Dealing with Self-Doubt

Self-doubt of your own talents and abilities is normal. Just don’t live there. This is what’s on my mind now as I celebrate one year since making the big decision to leave my job in order to focus on my business. Something in my head causing me to have concern that maybe this whole starting a business thing wasn’t necessarily the best move. Especially after this past month wherein my nascent sales growth slowed substantially.

I anticipated that May, with all the US holidays would be a busy month, and it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. Enter doubt. How could I have been so off? That was my immediate reaction. However, upon reflection, everything I’m doing right now is new to me. So, I had little basis to believe the outcome I imagined. Still, what I got versus what I imagined was frustrating. I’m not going to lie about that. Today, looking back over the month that was, I’m in a better state of mind. I’ve decided to think about my business journey similarly to how I’ve approached other big challenges. For me, that’s long-distance or endurance cycling. For you, that’s maybe something else. Regardless, the approach to defeating self-doubt is the same.

Stage One: Belief

In my experience, success begins with belief. I’ve done plenty of challenging rides and the one commonality among them is that at the start I’ve had confidence in my ability to be successful. I believe I’ll succeed. More more often than not, I have but there’ve been epic failures too. Failure happens. But I’ve learned that to succeed, I at least need to adopt the mindset that I’m capable.

Starting a business is very similar. A year ago, when I left my job to work on the business full-time, I had this same mindset. The belief that I was capable of making a successful go on my own. I felt prepared through past business experience, I had saved an emergency fund, and I had a plan of attack. What was left was for me to trust in my preparation. If you’re looking to do something similar, you’ll need to ask yourself? How prepared are you? Ideally, you’ve had some time to get yourself ready by at least putting aside enough savings to help keep yourself going during the early stages. How much you’ll need is specific to you, but putting aside savings and reducing your expenses is crucial at this point.

Stage one relies upon preparation.

Stage Two: Self-Doubt

This is where I think I am now with my business. Too early in the journey to have fatigue, but far enough along to starting seeing all that needs doing to achieve success. And wondering if I’m up for it. This stage is similar to being about ten to twenty miles (16-32km) into a one hundred mile (160km) ride. Depending on how I feel, the weather or any number of other things, if I’m going to feel any self-doubt, it’s probably going to happen at this point.

My experience this past month, got me wondering about all I still need to do and questioning myself about doing it all. May was frustrating because having down points isn’t part of my picture. I know thinking this way is unrealistic but I still feel how I feel. The key, I’ve learned is to not focus on the full scope of the journey. For me, this means not thinking about all I still need or want to do and instead doing what I can to make the month of June better. Does reframing my thinking this way guarantee success? No. But it does take my mind off of the whole big question of whether or not I made the right decision a year ago. Instead, my goal now is to focus on what I can do today. Then tomorrow, tomorrow.

Stage two requires focus.

Stage Three: Fatigue

This stage isn’t about doubting oneself. No, stage three is about real fatigue. In bicycle terms, unless something is wrong, fatigue doesn’t start to kick in until about three-fourths of the way to the finish. At this point if I feel tired it’s because I’m actually tired. The way I’ve learned to push through this stage is to adopt my mantra of just keep pedaling.

In my business, I imagine stage three will be the point where I’ve been at it a while and start wondering when my efforts will really start paying off. I can already anticipate this happening. And I already know how I want to respond. Just keep showing up. Different words, same method. I’ll need to just keep doing the things that have gotten me closer to my goal, and by that point, I trust I’ll know exactly what those things are.

Stage three requires perseverance.

Stage Four: Satisfaction

If embarking upon a journey one prepares themselves, maintains focus, and perseveres through the tough times, I believe they’ll eventually achieve their goal. In bicycling, stage four usually pretty easy to recognize. You reach the finish line, the end. In all the rides I’ve done, this stage is marked by great satisfaction is achieving what I’ve set out to do. The feeling is great.

In my business, I imagine stage four will be when I’ve created something that provides for myself and my family. That’s my goal at least, maybe your’s is similar. But here’s the funny thing about this stage of the process, the satisfaction you eventually feel may have nothing to do with achieving the goal you set out to achieve. What? Wait, how’s that possible? Isn’t that just putting a nice spin on failure? My answer is no.

Here’s the thing. The truth is that anytime you attempt to do something that challenges you there is a chance you won’t achieve your goal. And not achieving your goal could be due to any number of factors. Life is complex. Things happen. But that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. To really fail would mean to not even try.

Stage four requires reflection.

I learned this lesson from my second business. At the time, all I could see was that what I had built didn’t survive. I doubted by business ability. I thought I had failed. Later, I realized, that what I built mattered – to me, and to my employees at that time. The business not continuing on doesn’t change any of that. That’s why today, when I do reflect upon chasing my dream I feel good because I gave the effort. You might say what I feel is a sense of satisfaction.

You’d be right. And I’ve no doubt about that.

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