn’t good enough to be a writer; the problem was that I believed it. And this belief stopped me from making the change I needed to make in the first place to become who I wanted to be.
We can never eliminate doubt from our lives but we always have a choice in how to deal with our fears. As Eckhart Tolle reminds us in The Power Of Now, “you are not your mind.” We’re not what we think every day, but only what we do to make our dreams come true. Our lives don’t become shaped by the thoughts we think – instead, they’re formed by the actions we take that move us closer or further away from our dreams. So instead of acting on our doubts, why not take little steps every day to produce the positive change we wish to see in our lives instead?
Realize That It All Takes Time
Defending yourself from the empty threats of your mind doesn’t happen overnight. But like anything worth doing, you can always do something every day to get yourself closer to your goal, no matter how small those actions might seem. The next time you find yourself hesitating towards your dreams, simply stop and ask why. Why are you allowing doubt to control your life?
Never forget that your choices define your life and create your identity, so choose wisely – and choose for the benefit of your dreams. It’s time to stop being controlled by doubt and live a life that you’re proud of. You’re not your doubts or your misgivings or your failures. No, you’re much more than that.
You’re a dreamer, and you have a life to live yet.
Blake helps writers step into their power and hurl over writer’s block by practicing mindfulness and habit formation. Click here to download the Bulletproof Writer’s Handbook and learn how to put aside your excuses and conquer the blank page today.