Your willpower is a finite resource. It’s highest in the morning and gets fatigued at every decision point of your day. So choose wisely and don’t use it on choosing clothes and resisting donuts.”
Such psychology and science research make a great read.
To support your argument, you can throw real-life examples of the great Zucks and Obamas. They wear the same clothes every morning to conserve their mental energy. So later in the day, they have the self-control to channelize their energies towards critical decision-making.
Not so fast.
Guess what a meta-analysis of the willpower as a finite resource (called as the ego depletion theory) found?
There’s no evidence of any ego depletion. Instead, your thought of “willpower being a limited resource” actually limits it.
It’s our good old placebo effect in action:
Your thoughts and beliefs drive your behavior.
That’s why if you’re consistently falling into unproductive thinking loops of doubt and anxiety, then you’re sabotaging the ‘possibilities of your life.’ Hang on; I’ll expand on this idea. Later in the article, we’ll also see a stupidly simple way to overcome doubt and self-limiting behaviors.
1. Inaction restricts your life!
A major reason that most of us procrastinate on important tasks is that they require us to move out of our comfort zones. In doing so, we need to overcome doubts and insecurities.
Your fears hold you from taking an imperfect action step. But does the delay guarantee your best work?
In the fast-moving digital world, you need to keep up and make rapid decisions despite insufficient information. Every second of lazy leisure due to fear only adds mental baggage. So you can’t view yourself skeptically at every point.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos mentions the importance of moving forward with 70% of information at hand. If he waits to gather 100% information, the opportunity cost that Amazon would have to pay as a business is huge. They would rather course correct later after taking an action step.
Even as an individual, you need to cultivate an aggressive action-taking appetite like Amazon. You’ve incredible access to information. The economy is in the best shape. And although we’re living in a time of tremendous competition, we also have ample opportunities.
The reality is, doubt isn’t an obstacle that you need to overcome once in life. You’ll have to center your emotions every day. Even the successful battle impostor’s syndrome.
Time spent dwelling on your skills can turn wasteful if you don’t take action during that doubtful period. It robs you of the other possibilities that you can achieve by putting in the dirty work.
Move forward despite doubt because that’s the only aspect under your control. Which brings me to my second point:
2. Let the luck suck it up…
You may be the kind of guy that never wins the toss. Your fate always gets the better of you, and that becomes the deciding factor in success.
So when you approach a new task, the memories of your previous losses hoard back. You sweat out, fearing that your luck will mess it up – all over again.
My friend, you need a replacement for the word “luck” in your dictionary. Let me introduce the mathematical concept of “chaos.”
The chaos theory dictates that certain dynamical systems are sensitive to the initial conditions. Even the slightest of change in the initial conditions can result in a drastically different outcome.
How does this apply to your real life?
Instead of taking the blame on yourself and taking too much pressure, you acknowledge the inherently chaotic nature present in real-life events.
Scott Young throws an excellent example of how acting vs. medicine careers differ using the chaos theory. With just one great audition for that big-budget movie, you can become a megastar. And as soon as the audience starts adoring another star, you can become stale. In medicine, your career will be comparatively less chaotic.
Elizabeth Gilbert, a bestselling author, had self-doubt and limiting thoughts after her massive success. She got worried what will happen to her career if her next novel doesn’t sell as many copies?
That’s when she recollected herself and changed her philosophy to “showing up to work every day, irrespective of the outcome.” She tagged creativity as an external entity that sways from one person to another; you got to continue doing what you do.
3. “You’re a douche.”
I don’t mean to disrespect you. But the labels that you use to describe yourself can slowly slip to become your inner functioning mechanism.
Remember our discussion on willpower at the beginning of the article?
Other external worldly conditions aside, you’re evolving every moment. Method actors are trained to approach every day with curiosity about their identity and how they feel because you’re never the same.
All your self-limiting statements like “I’m lazy” and “I’m dumb” can get internalized deep in your lives. Although, none of the labels need to hold true.
The next time you get a thought like “I belong to the 9-5 rat race”, pause, breathe, and question the foundation of it.
Possibly, it’s your societal conditioning. We grow up believing that working for more hours equals hard work. And that only a select few have the X-factor to accomplish success.
Maybe your primary class teacher told you that you’re a fickle-minded kid that doesn’t finish projects. You must ensure such stories don’t dictate your important life decisions.
Remember that the world isn’t binary (as we’re taught). It’s more like an infinite scale of gray. When your thoughts throw a label at you, don’t recognize with it. Let your mind pass on to the next suggestion, then the next one, and so on (until it throws a positive one).
The mindful way to overcome limiting patterns and self-doubt
Alright, so we had a look at 3 major ways in which self-limiting thinking patterns might exist. I also showed you counter-arguments to defeat them.
But our monkey mind doesn’t refine its thoughts with reasons alone. The fears wouldn’t settle straight away. Much like smoking, self-limiting patterns are a deadly habit that the mind feeds on. People even get depressed about feeling depressed.
Let’s turn pages from the book of mindfulness.
Being mindful means that you identify your thoughts as separate from yourself. When a negative idea springs up, you don’t indulge in it. Rather, you attempt to distance yourself from the worthless thought. You see the thought as it is – without judging it as good/bad.
The first aspect of practicing mindfulness is cultivating self-awareness of your mentally limiting thought patterns, as well as the triggers that lead you astray. Previously, Steven has already laid down the process of replacing destructive thinking patterns.
I would end the article with a short-term metacognition strategy that you can experiment with.
A stupid simple way to momentarily crush your self-doubt…
Social psychologist Aaron L. Wichman and friends found a simple strategy effective in their study, i.e. “doubt the doubt.” The results are momentary, but you can experiment with it occasionally.
The next time you feel uncertain, activate a sequential doubt by shaking your head as opposed to nodding (denotes agreement). It’s not a permanent, long-term fix. But it can help you displace your doubting habit.
When in doubt, keep at it and do it anyway!
The first step was identifying that self-doubt and limiting patterns are hurting your performance. Congratulations, you did that with panache.
Now, when the voice tries to beat you up next time, take out a piece of paper and write down your thoughts. Don’t get involved in them. Just remind yourself to refocus on the process instead of the outcomes.
How do you manage self-doubt and limiting thought patterns? Let me know in the comments below.