Don’t be discouraged: Overcome your doubts
Friday, June 27, 2014
Growing up, millennials were told repeatedly that if they got a college degree, they would get a job. This in turn would lead to buying a house and starting a family.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Between struggling to find work and being weighed down by massive amounts of debt, many in Generation Y are having doubts about their goals and dreams.
Of course, having these doubts is not unique to Gen Yers. Every entrepreneur at some point wonders if he/she has made the right decision. In this article, we discuss how to overcome your doubts, take action to achieve your goals, and (if necessary) knowing when to walk away.
The cause of doubt
Before we explore how to overcome doubts, let's start with looking at a couple causes.
Gen Yers are the most entrepreneurial generation to date as they are high achievers and hold themselves to high standards. The challenge is that many Gen Yers suffer from "impostor syndrome."
While they attain their degrees, hit targets and outwardly look confident, internally they attribute their success to external factors and their failure to their own shortcomings. This dissonance can motivate and be a driver for success, but over time it not only causes self doubt but may also lead to perfectionism, burnout and depression.
The other source of doubt comes from an increasing reliance on others' opinions. Numerous studies and articles published by Forbes, Slate and Science Daily (just to name a few) have linked social media to a sense of belonging, self-esteem and social acceptance.
As our lives have become more public, so do our successes and failures. The result is that all of us at one point or another have experienced "fear-based decision-making." Some examples from James Clear include:
- "I'd love to visit Africa, but what if something bad happens while I'm there? I'll go somewhere else instead."
- "I'd love to write a book, but what if people hate it? Maybe I should read more before I start writing."
- "I'd love to get in shape, but what if I look stupid at the gym? I need to lose some weight before I go."
Sound familiar? The root of these inactions is our fear of failure and potentially having to accept that we might not be able to accomplish our goals. This ultimately contributes to our self-doubt. So how do we overcome these doubts?
Goals: Did you make the right ones?
Let's start with the beginning: your goals. Goals should challenge you and make you feel nervous. A goal that you know you can easily achieve is just maintaining the status quo. Good goals have a defined objective and lead to a strategic plan to achieve them.
In the perfect world, your plan will succeed and you'll accomplish what you set out to do. Realistically, there are any number of barriers that may get in your way. If you are able to be cognitively flexible and adjust timelines, you can still achieve your goals.
However, if the cost is too high or the goals become unachievable, it is important to be able to either let go of your goals or redefine them. To quote Dr. Melanie Greenberg, it is "your choice to remain stuck or accept the reality that your initial goal is just not achievable right now."
Challenge your expectations and approach
As we started to discuss above, we are sometimes required to re-evaluate our goals. Based on what we were told, we expect that getting a degree will lead to our success. While it might be painful and upsetting, we may have to accept that the degree alone is not enough.
It is important to persist as long as the feedback you are receiving is positive, but when you find yourself repeating the same actions without achieving your goal it is important to adapt. This might require admitting that you are uncertain of how to proceed and that you need help.
Remember, nobody is cheering for you to fail. Rely on your network for advice and consider broadening, redefining or abandoning your goals. We generally advise against asking "why" questions. However, turned toward ourselves, these questions are excellent for challenging our expectations and help clarify our true objectives.
Own your accomplishments
Owning your accomplishments will help align your perceptions and reality. It is also positive self-reinforcement that supports and strengthens your self-esteem. Separate your emotional assessments from the objective evaluations of your peers. They are less biased and give you an accurate view of your actual abilities.
The best way to get these is to expand your network and talk about your feelings. Enjoy your success and acknowledge praise when it comes your way. It can be difficult to overcome the impulse to deny or deflect compliments, but enjoy the recognition. You deserve it.
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