How many thoughts pass through your mind in a single day? How many times do you find yourself paralyzed by doubt and uncertainty? For me, the answer to both of those questions is, “too many”.
I would categorize myself as a self-doubter, an over-thinker. I have always struggled with indecision. It’s plagued me since I can remember – always fearing that I would make the wrong choice and once I made one, I would torment myself by questioning my decision.
I’ve read that sometimes uncertainty can be beneficial. A certain amount of self-doubt is healthy and can serve us well. It generates questions that force us to review all options, from all angles and this close examination places pressure on us to make the best decision.
But if you’re like me, self-doubt can become debilitating. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize my own disabling, self-scrutinizing patterns. Options and “what if’s” are my greatest adversaries and create a lot of mental resistance. And it’s not just having to choose between A or B, it’s my internal debate of wondering if I’m good enough, smart enough or capable. It’s wondering what others may think. At times, I agonize over the little things, making mountains out of molehills (as my mom would say), putting me at capacity both mentally and physically. It can be exhausting.
I know I am not alone. We all question ourselves from time to time. We all lack confidence, once in a while. We all fill our minds with trivial, negative thoughts. It’s human nature. But we need to remember that our minds and bodies can only handle so much. Our fears, coupled with constantly overflowing thoughts, can stop us from accomplishing what we want. They can and will interfere with our happiness and personal sense of freedom.
When I’m lacking confidence or questioning a decision, my dad always asks, “Did you do your best?” When I’m grumbling to him about being stressed, he asks, “Is stress real?” Those are such simple questions but they are not asked as such. To him, they are rhetorical. He knows I always do my best and in regards to stress, he believes if you cannot touch or see something, it does not exist. One can argue the latter, however his point is that stress does not exist on its own. It’s something we create. Either way, both questions fulfill the purpose of reminding me that my worry and negative thinking, is needless. They are two simple reminders that have a profound effect on me. They provide me with the reassurance I need to clear my mind and move on. In reflecting on this, I wonder…can it be that simple? Is it that simple?
In keeping on the topic of my dad…he gave me a book years ago – The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by Miguel Ruiz. As I recall, it was during a time when I was (surprise, surprise) hounded by worry and “stress” (which I have placed in quotes because remember, it does not exist). For a relatively “quick read”, its message is powerful. Ruiz alludes to domestication (learned behavior) being the main detriment to our “journey towards spiritual transcendence” or more simply put, freedom, love and happiness. It sounds complicated but post-read, it will make all the sense in the world. It will encourage you to pause and re-evaluate your habits and priorities in order to live a life devoid of stress, worry, gossip, anger, self-abuse and anything else that holds you back. After I finished the book, I memorized its four principles (supposedly derived from ancient Toltec wisdom) and vowed to apply them to my daily life. It’s obvious, however, (in writing this) that I forget to refer to them from time to time.
Although up until this point I have lacked in my commitment to them, I strongly believe that practicing these principles can help remove much of the doubt and uncertainty we face on a daily basis. If we use them as a guide to living, it’s possible to achieve the confidence that is required to uncover peace of mind and move forward with conviction.
It’s best to read The Four Agreements in its entirety for extra guidance and context but its four main principles can and should be learned and applied without delay.
I present them here;
- Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
- Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
- Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
- Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
Even when advised against it, we remain our own greatest critic but if we can retrain our minds to minimize our negative thoughts by way of this advice, we will be one step closer to personal freedom and true happiness.
As for me, I think it’s time for a full “re-read”. 😉