Arif is an entrepreneur who left his job at a bank during the pandemic. His businesses include currency trading and freelance writing.
Overcoming Self Doubt
“Did I just make a huge mistake?" “Should I have quit my job?” “Is this all worth it?” “Am I good enough?”
Have any of these questions passed through your mind? Did you quit your steady-but-miserable job to pursue your passion as an entrepreneur? Along the way, have you gotten stumped and felt that perhaps you'd bitten off more than you could chew?
Throughout your entrepreneurial journey, you will be faced with heaps of failures, and during those times, it can be easy to fall into a pit of self-doubt where the aforementioned questions are constantly asked by your inner voice.
The one thing that is guaranteed throughout the journey to success is failure. It is our responsibility as independent thinkers and entrepreneurs to know how to navigate our emotions when those failures inevitably come. As an entrepreneur myself, there are several things I've done and continue to do to overcome self-doubt.
5 Ways to Keep Your Motivation Up During an Entrepreneurial Venture
- Stop Seeking Approval From Others
- Focus on One Thing at a Time
- Stop Rationalizing Bad Habits
- Achieve Single-Mindedness
- Stick to a Routine
1. Stop Seeking Approval From Others
We human beings are notorious for doing or saying things just to please others, and who can blame us? It has been programmed through millions of years of psychological evolution for humans to crave interactions with—and approval from—other humans.
Seeking Approval Is Instinct
This evolutionary trait dates back to prehistory when an individual's survival was directly dependent on their ability to socialize. Our ancestors found safety in numbers and therefore had to learn to work together. They also had to act in a way that was socially acceptable to other members of their communities.
This emotional trait has not left us. How many times have you found yourself telling a lie to someone to avoid getting into trouble or giving a compliment to your best friend knowing full well that they don’t actually deserve it? Maybe you felt you had to choose a profession that was not what you really wanted to pursue because your parents wanted you to.
We seek approval from others in many facets of our lives, and as an entrepreneur, this kind of mindset can hinder our progress toward our goals. Everything we do must be out of pure honesty and for the right reasons. If our intentions are pure, they will bear fruit. Otherwise, our actions will be meaningless and can never be sustained.
Their Approval Is Unattainable—But Yours Isn't
The harsh truth about seeking the approval of others is that you probably will never actually attain it. Even if you feel that you have achieved something that made your parents proud, there will probably be more than they want you to achieve.
“I want you to study hard, get a degree, get a job, get married, have kids, and then teach your own kids the same thing.” Maybe you've spent your entire life achieving those things, but it has only increased your resentment toward your parents because at no point in your journey through life did you do anything that you really wanted.
As an entrepreneur, you have to give it your all—you have to be 100% committed. If that 100% is done just to impress someone else, then you’re not going to last very long. And when the failures come knocking, you will start to find something or someone else to blame.
Stop seeking other people’s approval. Do things because you want to and because you want to impress yourself.
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2. Focus on One Thing at a Time
The ability to concentrate fully is key when it comes to getting a specific task done efficiently. It's important to be as single-minded as possible when you're trying to accomplish a goal; trying to write a poem while running an 800-meter race is impossible. Instead, focus on doing just one job—and doing it extremely well.
Time Management Is Key: Work Smart
According to an article from the BBC, human beings can concentrate on one thing for about 90 minutes before needing a 15-minute break. It is our job as entrepreneurs to make that 90 minutes as productive as possible. That means discarding your phone, ignoring social media, closing the Youtube app, and turning off the TV.
During those 90 minutes, you must have all your forces marshaled and ready to take on the tasks at hand. 90 minutes is the benchmark, but there are those who can manage to stay focused for even longer. Everyone would have different thresholds. Therefore, it is important for anyone who wants to concentrate on a creative endeavor to figure out how much intense concentration they can sustain across time and not exceed that.
This is especially true when it comes to creative work like writing or designing. Successful Canadian music composer Samuel Andreyev said that he can only compose music for about three hours a day. “In addition to all the skills that are necessary for music composition, you must [also] know how to work,” says Andreyev.
If you go beyond the level of concentration that you can handle, you tend to fall into the realm of diminishing returns where the more you try to slug it out, the less quality your creations have. It's not just about working hard; it's also about working smart.
Little Wins Go a Long Way
So, how does this relate back to the issue of self-doubt? Well, small incremental periods of intense focus lead to small incremental goals being achieved, and that is the key to success.
As an entrepreneur, you must accept that it will take you a long time to see any significant results, so in order to not tire yourself out, these little “wins” are what will sustain you mentally and block out the voice in your head that says “you can’t do this.” Many small wins throughout an extended period of time will lead you toward success.
3. Stop Rationalizing Bad Habits
Don’t get too confused with this one. Being able to rationalize things is always good. But what if it's not all the time?
Bad Habits Postpone the Inevitable
I had a friend who was a voracious drinker. Every day, she found herself consuming copious amounts of alcohol. When I confronted her about it, she found a way to somewhat justify her actions with a seemingly rational explanation. She told me that it was necessary for her to drink because she needed to enrich her relationship with her friends through the act of drinking. It was important for her to have a good time because she was dealing with problems with her boyfriend.
The only way to forget her problems was to drink so that she did not have to think about them at work. Oddly enough, she was extremely articulate when explaining all this. She was completely content with her way of dealing with her personal issues. She failed to realize that no matter how well she armed herself with rationally coherent arguments, they made sense only to her.
Confront Your Problems as They Come
Anyone on the outside looking in can see that this is a destructive behavior that only delays inevitable pain with temporary self-gratification. She chose to mask her pain with drinking rather than face it head-on. Why? Because it is very scary to confront a problem directly—to take the bull by the horns, as they say. And why wouldn't you be scared?
It's helpful to identify specific areas in your life that require fixing. This requires sufficient single-mindedness and the acceptance of responsibility. But the faster you accept that responsibility, the faster you can deal with your issue before it snowballs into a monumental problem that you feel that you can’t possibly solve anymore, which then leads to a serious sense of self-doubt.
The key is to nip a problem in the bud before your subconscious tells you you can’t solve it.
4. Achieve Single-Mindedness
What does single-mindedness mean? According to Merriam-Webster, it means to have one single driving purpose or resolve. The definition is also complemented with synonyms like “determined” and “dedicated.”
You might picture people who are “single-minded” as athletes whose only goals are to be faster, better, stronger, and win. But could we average Joes have some kind of single-mindedness in our own lives? Determination comes from our ability to select one difficult task to do— and then do whatever it takes to complete that task.
Envision the Finish Line—Even for Small Tasks
To push that sense of determination even further, imagine what it would feel like once that task is done. Think about the objective benefit to achieving that task. Would completing that task reward you with some form of material gain—like money? Would completing the task make you feel motivated inside and push you to take on another challenge the next day? You must map out your path and choose to willingly confront what lies ahead of you.
Achieving single-mindedness will help you to eliminate distractions from your life. It helps to keep your sight laser-focused on your goals no matter what inner feelings may arise—even feelings of self-doubt.
5. Stick to a Routine
Life is full of changing aspects. We could lose our job or get promoted, fall in love or get heartbroken, lose a friend or gain a new one . . . in the endless combinations and permutations of life that are seemingly out of our control, one could forget that some things actually are in our control.
That, my friends, is our routine. Successful entrepreneurs always have a set of habits and rituals that they perform every single day. This helps them move a step closer to achieving their goals.
This is probably the most important tool to have in your entrepreneurial journey. A routine helps to narrow down the arbitrary nature of life. It helps us gain control of our day and helps us aim single-mindedly at our goals. A routine is a constant in a life full of variables; it's the one thing that doesn't have to change.
No matter what happens to us throughout the day—whether we feel motivated or depressed, happy or sad—sticking to our daily routine is key to making sure we stay productive.
We could feel joyful today but full of sorrow tomorrow, but our routine will always be there. Over time, with discipline and transformation, any thoughts that could lead you to self-doubt will be silenced, and you will move inexorably forward.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.