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On Doubt. I mean Fear. Wait! I mean Indecision…

For a long time, I had the following quote on my fridge (by Anne Morris, courtesy of a Starbucks cup circa 2006):

“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around like rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.”

Wow. Other than the imagery I get of being beheaded, these words resonate very, very deeply with me. They address about 95% of my unproductive behaviours and thought processes. Maybe more. Here are some recent examples:

  • I spent many years being neither fully committed to staying or committed to leaving an organization I was with for more than a decade. While I was there I both contributed and learned a tonne. I am proud of my accomplishments and grateful for the relationships, experiences, and lifestyle that resulted, and have no regrets about staying (or finally leaving!). I DO, however, mourn the amount of energy I spent agonizing about it. If nothing else I could have used that energy to have more fun!

  • I have been hemming and hawing for weeks about whether to register for a particular training program that began on this week. Even though I made the decision not to register (a rational, well-thought-out, self-acknowledging choice) and informed the organizers as such on Monday, on Tuesday morning I woke up in a complete panic and spent several hours feeling sick with doubt and fear, obsessing over whether to call and try to register at the last minute.

  • I attended a volunteer board meeting out of town this past weekend. The others who were there are wonderful, welcoming people, and I had some good things to contribute. However, when I wasn’t fully engaged in conversation or activity, I expended a fair amount of energy questionning whether I actually wanted to be there. How useless is that? I was already there in body… how much more would I have enjoyed it and contributed had I been there more in mind and spirit, too? The choice exists to not attend the next meeting, but once there I was there, why not truly be there? Know what I mean?

The common factor here is, of course, that in none of these scenarios was I fully comfortable with or committed to the choice/decision I had already made – to be in my job/organization (vs NOT being there), to pass on a training opportunity, to attend a meeting. None of these situations were black and white – do or die – right or wrong. Unfortunately for me, there is very rarely only one right answer in life!

So granted, a lot of this doubt/fear/indecisive energy is coming from the broader place of uncertainty I am currently inhabiting, in which making even small and even insignificant decisions can sometimes feel impossibly difficult. After all, I was once diagnosed with an allergy to uncertainty and antihistamines don’t seem to help. And as the founder of my coaching program, Bruce Schneider, says, “How you do anything is how you do everything!”. Scary but true. So this is an area of personal development for me, and probably will be forever!

What I have found works best for me to manage these behaviours is this:

  1. Become aware that I am in a place of fear, doubt, lack of commitment (even to past choices), and agonizingly not present. Differentiate it from truly rational hesitation and/or intuition that I need to reconsider something or make a different choice.

  2. Acknowledge and accept that it is "okay" to be there. Often difficult to do, but critically important.

  3. Make the choice to leave that place. (See "Mo Wisdom") Sometimes this step takes a long time - after all, even pain can be comfortable when it is familiar.

  4. Do something to release the feelings of fear and doubt. This might include breathing, meditating, and consciously "letting go". (Book recommendation: "Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender", by Dr. David R. Hawkins.) Occasionally, I will talk to myself (yes, out loud!) or repeat an affirmation or mantra. Somethings these lead to crying or yelling. Not always. And only in private!

  5. Take action - do something, ANYTHING, concrete, decisive and productive. Doesn't have to be big. Could just be making my breakfast, sending an email I know I want to send, or finally bringing a used box of books to my son's school library. "Just Do It", as Nike says.

  6. Keep breathing and letting go of the feelings.

None of this necessarily makes the questions or feelings go away completely, or certainly not right away – but it sure makes it easier to cope with them. I can proudly say that I did NOT call about registering for the training program – it took a lot of discipline and plenty of started and deleted emails. (Did I mention I also suffer from Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO?) Nor do I regret my choice. I feel some sadness about letting the proverbial bus go by but I know I didn’t need to be on it this time.

Once I released that energy of doubt and fear, I was able to accomplish a whole list of things – even some scary ones, like registering my business, talking to a potential business partner about bidding on a project, and writing this blog post! (Let’s not discuss how long it has taken me to edit and actually publish it, okay?)

Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope that by sharing some of my innermost experiences you have learned something useful for yourself.

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