Michel de Montaigne was an influential writer during the French Renaissance, writing primarily about humans and humanity with a frank truthfulness that to this day causes one to think. Recently, Arianna Huffington quoted him at a commencement speech that caught my eye, because it beautifully and humorously expresses how self-doubt can be the biggest limiting factor in our lives:
“There were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened.”
The quote is likely not exact, and it has been mimicked by others over the centuries. But the meaning rings as true today as it did in the sixteenth century.
Good and bad, blessed and terrible, is a matter of perception. Perception is one hundred percent self-driven. No one can tell you how you feel about something, someone, or even yourself. Sure, self-perception can be chipped at or reinforced externally, but ultimately we have to choose how we view our place in the world and how we plan to live within it. Too often we focus on the negative, assigning the most dismal probabilities or assessments of outcomes that really aren’t that bad at all. Some never even come to pass, but we limit our potential by playing it safe, trying to avoid losing rather than trying to win.
Great leaders approach their goals from the end state – what they want to accomplish. There’s usually a hundred reasons why something won’t work, maybe only a few to get something accomplished the way we want to. But when we start by wading through the minefield of doubt we not only make it more difficult to achieve, we also tend to create new reasons why something can’t be accomplished, and in leadership as in life, that doubt is contagious.
People who follow you are looking for inspiration and a challenge to succeed. It is always important to be wary of potential pitfalls, but don’t let them prevent you from making choices that could lead to better results or a more fulfilled life. Most of those bad outcomes? Never happened, and are unlikely to do so. Don’t paralyze your prosperity by listening to the voice of doubt.