Quick, what’s the hardest thing about lifestyle design?
Is it finding an income source that’s compatible with your goals? Is it the logistics of making your life work while traveling? Is it finding the courage to leave your job? Is it getting your spouse to agree with your crazy dreams?
Those things are all hard, but they aren’t the hardest thing about designing your own life. I’m sure you can think of a dozen other things that all seem like the hardest part of reaching your goals.
The way I see it (having been self-employed for over three years now) is that the hardest thing isn’t a tactic or a strategy or attaining some knowledge or even being lucky or creative enough.
The hardest part of lifestyle design is winning the mental battle that threatens to make you quit every day.
It’s all about beating self-doubt.
Do you know what I’m talking about? If you’ve already committed to living an unconventional life and pursuing your dreams, I can’t imagine that you don’t also experience what I’m referring to. I’m talking about that conversation you have with yourself every day about whether you’re doing the right thing. At its weakest, that inner conversation is just a nuisance that makes you a little less productive for the day. At its worst, that conversation leads you to thinking you should just throw in the towel.
What it comes down to is simply self-doubt. That doubt takes many forms. Maybe you think you’re not smart enough, or savvy enough or you don’t have the right experience. Or maybe you think you’ve made the wrong decision and that you’re wasting time chasing uncommon goals. Maybe you start to want what the status quo offers, because it’s the easy way out. Maybe you think you don’t have anything original to say, so why bother?
Here’s a secret about that battle with self-doubt you’re having: everyone has it. Well, maybe not George Clooney, but everybody else. Seriously, I have thoughts of self-doubt every day. Some days I have to talk myself off the ledge. It all depends on how I’m feeling and how out-of-control I let the inner dialog get.
I’ve definitely let it get the best of me at times over the past six months since starting this blog. I’ve procrastinated, wasted time and not focused on what’s really important. I think that happens to everyone (again, maybe not Clooney), and the successful people are the ones who can limit the damaging effects of self-doubt.
Lately, I’ve been getting better about knowing that the self-doubt is inevitable, and that what’s most important is how I handle it. Sometimes I can’t really control it, but I know that I just have to get through it and not make any rash decisions while that particular voice has strength.
So, what’s the antidote to self-doubt? How do you keep it from stealing your dreams? The three critical components to beating self-doubt are: awareness, passion and perseverance.
Understanding the Problem and Staying Vigilant (Awareness)
Admitting you have a problem is the first step in any good recovery program, right? This is no different. And, luckily for you it affects just about everybody. Try having a conversation with a friend about it. You might take comfort knowing that they go through many of the same self-defeating motions.
Once you are aware of the problem, you can change the way it affects you. Instead of seriously having the conversation with yourself and letting it take you to the edge, you can look upon the feelings as an outsider and know that you just need to let them pass. This is quite liberating.
Another great thing about being aware of self-doubt is that you can start to recognize and avoid the things that set you off. For example, I noticed that I had a slight addiction to checking website statistics, both for myself and for other websites and blogs I’m interested in as a comparison. I found that I was checking those stats often because I got a small rush whenever my blog had an increase in visitors or subscribers or whatever. The opposite happened whenever the stats decreased.
This daily yo-yo of feelings isn’t good for my psyche. And, it doesn’t even make sense to check things so often because daily fluctuations are meaningless. So, I did myself a favor (not to mention reclaimed some wasted time) by resolving to check stats only on a weekly or monthly basis. I still haven’t completely conquered my addiction, but I’m working on it.
Having the Courage of Your Convictions (Passion)
The next critical component to winning your mental battle is having the courage of your convictions. What does that mean exactly? It means having the confidence to do or say what you think is right even when other people disagree.
At some point after you’ve formulated your current world view and personal goals, you need to “lock them down” and start standing up for what you believe in. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself spiraling into a canyon of self-doubt every time someone disagrees with you or presents a compelling argument in favor of something else.
In many ways, having the courage of your convictions is related to passion. Being passionate about reaching your goals will help you stand up for what you believe in and stop letting other voices call your dreams and goals into question.
Not Getting Bored (Perseverance)
The final component to beating self-doubt is perseverance. For me, this is a matter of not getting bored. I have a terrible problem with getting bored easily and moving on to the next project because I enjoy the rush of starting something new.
If you let yourself get bored with the goals you set or the projects you’re working on to make the goals possible, you’ll be far more susceptible to self-doubt. At some point, you’ll be too weak to defend your dreams from the doubt, because moving on is what really interests you anyway.
I can’t say I’m an expert in overcoming the “not getting bored” factor yet. I do know that I’ve abandoned plenty of opportunities and projects that in hind sight would have been successful if I had just stuck with it. Perseverance is a big part of success, and you need to be confident that your goals are worth spending time on, even when they aren’t sexy and new any longer.
If you have tips about perseverance, or any other aspects of defeating self-doubt, please share them with everybody in the comments!
Thanks to Man Vs. Debt for inspiring me to look into what’s really holding me back as a blogger and lifestyle designer. His post on how not to suck at blogging is a great kick in the ass. Read it and you will improve.
photo by addicted Eyes