How to Deal with Doubt

Doubt is a big trap for those who want to create change. It comes from a lack of self confidence, and the feeling that we aren’t competent or experienced enough to make the change. We aren’t the sort of people who do this.

We all know or have seen people who are more accomplished than we are. If you want promotion, you’ll know others who are more experienced than you.

  • If you want to date someone, you’ll see others who converse with that person, and who are better  looking or more suave than you.
  • If you want to set up a business, you’ll know how little you know about its practicalities.
  • And if you want to break away from someone or something, you’ll doubt your ability to survive without their support.

All of this can lead to a paralysis.

Some of us who want to be self-employed seek a work partner. I’ve seen that frequently. They want to share the burden, and get someone to be a path finder. They want someone who will be more self-confident than they are. In my experience it’s a limiting route, for various reasons. Let’s say you want to open a restaurant, and you partner with someone. Chances are that in a year’s time, you’ll be falling out with them because they have a different outlook.

Sticking with commercial ventures, many people want to become a franchisee. They know that the franchisor, the business that will sell you the franchise, will look after you and show you how to do it. All of which is true, but there’s a downside. A year after you’ve set up the business, and done all the hard work, you get ‘franchise regret’. You discover that the franchisor doesn’t do much to help you, that you could have discovered the operating procedures yourself and, worst of all, you’re committed to paying the franchise a hefty amount of money in perpetuity.

But at least such people have made the change. Many of us never get that far. And yet ask anyone who made a big change and they will say, ‘I should have done it years ago.’

People rarely regret making a change that failed. But people regret not making the change.

7 ways to overcome doubt

1. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s usually less than your generalised fears will tell you.

2. Take baby steps towards your objective.

3. Focus on the opportunity. It’s there, waiting for you. It’s your big chance. You owe it to yourself to try.

4. Get support. Find someone who will endorse what you want to do.

5. Minimise your weaknesses. What skills, knowledge or experience do you need? What would give you greater confidence? Amanda buys books on local history, enough to start a second hand bookshop. As a result, she knows more about local history than anyone else. She gave herself a practical project, recording the history of a family of stonemasons who owned our house in the 1800s. It’ll probably turn into an article in the town’s local history yearbook. It’s how she went from knowing nothing about local history to being an expert.

6. Accept setbacks. There will be partial failures along the way. That’s part of the learning experience.

7. Just go do it. Tell yourself you have to do it. Put down the book and do it.

There’s a saying: If you have  to swallow a toad, don’t look at it for too long.

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

When you feel you aren’t making progress

If you feel disheartened by an apparent lack of progress, try to recognise that you’re closer to your goal than you were. Here are some things you might have done:

  1. Worked actively on the project.
  2. Spoke to someone about the project, and got their feedback.
  3. Did some research
  4. Recognised where you needed information or help.
  5. Learnt from previous mistakes
  6. Faced your fear.
  7. Exhibited courage.
  8. Remained calm and didn’t give way to despair or anger.

And recognise that:

  1. You’re still working on the project. You haven’t given up.
  2. You’re still determined to make it work.
  3. You’re resisting the urge to moan.

Now is the time to:

1. Put this book down.

2. Get out your project work list, see what the single next step is, and do it.

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Your Life Change: Big or Small? Which is best?

Sometimes I’m conscious of how small my income is, compared with the big time gurus and business people. I notice how small my world is. I see what little change I manage to create with my not-for-profit activities.

And then I think about the ‘Starfish on the beach’ story?

A man and his daughter were walking along a beach at low tide. There were hundreds of starfish lying there, thrown up by a recent storm. The little girl picked up one and threw it back into the sea. Her father said, ‘But there are hundreds here. You can’t throw all of them back.’ And she replied, ‘Yes. But for that one, I made a difference.’

So it doesn’t matter if your wins are small. You don’t have to save the entire world. Every time I read a newspaper article about the terrible things going on in the world, and feel helpless, I think of the small things I’ve done recently to make the world just a tiny bit better.

And the most important impact we can have is on our friends and family. It’s particularly true about children or grandchildren. The gift of listening and supporting them is incalculable.

My son-in-law’s mother is always ready to help out with the children. She’ll take them out for the morning, something I fail to do because I have a 9-5 job (but I could do better, much better). Her influence on her grandchildren is something that will last their entire lifetime. So you should never feel that the change you make is unimportant.

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Thinking the unthinkable


Terry runs a antique book business. Over time fewer people were visiting the shop, and sales started to decline. To cut costs, Terry made his assistant redundant. Then he reduced his opening hours. Then he closed the shop on Mondays. He asked the landlord for a rent reduction. But his costs still outweighed his income. It was time to think the unthinkable.

Eventually he closed the shop, moved his stock to a shed, and opened an online store. This grieved him, because he saw himself as a bookseller, dealing face to face with the public, and letting them browse his stock. He had no skills and an active dislike for online marketing. But the alternative was closing the business, and he needed an income. Now he’s learnt how to add stock to his online catalogue, got to grips with eCommerce, and is making a living.


Maybe you’re at a point where you have to think the unthinkable?

It might be a change in your personal life, in your work life, or just an itch you have to scratch, like going to Bhutan or climbing Mount Everest. Maybe you’ve had enough and need to break out People are often have to re-invent themselves, or decide to do so.

After he’d had many drug arrests, and being sentenced to three years in jail. no one in Hollywood was interested in hiring bad boy Robert Downey Jr.

He ended up being fired from the ‘Ally McBeal’ TV series. He wandered into a neighbour’s house, and fell asleep in one of their beds. Eventually, he sobered up, started working hard, and is now worth $300 million.


Even the most ordinary among us can change

But while public figures sometimes change their lives, so can the rest of us. Buzzefeed asked people in Brazil about changes they’d made.

As a child Jonas Filho barely went to school and passed no exams. “I finished my elementary education at age 29, middle school at 30, and at 31, I went to university on the other side of the country,” he said. “I didn’t know anyone, and I abandoned school several times because I was working as a waiter at night. At 37, I graduated as a geography teacher, passing three exams, and I’m about to move to a new city, where I’ll do my master’s degree. I’m already thinking about a doctorate at 40.”

Aurélio Pereira is 33. She was worked as a lawyer for nine years, had a four-year marriage and a well-established life. “I dropped everything — job, career, husband, apartment and friends — went to live in a temple, studied yoga and worked as a chef in a vegan restaurant. I went back to living with my parents, opened a shop selling plus size clothing (manufactured in house) with my mother, and now I’m saving money so I can open my own vegan restaurant.

And finally Thayrine Mars talked about her mum who, at age 52, had recently separated from her dad, and having been a housewife for her entire life had no savings. But she wanted to work with the elderly. “So she did odd jobs to save money to pay for a caregiver course,“ said Thayrine. “She got her diploma, and two months later she took a city hall exam to be a caregiver for the elderly. She passed on her first try, and now she’s been working there for two years. She’s a fantastic employee and the oldest person on the team.”

We don’t know what impelled these people to make such a massive change. Each of them did the unthinkable.


Now it’s your turn. Complete the Challenge below.

You can download an editable version here: Challenge – Thinking the unthinkable.


Challenge: Thinking the unthinkable


What unthinkable thing would you like to achieve?
Why is it unthinkable?
What do you lack that would make it happen?
How would you get whatever is lacking?
Write down your next steps to turn the unthinkable into reality.




Want to know more?

These ideas are taken from my forthcoming book, Get Up and Go.

If you’d like a free, no-obligation chat, click the button below. It takes you to our phone call booking system.

Talk to us in confidence




Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Things change – and so must we

Are you easy-going? If so, you’re probably a nice person, and people will like you. But being relaxed has its downsides. If you’re looking for change, easy-going can be dangerous.

Get too relaxed and you get lulled into acquiescence. It leads to you being left behind. You need to be aware of the need for change.

One of my favourite words is ‘entropy’. It means ‘Things fall apart’. Neat systems begin to less effective. Shoes wear out. Machines break down. Relationships fail. Empires crumble. Unless you tidy the kitchen it will get more and more messy. It’s like the diagram below.

Entropy is always at work, unseen

We assume things will stay the same. But they don’t, especially not in a changing world.

Whenever you set yourself a goal or learn a skill, you’re pushing back against entropy. The alternative is to give in, and let yourself be carried along on the tide.

Without effort, you allow yourself to be controlled by others. You’ll be the victim of slow change.

You need to be alert to things changing around you. Don’t assume you have a job for life, because you won’t. The services your organisation provides will go out of fashion. Over time you’ll no longer lust after your partner. You’ll exercise less. Your waist will expand. You’ll watch more television.

People in a successful relationship work at it. Businesses that keep pace with progress survive longer. They fight against apathy and entropy.

Stay alert to changes in the world around you. Don’t assume things will stay the same. Acquire new skills. Be aware of new ideas.

Get out of your comfort zone. It’s really your danger zone.

Exercise: How open to change are you?

How open to change are you?  
1You cook from scratch at least once a week. 
2You’ve tried a new food or recipe at least once in the last fortnight? 
3You take at least 15 minutes brisk exercise a day, on average. 
4In the last 12 months you’ve taken any positive steps to earn more money. 
5You’ve instigated or actively pushed for a substantial change at work in the last three months. 
6You have demonstrated substantial affection to your partner in the last week, for example by hugging or complimenting. 
7You’re an active user of Google or another search engine. 
8You’re currently reading a novel or non-fiction work. 
9You’ve visited a museum or gallery in the last month. 
10You’ve been to the cinema or theatre in the last six months. 


If you scored at least six out of ten, well done. You’re staying alert to what’s going on around you. If you scored five or fewer, you’re in danger of falling behind. Here’s what to do:

How to be open to change

These steps will ensure you stay abreast of change. They’re the corollary of the quiz above.

  1. Ensure you personally cook from scratch at least weekly.
  2. Try out a new food or recipe at least once in the last fortnight.
  3. Take at least 15 minutes brisk exercise a day, on average.
  4. Reflect on how you might increase your earnings, and take steps to implement that.
  5. Develop a sense for what could be improved or changed at work, and raise it as an issue.
  6. Go out of your way to hug your partner at least once a week.
  7. Check regularly for things you don’t know, such as the origin of a word, or the history of a town, by looking it up on Google.
  8. Read novels or non-fiction works that are not by your favourite author.
  9. Visit a museum or gallery at least six times a year.
  10. Go to the cinema or theatre at least twice a year.
  11. Phone a friend at least once a month.

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Focus on what you can control

Some things are within your control, and others aren’t.

Getting angry about the state of the world is a waste of time (even though I frequently have a rant about it!). So if you hate an ugly office block there isn’t much you can do about it.

On the other hand, your behaviour and your attitude to others are definitely something you can change. This is called the Circle of Control (see the image below). It helps us focus on the things we can definitely change.

Beyond that is the Circle of Influence. It shows the things that are partly within your immediate control.

The outermost Circle of Concern has things that you have no control over, so there’s little point in worrying about them.

Exercise: Circles of Control, Influence and Concern

In the table below, write the things you have control over, and those you don’t.

Things I am completely in control overThings I have some control overThings I have no control over

Anxiety about things you can’t affect

Climate change can cause you anxiety. You worry about how your children or grandchildren will cope with a planet whose weather is more extreme and sea levels are rising.

What can you do about that? You can lobby your politicians, you can reduce your waste and consume fewer resources. You can join demonstrations. And that’s mostly it. The rest is up to the politicians – they have to bring in laws that will reduce the use of fossil fuel, and they must invest in renewable energy.

 If you focus on the things you can change, it’ll give you a sense of agency. When I see bad news on in a newspaper or an article on a news website, I say to myself, ‘I can’t do anything about problem A, but I can help in some small way with Problem B’. That reduces my stress levels.

I also tell myself that, although I have no control over X, I am doing something about Y.  So it even us the score. I’m doing what I can. That’s Agency. Whatever is outside my control is just that – I can’t be blamed for it, or take responsibility for it; and I’m not going to get anxious about it.

If a war breaks out somewhere, I can give some money to a relief charity – and no more. If there’s a local election I can put up a poster in my window for my preferred candidate. If I have time, I can support their campaign with leafleting, and if I have money I can give a donation. And whether they win or lose, I’ve done my bit.

And I’m going to limit my range of activities., because everyone knows that trying to do too much will make you less effective. So, pick a couple of things you can do, and accept that your time, energy and money are limited.

Where can you make a difference? Everyone has their own interests. I’d like to help illiterate adults learn to read. I’d like to do more for my children and grandchildren. I’d like to build schools and dig wells in Africa. I could learn to use a digital audio workstation to write songs. I’d love to acquire DIY skills. But right now I don’t have time for any of those things, and if I spent time on them I would do other things less well, and cause myself stress.

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

How to make better choices


Some of us made bad choices earlier in life, and we seem to be paying for it now.

Dropping out of school or marrying the wrong person. Choosing the wrong career or getting stuck in a dead-end job. Taking on debt or having a house that’s in negative equity.

Other bad choices are due to our temperament, and they’re the everyday ones that hold us back. Here are the main ones. These are the ways to make bad choices.


  1. Emotionally labile (mood swings). Are you a stormy person given to rants and outbursts? Maybe some of this is due to stress. But emotional behaviour leads to bad, spur of the moment decisions. The amygdala – our old reptile brain – rushes into action when challenged, while the neocortex, the youngest part, is good at making reasoned decisions.
    Solution: When emotion wells up inside you, find a way to push it back down and let your more sophisticated brain take over.
  • Superficial. Some of us are the life and soul of the party, good time girls and boys who love staying out late. We occasionally disparage the more serious parts of life, such as taking responsibility. But becoming responsible is what happens when we grow up. We get to take control of our lives. It’s what happens when we leave adolescence behind us.
    Solution: It’s time to get serious. What is the One Big Change you need to make? How will you implement it?
  • Defined by other people. They may expect you to behave in a certain way. They may classify you as the party person (mentioned above), the ditsy one, or the wimpy one. If you accept these labels, it’s hard to break out and do your own thing.
    Solution: You have to choose your own path. Create your own persona, not one chosen by other people.

  • Living in a fantasy world. You may find it hard to face up to reality. Symptoms are a refusal to face facts, such as keeping your spending within limits. Do you dream of being whisked away to a tropical island by a gorgeous new partner, or striking it rich with a lottery ticket? That’s a way of evading reality.
    Solution: You achieve things only by your own endeavours. Sit down and plan how to change your life.

  • Letting what happened in the past dictate your future. Just because you made a bad marriage, fell into debt, or had a failed business shouldn’t stop you from trying again. 
    Solution: Treat the past as a learning experience. Don’t let it control you. Make grounded decisions about your future.

  • Negativity. If you have a negative outlook on life, try to curb it. If you expect the worst, that’s what will happen, because you won’t commit to making it work. We can all get hurt by past choices, but that’s what they are – in the past. Negativity will hold you back.
    Solution: If you have a depressive tendency, use the advice in this book and elsewhere to manage it.

  • Putting others’ needs first. Do you do that? If so, it’s time to re-evaluate – if you want change. It may be hard and it may look to be selfish, but it will aid your mental health and help you attain change. Identify who you’re trying to benefit, and how much they deserve it, and whether it’s worth it. 
    Solution: Carve out time for yourself.

  • Making excuses. When I was young, I had a ready excuse for everything that went wrong. Nowadays I try to understand what happened, and learn from it. That’s what grow ups do. If you’re short of money and say ‘I’m no good with cash’, that’s an excuse. If you say, ‘I didn’t have enough time to do something important,’ find out why that happened, and do it differently next time. If you’re late for a meeting, accept that you should have started out earlier.
    Solution: Learn from problems. Decide how to prevent them happening again.

  • Being indecisive. It’s easy to keep putting major decisions off. There are always good reasons for delaying them. But the big decisions will be waiting for you, and that’s not good for you.
    Make a list of the big decisions, and take action.

  • Having low aims. You can’t achieve change if you believe you should ‘stay in your lane’. Low expectations will achieve just that – you’ll stay in a lowly, subordinate situation for the rest of your life. It applies to your partner, your work, your home, and your children. Demand high standards of yourself and your family. Hold yourself erect and make plans.

  • Ignoring warning signs. When things happen, people often say ‘It was obvious a long time ago’. Financial problems come through the letter box in brown envelopes. Marital problems come when your partner stays out late and comes home smelling of someone else. Children’s problems come when you see evidence of cuts on their forearms. And there are practical warnings such as road signs.
    Solution: Signs tell are there to tell you to take action. So, do it.

  • Preferring the security of the familiar. We may avoid change because we unconsciously worry about an unknown future. It’s more comforting to stay with what we know, rather than leave our comfort zone. This is pernicious because most of us don’t recognise that tendency. It’s buried deep, and we may  offer spurious but apparently cogent reasons for not moving forward.
    Solution: We have to face our fears, and accept that change is necessary. Plan how you can minimise the pain.

  • Being impetuous. Not thinking things through before we make a change usually ends up as a bad choice. There is merit in taking a step back before we commit to anything big. Doing something on impulse and lead to regrets afterwards. When we’ve flounced out of a meeting or a relationship it’s hard to get back in. Making expensive purchases on the spur of the moment can cost us dear. If anyone asks me to buy something immediately, whether online or in person, it’s usually because they know I might reconsider if given time to think. Alarm bells ring in my mind, and I usually tell the person I need to reflect on it.
    Solution: When faced with an important decision, gather the information first. If someone is pushing you to make a choice, have a phrase ready, such as ‘Let me have a think about that. I’ll give you an answer tomorrow.’

  • Listening to the wrong people. As teenagers we rarely want to heed the advice of our parents who warned us about alcohol or mixing with ‘the wrong crowd’. As adults we need to choose our friends carefully. Bad advice comes from all kinds of people. There are the unreliable, self-centred ones who want to bring you into their orbit. And there are well-intentioned people who care about you, but who are limited by their own fears.
    Solution: Take advice from people who you know to be sound and experienced. In particular, pay attention to people who weight up the pros and cons of any major decision.

  • Being self-opinionated. It’s dangerous to assume you ‘know it all’. Before making a big choice, consult others, listen closely to them, and then make up your own mind. Be open to the ideas of others. There is wisdom in the crowd. No one has a monopoly on good ideas, and people who believe they’re infallible are often about to have a nasty surprise. The world changes slowly but surely.
    Solution: Listen more carefully to what’s going on around you.


Now do the Good Choices/Bad Choices quiz.

You can download an editable version here: How to make better choices – Worksheet


Quiz: Good choices, bad choices

Are you prone to making bad choices, or none at all?


Do you have stormy moods?


Do you spend too much time on lightweight activities?


Do you let others define who you are and what you do?


Do you dream of unlikely fantasy situations, rather than taking steps to achieve concrete results?


Does the past dictate or limit what you do today?


Do you often say negative things about others’ suggestions, or spurn new ideas?


Are you constantly doing things for other people, leaving yourself lacking time for your own projects?


Do you make excuses when things go wrong, rather than accept responsibility?


Do you procrastinate, particularly when it comes to making change?


Are you limited by your own negative self-image?


Are you impetuous?


Do you listen to the wrong people?


Do you ‘know it all’?




Results: If you scored less than 7 out of 14, you make good choices. More than that, and you need to implement the changes suggested in this section.


Want to know more?

These ideas are taken from my forthcoming book, Get Up and Go.

If you’d like a free, no-obligation chat, click the button below. It takes you to our phone call booking system.

Talk to us in confidence



Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.

Let’s Walk Backwards

‘Begin with the end in mind’ was one of author Stephen Covey’s clever ideas. He first revealed it in his book, The 7 habits of highly effective people’, back in 1989 and has sold 25 million copies.

When we come to work each morning, most of us start by looking at our email. It’s understandable. But it isn’t effective.

And if we’re unhappy with our ‘significant other’ we’re likely to grumble to our best friend, rather than visualise what life could be like.

Covey says we need to stand back, and decide what we need to achieve. It’s a form of goal setting. But it’s better than having goals, because it forces us to look at where we want to be and work backwards from that, doing tasks that will move us towards that end.

How to ‘begin with the end in mind’

1. Decide what you want to achieve. What is your one big goal? It has to be rational. We may all aspire to write the next world class novel, but most of us won’t achieve that.

You’re reading this because there’s something in your life that you’re unhappy with, and you’re aiming to change it. So, write down what that one thing is.

2. Write down the steps that will make that happen.

The one big thing I need to change in my life  
Steps that will make it happen  

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.