How to stop second-guessing yourself.

Self-doubting questions like "did I do the right thing?" are common when we second-guess ourselves. Luckily there's a simple way to make them constructive.

Do you ever second-guess yourself?

Do these questions at times have a negative impact on your confidence or self-esteem?

I’m going to guess the answer is yes, since pretty much all of us do from time to time.

Now, it’s important to remember that exploring our actions, especially when they didn’t produce our desired result, can be a great way to learn and grow.

But, done wrong, it can also be a good way to dig ourselves into a deep, dark hole of self-doubt and self-criticism.

I often hear from people that after something didn’t go as they wanted, they’re left with questions like:

  • Did I do the right thing?
  • Was that action appropriate?
  • Should I have done B instead of A?
  • Etc…

The problem with these kinds of questions is that they are too ambiguous.

In the vast majority of cases, there simply isn’t one right answer to them – but many potential ones, depending on what we’re actually asking.

The answer to, “did I do the right thing?” for example, can only be properly answered if you define in which way it was supposed to be right.

Be more specific to be more constructive.

So you might change the question to:

  • “Did I do the right thing morally speaking (regardless of outcome)?”
  • “Did I do the right thing to get the desired short-term result (regardless of morals)?”
  • “Did I do the right thing for my long-term goals?”
  • “Did I do the right thing based on the information/abilities I had at the time?”
  • Etc…

If we want to learn from our experiences, our questions must be specific. Only then do we stand a chance of finding the answer that will either help us learn and improve - or become comfortable with the decisions we’ve made.

And this is true even if we want to know the answer to several of those specified questions.

We might, for example, want to know if it was the right thing to do morally speaking and if it was the right thing to do for our long-term goals. In that case, we have to ask both questions independently.

And sometimes the answer will be different for each.

Perhaps we did make the morally correct choice, but it was the wrong one for our long-term results. In that case, the only question left to ask is what’s more important to us: our morals or our results?

(Followed, preferably, by considering whether our long-term goals are right for us if we have to do immoral things to reach them.)

I could go on, but I’m guessing you understand the strategy by now?

By reframing our self-doubting and self-critical questions in this way, we change them from ammunition for our self-destructive insecurities to learning lessons that we can build on as we move forward.

How to turn self-doubt into self-help.

So here’s a simple way to use this technique, the next time you get caught in a loop of self-doubting questions:

Write down the specified, unambiguous, versions of these questions. Include all the versions that you feel are important to you.

Once you’ve written them down, go through them one by one and write your answers down next to them.

If the answers conflict with each other, prioritize which one is most important to you – and when you’re done, you’ll have turned self-doubting rumination into constructive exploration and learning.

Hi, I'm TJ Guttormsen.

Since 2009 I’ve coached clients ranging from Olympic gold medalists and billionaires, to people who simply want more out life.

I’ve done over 100 national media appearances, published books, and created online courses that have earned several “Highest Rated” titles from their 11 000+ members.

Today I coach clients from all over the world, and teach seminars for business and events from my home in Las Vegas.

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