The Element of Doubt

It’s the second week of January, and you’re well and truly into the swing of things. The turkey sandwiches have long since been demolished, and the only Roses tin left in the house is the one that The Mother uses as a sewing kit.

It’s a new year, a fresh start.

You are perhaps beginning to take positive steps towards attaining that which you have always wanted for yourself, but have long been putting off. It’s an incredible feeling for sure, and it’s not long before you are struck by a tidal wave of emotions. It can be overwhelming, particularly at the beginning of the journey; the thrill of actually getting started, the surge of energy as you take those initial determined steps along the path, the exhilaration that floods your senses upon realising that you’ve finally decided to take decisive action, and are beginning to make progress. The world is your oyster, you dare to tell yourself.

Credit: Tim Bogdanov on Unsplash

And then comes the cold dose of reality; the magnitude of the task at hand floors you with a swift punch to the stomach, and you are sent reeling behind the weight of your own expectations. The doubt slowly starts to creep in as to whether or not you are up to the task.

I was never a fan of shellfish, anyway.

Your old adversary lies in wait around the corner, and he grabs you unceremoniously by the scruff of the neck just as you were about to set off fearlessly into the sunset, full of vigour in the direction of your prize. And make no mistake about it, he’s always lurking- waiting to pounce- and his timing is absolutely impeccable.

As it happens, the more meaningful the pursuit, and the more desirable the prize, the more intense the doubt seems to manifest; it can be so incredibly palpable at times, that you can almost sit down and have a chat with it over a cup of coffee.

I think having those moments of self-doubt steady you, they keep you in line, keep you focused.

– Seán O’ Sullivan

And that’s an interesting one too, don’t you think? I mean, you could use it to your advantage, almost like a rule of thumb: the more apparent the doubt, the more important the goal. Now of course, that’s not always the case. Perhaps it is actually telling you that this particular venture isn’t for you, and that at this point in time you’re actually not up to the task. That could well be the case. Common sense has to prevail, in such circumstances.

But even so, isn’t that a useful indicator in itself? To be told that we are lacking in a certain area and need to improve, to work harder? After all, if it is something that you actually want for yourself, you’re not going to cower in the face of self-doubt and allow it to consume you. Quite the contrary.

As former Kerry footballer Sean O’ Sullivan put it to me a while back, “I think having those moments of self-doubt steady you, they keep you in line, keep you focused. If you just dove straight into things with the attitude of “I can do anything” without asking questions of yourself, you’ll fall short. If I wasn’t questioning myself, it would suggest that I didn’t care.”

The doubt will always be there waiting; with each bold step you take into the unknown, and with every daring attempt to better yourself and your circumstances, it’ll be there to check in with some harsh and probing questions. Rather than letting it hold you back though, why not listen to what it’s telling you. Be humble in your approach, and perhaps you will be shown areas in which you need to improve in order to continue forward. Let it be that friend who couldn’t give two fucks whether you like its advice or not; that friend who’s telling you things not because you want to hear it, but because you need to hear it.

Invite it in, listen to what it’s trying to tell you- you could even flick on the kettle if the opportune moment presents itself. But after it says its piece, and polishes off its last drop of coffee, kindly tell it to be on its way, because you have work to do.