When in Doubt, Mind Your Business

Feb 26, 2019

In our world, there’s no shortage of doubt in our leaders, our institutions, our society’s ability to sustain itself. Just look at the news cycle… The presidential race for 2020 is stacking up with contenders and the political spin is ongoing with doubt rising from both sides of the aisle. In Virginia, the state’s top leaders are mired in controversy and critics doubt their ability to lead. Even across the Atlantic there’s doubt about the United Kingdom’s Brexit plan.

No doubt, we are a world filled with doubt and it’s no surprise we turn it on ourselves: we doubt our instincts, our capacity for success, and often we doubt our decisions.

But did you ever consider that doubt is actually good for you?

We at Productive Learning believe that doubt provides a door for stepping into consciousness. The problem is that you weren’t taught how to use it intelligently. None of us were. We were taught disdain for emotions like doubt, anger, fear, sadness. This year, we’re challenging your perceptions of these emotions as “bad”. We know they aren’t bad. In fact, we know they are all good for our personal success.

Last month we launched our series on examining all aspects of our emotions by writing love letters to them. This month we’re focusing on doubt.  

Doubt can easily creep up because our brains have the capacity of carrying us into the wilderness of imagination. We need to thank the right hemisphere of our brain for this. Our left hemisphere follows logic, guiding us to color between the lines, recognizing traffic lights and telling us where our hand ends and an object begins. It also organizes life into a timeline. There is the past, the present and the future – in that order.

But the right hemisphere is all about the NOW, in fact to the right brain, without assistance sees the projections of the past and future as right now. This is why we feel fear RIGHT NOW when we are worrying about something that may or may not happen later. Doubt comes from a belief that something will be amiss. That inner chatter of “what will go wrong” comes from a lack of communication and understanding between the right and left hemispheres. This right-left brain distinction is important because as we approach doubt we must recognize that—like so many of our “bad” emotions—we are biologically wired to have it.

Doubt comes with our capacity to think. And we can’t seem to stop thinking about our doubts. Think of the left brain as a time machine that takes us into the non-existent future and the passé past. We meander from the past judging people and circumstances that didn’t work out to our favor to the future imagining all the things that can go wrong. Finally, we resurface from a walk in the wilderness of imagination into the present where doubt arises.

Think of ways you project anger and fear based on doubt from imaging how a circumstance will play out. Or, how it once played out for you. What do you tell yourself?

“I’m not sure I can do this.”

“It’s too good for me.”

“I’ll never make it through this.”

All those doubts are based on interpretations of the past and projections of the future. We go through life using this amazing capacity of imagination to make decisions with doubt rooted in fear.

When we lack conscious awareness, doubt can sabotage our relationships. For example, think about times you’ve doubted a partner or coworker or friend. You may have behaved in a way that said, “I don’t trust you.” It’s ok to doubt that your partner will take out the trash or that a colleague will meet a deadline. What’s not ok is to act out in a way that makes you think that (because you can’t trust them) you must manage their behavior.  

We stymie our capacity for using doubt as a tool for success when our hypothetical conclusions lack self-awareness and reason. That’s because thinking as a conscious person means you’re fully aware that you’re in charge of your thoughts and actions. Doubt about another’s behavior can be a great reminder to mind your own business.

Author Byron Katie says there are three types of business in the Universe: Nature’s (or God) business, other people’s business and your personal business. Guess which one you can control?

If you don’t know how to communicate with your doubt you likely believe that you can control what is out of your control—like someone else’s behavior (other people’s business) or a circumstance (like an earthquake, election results). This is an illusion that many people continue to use doubt to reinforce.

Rather than using doubt to justify fear of what’s to come, what if you used doubt to better communicate emotions and soothe the fear? Instead of doubting a partner’s ability to do a chore with anger, leave a flirty note as a loving reminder or offer a colleague help with meeting the deadline.

Awareness of how you use doubt helps you better communicate with doubt. Productive Learning trainers have guided workshops where clients learn the difference between deciphering real danger and a narrative from an imaginary projection about something they can’t control.

It takes practice but you have to know how to tell the difference between being driven by gut instinct and left-brain/right-brain disintegration.

This month we invite you to befriend your doubt. Let it show you when you’re trying to manage what you can’t. Let it show you when danger is real and when it’s just you taking on a wild imaginary stroll of what can go wrong.

While our world can use doubt to create more strife we can use it to access consciousness and step into emotional intelligence by consciously disrupting the disharmony within our own selves. Instead, use those wild strolls into the imagination to envision a future for success. 

Create harmony between doubt and your meandering mind.  Now that you know how doubt can help you, consider a love letter to it:

Dearest Doubt,

When I think of all the times you’ve helped me I can’t thank you enough. You saved me from buying a car from that bogus dealership. You saved me from attending the wrong college and from taking the job that would’ve been a disaster.

Doubt, you have been sounding off an alarm for danger for some time. Thank you for protecting me.

I admit that there are times I wish you weren’t there. There are times I want you to go away because the feeling you bring is unpleasant and it triggers my fears. There are times you overwhelm me with thoughts of what could go wrong.

But it’s not you. It’s me. It’s the dissonance inside myself that, sometimes, I don’t know how to navigate. It takes me into a future that doesn’t exist. I see a story that makes me think something is wrong with me and that I’m inadequate. When I doubt from a place of fear, I’m using you to try to control things I can’t. I create the mess.  

I realize now that I have misinterpreted you. You’re not there to make me feel bad about myself or about others. I finally understand this! You exist to help me stop trying to control what I can’t control. When I doubt that something will or won’t happen in life you aren’t telling me to worry more about it. You are telling me the future isn’t my business, I should doubt the future, its not mine to control. You are reminding me to come back to the moment and to take action on what is in my hands to do right now!

Thank you for this lesson. Because of you, I’m surrendering my thoughts of past and future. I’m willing and wanting to be more in touch with the present. 

I haven’t always trusted you because I didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship with you but now I do. As I learn about what you do for my success, I trust you more and more. I’ve stopped my self-doubts. Your primal scream when something is really dangerous is easy for me to hear.  

Doubt, I don’t doubt you anymore. I won’t ignore you when you pop up. Instead, I will cautiously determine if it’s my imagination or my gut guiding me. I’ll listen to you tell me what I need to know and use my reason.

Thank you for all these lessons. Thank you for being my warning sign but also for grounding me to the present. I appreciate knowing you will always be there when I need you.