Committing to an idea you don’t know will work or not is simply put, terrifying. You can do all the market research, read everything there is to read and pray to all available Gods there are but nothing can ever guarantee you will be successful. Ultimately investing in your own idea is all about having faith—faith in yourself, your team and your product.
Faith, however, is something I was never taught to have. I was taught to work hard, to stay focused on my goals and that if I really, really wanted something I can make it happen as long as I put in the effort. In many ways, this is a great way of thinking because it means everything is possible. The approach has only one problem— when you don’t reach your goal, it’s your own fault. The first time
you don’t reach your goal is all good and well because you know that the next time you just need to work a little bit harder or do things just a little bit differently. After only a few missed goals you still believe that the power to succeed lies within your own control but with every missed goal it gets easier and easier to start thinking that maybe it’s not that you’re not DOING enough, it’s that you ARE not enough. This shift in thinking will have widespread effects on your self-esteem, productivity, happiness and, well, everything really. It’s also why some people can work around the clock and not have stress issues while others who struggle to put in the 8 hours still suffer from stress. It’s the shift in mindset. If you believe you are not enough it doesn’t matter how many hours you put in, it’s never enough. …and feeling that is the root of your stress problems. That was a bit off topic though.
At the humble age of 34, I’ve had my fair shares of unmet goals. However, I refuse to call them failures. It may seem like semantics, but how you choose to think about things actually does affect you —this is the premise behind CBT.
The first goal I ever had was to compete in equestrian eventing for Sweden in the 2008 Olympics in Athens. I did not.
My second goal was to get straight As’ in high school. I did not.
My first career goal was to become a police officer. I did not.
Following this, my next goal was to move to California. I did not.
…The list goes on. And these are fairly easy “un-met- goals” to recover from as they are career goals rather than life goals. If you also have personal life goals like, get married by 25, have two kids before 30, etc. Those goals can carry significant weight when evaluating “life,” and if I’ve fucked it up or not! It’s also a lot easier to start believing that you are not good enough when you don’t meet goals like that. Side note—I think goals like that are shit!
Don’t limit your life to conform to a plan—it gets way better when you let it evolve unrestricted.
Back to my point, you cannot, under any circumstances, let the thought of “I am not enough” take root. It is pure poison, and paradoxically, will push towards a life of unfulfillment as you humbly pursue one of fulfillment.
Self-doubt slowly sneaks up on you, so you have to stay vigilant. In the face of adversity, your faith and belief must kick in, and if, like I, you were never taught how, you can teach yourself.
To not fall victim to the curse of self-doubt, focus on your actionables. Evaluate your ideas, the approach, the strategy, the products, timing, etc. Don’t let who you are and your self-worth enter the mix. In fact, your self-worth is in no way related to performance—it is a constant, inherent to being human. As an entrepreneur, this becomes even more important to remember because you’re working in a field of unknowns largely beyond your control.
There is actually a hack to teaching yourself to have faith in yourself: THERAPY. This is precisely what therapy does—teaches you how to have a good relationship with yourself, and that boils down to having faith in yourself. It teaches you that your value is not like the Dow Jones, it doesn’t go up and down, and it is not affected by worldly events.
In case you are wondering that is what I did—lots of therapy. However, it is still a work in progress, and I am from time to time plagued by massive self-doubt. But now, I have tools to manage it, and slowly but surely the idea that I am good enough is shifting from a belief to a truth.
So when you are haunted by the evil spirit of self-doubt — which we all are from time to time — a good strategy is to remember that everyone who has ever made it in this world, are human just like yourself. They don’t possess some kind of super-power, and they too are plagued by self-doubt from time to time. Keep believing in your idea and keep working to realize it, and even if you don’t end up being the next Elon Musk, it’s ok because you are doing what you love.