How Do I Do This and Will It Be OK? A Psychologist’s Answer.
TL;DR: We all struggle with self doubt, uncertainty, a hope for reassurance. Those questions have no answers and a million answers. 1. In times of doubt and confusion, find inspiration from the stories of your heroes and their struggles. 2. You don’t need to see the whole path, just the step in front of you. Take that one step. 3. Answer the why? Why would you do this hard thing?
Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist, said “What is most personal is most universal.” Each person is different yet we are all the same. We all struggle with self doubt, uncertainty, a hope for reassurance.
At some point in each journey with and through pain, there are two questions:
How do I do this?
Will it be OK?
Those questions have no answers and a million answers - so I'm sharing a few things that help me answer these questions for myself in the hope they may be helpful to you.
Q: How Do I Do This?
A: Look To Your Heroes
In times of doubt and confusion, look to the stories of your heroes. Delve into their lives and see how they too have experienced doubt, questioning, and failure. Watch how they rose, look for what they learned. Brené Brown self-published her first book at 39 because she couldn’t find a publisher or an agent. Ghandi was a embarrassingly substandard lawyer.
One of the core components of self compassion is a recognition of common humanity, of the humanness of your experience and how just like you so many people have been, are right now, and will experience these same emotions and thoughts.
When I am struggling, I repeat Harriet Tubman's refrain when leading escapes on the Underground Railroad:
"If you are tired, keep going; if you are scared, keep going; if you are hungry, keep going; if you want to taste freedom, keep going."
Q: How Do I Do This?
A: Take One Step
Stephen Cope reminds us that we can travel our whole difficult journey just one step at a time.
"The yoga tradition is full of teaching stories about divine guidance...In one of these stories [the pilgrim] travels only at night, and carries a lantern, but the lantern only illuminates the path a few feet ahead of him. He knows that this slim illumination is all he needs. He does not need to see the whole path ahead. He trusts that he can make the entire journey seeing only the immediate next steps." - Stephen Cope, The Great Work of Your Life
I talk more about being stuck in the midst of doubt here, but sometimes it is enough to put one foot in front of the other. To see just one step ahead, trusting that future-you will rise to the challenge of the unknowns that lie ahead in the dark .
Q: Will It Be OK?
A: No and yes and no and yes and on and on.
“Will it be ok?” is a Trojan horse. Because behind this question lies deeper, truer ones.
Q: Will it be comfortable?
A: It will be comfortable if you want to stay the same.
Q: But I don’t want to stay the same.
A: Then it won’t be comfortable.
Q: But will I survive?
A: You will die at some point but unlikely as a direct result of feeling and doing hard things.
Q: Will I succeed?
A: We have no way of knowing till you try.
Q: But will it be worth it?
A: Ahhh! That depends, why are you doing it?
And here we are. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Connect With The Purpose
Why are you here? Why would you leap into an unknown, do something hard, learn something new? What makes living and learning through these emotions worth it? Clarity of purpose is the fuel that feeds the fire of resilience and grit.
Colorado’s own Zach Mercurio talks a lot about purpose and I point you to two of his excellent resources: the “Helping People Discover and Activate Purpose” podcast and the “Three Questions for Building Vision” blog post.
Here’s what I connect with when I’m answering my own why.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt
(Alas, technology in 1994 could not provide us with HD video of the esteemed Garth Brooks - but twenty years later a German man carries the torch.)
On the most meta level, I want to be in the arena (Roosevelt) and in the fire (Brooks) for love and connection, for the chance to make someone else’s life better, to say I truly tried all I could.
I will feel and do hard things because I’d rather be alive and tingling than safe.
What inspires you in times of questioning? What would you add to this list?
Cheering for you, Kerry