Doubt–at one point or another, every entrepreneur has experienced the sinking feeling that his or her best work is just not good enough.
No matter how successful you feel you are, doubt has a way of seeping its way into your head. As your company matures, difficulties will change in shape and scope, but they will never stop coming. The key distinction between entrepreneurs who do succeed and those who don’t is their ability to train their minds to overcome the doubt that accompanies these challenges.
The first step is understanding the distinction between two types of doubt: Healthy doubt is constructive and destructive doubt is inhibitive. Entrepreneurs should always strive to cultivate and embrace healthy doubt, while minimizing the negative effects of destructive doubt.
Most entrepreneurs have a strategic yearly or quarterly plan that provides direction regarding the strategies, tactics, and goals of their companies. Healthy doubt allows them to look at their plan through the lens of reality and acknowledge the high probability that their strategy may not materialize as planned, in spite of their best efforts. Healthy doubt offers a realistic perspective of the plan’s ability–or inability–to predict a company’s future.
You are experiencing healthy doubt if you:
- Challenge your assumptions
- Are feeling driven
- Are aware of the changing marketplace
- Ask, “What’s our backup plan if we’re wrong?”
- Accept the reality that sometimes you’ll miss the mark
- Know that each stumble is just part of climbing the mountain
Destructive doubt takes hold when entrepreneurs allow their mindset and confidence to be shaken by the changes that are bound to happen. Destructive doubt overcomes the entrepreneur when they allow the ups and downs of the startup merry-go-round to negatively affect their commitment and confidence.
You are experiencing destructive doubt if you:
- Question your abilities
- Are feeling paralyzed
- Are blind to opportunities
- Say, “I’ll never try that again”
- Look at failure as a negative feature of your personal self-worth
- Think a stumble is the end of the world
Cultivating healthy doubt is an art form that is developed over time, and it requires mental discipline. By accepting your imperfections, being comfortable with failing fast, and by persevering when you stumble, entrepreneurs can build the mental fortitude that prevents destructive doubt from taking hold, and enables healthy doubt to flourish.
The more practice you get, the better you will be at harnessing the positive power of healthy doubt, which reinforces the reality that you can indeed build the company and lifestyle of your dreams.
The next time you face a challenge and hear your inner voice siding with destructive doubt, take a moment to stop, acknowledge what you’re feeling, and choose to view it through a different lens. A simple decision to modify your perspective can change destructive doubt into healthy doubt, turning a roadblock into a surge ahead.
—Steven Cox is a veteran entrepreneur who currently serves as CEO and Founder of San Diego-based TakeLessons.com.