Remember when Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”?
Those of us feeling stuck, not knowing what we wanted to do with our lives were inspired by these words. It gave us hope that if we keep going things will eventually make sense.
This quote came back to me a few days ago as I started feeling self doubt, fear, all that fun stuff.
And what came up?
My childhood failures, and moments of striving to be a famous singer (preferably the next Mariah or Whitney), an artist, an Olympic gymnast or a writer. #biggoals
Not only did these dreams not come true (more or less), but I experienced pretty scarring failures.
These failures didn’t make sense at the time, but they keep coming back to me as an adult. And when I experience any failures today, I immediately go back to what I internalized as a kid, which was “I’m just not cut out for it.”
I believe these are opportunities to learn, and better understand ourselves.
Connecting the dots from childhood to adulthood can help us get clarity on what we want to do and why we want to do it. It’s also the awareness we need to push forward when we feel the self doubt.
Here are three questions to help you build resilience with tackling your goals during moments of self doubt.
What did you enjoy doing as a kid?
We’ve all heard this before, and it’s because there’s a lot of value in answering this question.
Make a list – even if the things you loved doing then have nothing to do with the work you’re doing today.
For example, if you loved drawing as a 10-year old, ask yourself why. What did you enjoy about it? Was it the process of creating something and the opportunity to express yourself?
How does this connect to what you love today (or to what’s lacking in your current work)? Do you have the opportunity to create and express yourself?
The purpose of this answer is to better understand yourself, who you were as a kid and who are you now. This self awareness can provide a solid foundation and help you stay the course in moments of struggle.
What were your failures as a kid?
Maybe you weren’t so great at math or spelling. How did those failures make you feel? Get clear on that feeling and see if it comes up in any struggles you’re having today.
We don’t do this often enough. When the negativity comes up, we bury it. It’s too much to handle.
For me, when moments of intense self doubt bring me back to my childhood failures, I feel hopeless, like I just don’t have it in me to thrive.
But I’m done burying it. It’s when we bury it that we don’t become aware of the unfinished business, the work we started in our childhood. We also miss the opportunity to fix the errors in our process. So from that “bad” experience there’s no incremental growth, just shame which leads to lack of self confidence building up over the years.
What would you have done differently?
I wasn’t an amazing artist from the get go, so I quit. But I also didn’t sign up for formal training, and I didn’t take any classes. I just thought I wasn’t a “natural.”
I would also get tired when I didn’t see the immediate success.
Unless my mom, dad, brother, sister, teacher say I’m the next Picasso, this is pointless. Time to try writing.
I quit before I really started. I didn’t know failure was a critical part of the process, and I didn’t know how to be solutions-oriented – how to find the experiences I needed to keep going.
I still get tired today. Building a business from the ground up is exhausting. But I value the process much more. I know as an adult, the process is about experimentation, grit, hard work, and the mission.
I have no regrets about giving up on my singing or drawing careers. I found myself back to writing, however, and constantly needing to create and analyze.
Understanding what you should do differently and how you’ve grown from previous mistakes is critical in building the confidence you need to push ahead.
In Conclusion: To Overcome Self Doubt
Don’t hide from the problem, rather work to understand it. Dig deep with your failures, how they made you feel, and always focus on the process instead of the end result.