A five letter word used to describe uncertainty, a lack of confidence, or fear of failure. Phrase it as you will, we all know what doubt means because we've experienced it at some point in our lives — whether we felt it riding a bike for the first time, choosing which college to go to, what career path to take, or even which person to spend the rest of our lives with.
Typically, the word doubt has a negative connotation, as it's often described as the main cause of failure, and the barrier to success and improvement.
You might have even heard this popular motivational quote: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
But does it really?
Back in the day (like, way back), Galileo coined a phrase that professes self-doubt to be "the father of all invention." He argues that instead of being "a crippling experience," self-doubt should generate creativity and serve as a powerful stimulus.
British journalist and broadcaster Alastair Campbell managed to take Galileo's theory even further by aptly naming the good and the bad forms of doubt:
"Self-doubt that doesn't lead to decision or action is ultimately self-defeating — whereas self-doubt that leads to resolution of the doubts can be a remarkable source of energy and creativity," he writes.
Doubt, huh, yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely lots of things.
Sure, we agree that "not knowing" is not the most pleasant feeling. But there are two sides to every coin, so why not consider the benefits of self-doubt and try to focus on its positive outcome instead?
Here are 5 reasons that will hopefully make you appreciate that little voice in the back of your head more:
1. Doubt makes you question things. And people.
We're not saying you should look at everything as a possible conspiracy theory, but having doubts about new information, experiences and relationships can save you a ton of time, and potential headaches.
A healthy amount of doubt is more like critical thinking, and can help you gain a clearer perspective on things.
2. Doubt helps you improve.
Henry Ford once said: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Being excessively confident and assured with something often makes us overlook bits of information that could make our lives so much easier.
Doubt, however, makes us question the current state of affairs and can help us see the bigger picture to initiate progress.
3. Doubt helps you set goals.
Doubting your capabilities can be crippling, but it can also encourage you to find ways to cope with your inner fears.
Whatever the situation, doubt can inspire you to set personal goals, draft action plans, and just generally be more prepared for whatever may come your way.
4. Doubt helps you find alternatives.
As the second point already suggested, doubt helps us improve by questioning the status quo.
Doubting your present decisions broadens your perspective and makes sure your brain is always on the lookout for new ideas and possible solutions. You might also discover and eventually confront things in your personal life that have been dragging you down. Either way, it's a win!
5. Doubt helps you overcome limitations.
When you come to think of it, doubt can be an extremely powerful motivator, regardless of if it's caused by your surroundings or coming from within.
Achieving a seemingly unattainable goal, proving someone (including yourself) wrong, rising above the obstacles — these are the sweet and rewarding feelings that make a little self-doubt worthwhile.
At the end of the day, it's really just a matter of perspective.
Doubts or no doubts, stay aware, stay positive, stay hungry and make things work for you. We're pretty sure everything is going to work out in the end.
At Strayer University, we've been breaking down barriers and making college possible for working adults for over 120 years. Giving you the power to learn anywhere. Online, on campus or on the go. Strayer makes it possible. Find out more at strayer.edu.