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The Difference Between Self-Doubt and Second-Guessing

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#9: difference
One big reason people end up lost, afraid and without confidence is because they’re full of self-doubt. Another is that they’re always second-guessing themselves, but not much thought is given to the difference between these two experiences and what it means for how you handle each of them.

So here’s the difference.

Second-guessing is wondering if your actions are enough. Did you take the right job? Did you move to the right city? Are you dating the right person? It also projects forwards. How do I know which job is the right one? How do I know where I should move to? How do I know if this relationship will work out?

Self-doubt is wondering if you’re enough. I’m not ready for this. I can’t do it. I’ll only fuck it up. Self-doubt also uses selected history as “evidence”, using times when things didn’t go to plan to support any thoughts that you’re not enough.

Dealing with these things isn’t a one-time thing.

They need consistent and deliberate action to keep at bay.

But let me boil things down real quick.

To productively deal with second-guessing, ask yourself this: If I knew I could deal with whatever happens, no matter what, what choice would I make?

And to help manage that self-doubt, ask yourself: What would the very best version of me—the me who feels connected, flowing and alive—do now?

Is Trying to Be Perfect Ruining Your Life?

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I make a mean omelet, but it’s never going to win a Michelin star. I can string a sentence together, but I’m no Shakespeare. And my singing voice sounds great in the shower, but would have customers demanding their money back if I did a solo gig at the Royal Albert Hall.

I do have high standards though. Standing on a really tall ladder and touching the moon high.

But I gave up on perfection a long time ago. You know perfection, right? It’s the thing that keeps you awake at night; the thing that makes you feel like you’ll never be good enough; the oppressor who never lets you be yourself.

Up there with using your own feet to flavour a home-made soup or watching 24-hour rolling news, chasing perfection is a spectacular way to ruin your life

Pursuing perfection in a task, project or behaviour is pursuing the impossible out of fear that your best might not be good enough or that others will see you’re not good enough, and it challenges you to always do better, to be perfect.

Like breeding cattle with the sole aim of birthing a unicorn, perfection is an unattainable target that puts “feeling good enough” always out of your reach.

Perfection robs you of any chance to have a sweet, dumb, beautiful life. Pursue it and you’ll never be free.

Perfect is fiction

Or perhaps it’s more a choice of perception. After all, there’s the perfect song for your mood. The perfect time to call a friend. The perfect meal with people you love.

Perfect is a sense that things are fine, right now, just as they are. It’s choosing to soften into the moment and to stop needing things to be a certain, impossible way.

It’s having confidence in who you are rather than feeding a sense of lack by trying to be something you’re not.

Bollocks to chasing perfection. You’re already there.

Explore Vastly


Cape Cod 2012 (Explore #492)
People say that life’s a journey, and I think they’re probably right.

You start at point A, and end up at point Dead, and the journey between is pretty much up to you. It’s interesting to note that while that journey is a straight line in terms of time, it’s never a straight line in terms of action or thought.

It feels like you meander and swerve, pivot and refocus, adjust and steer all the time. All of those verbs are about exploration, which, I think, is what the journey’s about too.

There’s an expanse of life ahead of you that remains to be explored. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Your future is pregnant with possibility.

It’s a vastness that can only be explored once you accept your role as explorer, as the leader of the expedition of your life.

Explorers have a sense of compelling curiosity, a sense of wanting to see what’s out there and to drink in the journey. Every step is embraced in the same spirit as the fruits of that journey, no matter how tough or joyous the moment is.

Explorers have confidence in their ability to explore vastly.

How about you?

Gratitude, Confidence and Why You Should Give a Damn

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gratitude & joy
I’m grateful for a lot of things. Sunshine. Fresh, crisp sheets. Laughing ’til I cry. The first sip of coffee. Netflix binges.

There’s something magical about gratitude that takes you out of your head and into your body. It’s gets you out of trying to plan and control everything and slap-bang into the right now.

But I wonder if it’s possible to experience gratitude if you’re surrounded by walls built to protect you from the loss of control and certainty?

You might be able to intellectually appreciate that you’re grateful for your lot, but that rationalisation is just another means of control. So the question I’d like to put to you is this.

Are the walls you’ve built preventing you from experiencing the gratitude and joy that’s here, right now?

See, gratitude is an honest expression of thanks towards something in your life, without needing it to be a certain way. It requires that you let go of your ego, your expectations and your craving for certainty, and embrace how things are right now, however they are.

Gratitude requires that you make yourself vulnerable

Letting go of “you” and giving yourself over to the moment renders you open and capable of being hurt, but it also does three things:

  1. Allows you to express gratitude.
  2. Allows you to experience joy.
  3. Gives you greater confidence in your ability to let go.

I don’t know about you, but gratitude and joy seem a hell of a lot more appealing than control and certainty, and confidence is really just your capacity for letting go of certainty and being vulnerable.

The more naturally confident you are, the easier it becomes to open to vulnerability. Which leads to gratitude. Which leads to joy. It’s a circle.

So I’ll ask it again.

Are the walls you’ve built preventing you from experiencing the gratitude and joy that’s here, right now?

Get Off Your Butt And Get Some Focus

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The Lounge
A human being without action isn’t really a human being at all.

They might look like one and walk like one, they might even talk like one. But they’re not really alive.

Unfortunately, inaction is natural.

We’re wired to stay in the place we feel safe and comfortable. But inaction leads to procrastination and atrophy, and this cycle of safety, comfort, procrastination and atrophy continues.

Until, that is, it’s interrupted by something. An intention is a good start, but is pointless without following through. An idea is amazing, but valueless unless it’s explored. And a desire to do something that matters it phenomenal, but wasted without action.

You don’t need to be ready. You don’t need to know what’s going to happen. You don’t need to feel confident enough.

Sometimes, you just need to get off your butt and get some damn focus

This, perhaps, is what I need to remind myself of most often. My body and my illness want to pull me into slumber relentlessly, and I have an inclination towards rest and relaxation that some would call a talent.

The temptation not to act can be as tempting and delicious as resting your head on a pillow made of marshmallow and kitten fluff, but will engulf you in its warmth if you let it.

First then, comes awareness. Awareness of who you are. Awareness of when you’re idling. Awareness of your wants. Awareness of what could be.

Then, comes the translation of thought into action; the place where an awareness threaded with confidence and worthiness is most essential.

So, if *you* were to get off your butt today, what would happen?

You Have The Right to Lose Everything

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i'm losing my grip, but i'd lose it all for you
What do you have in your pockets or in your bag right now?

Some loose change? A set of keys? A receipt or two? Your wallet? Maybe your phone?

What if you lost that stuff? What would happen?

You’d probably worry about it, fret about it or maybe curse like a drunk dock-worker. You might be upset that you lost some of your stuff. You’d sigh as you realise you have to get going replacing it all.

But what about you? What impact does this have on you, other than some momentary frustration?

None whatsoever.

When it gets to the bigger stuff, like a car, a friend, a house, a job, a partner or your health, the stakes get a little higher and the frustration, anger and hurt can grow to match.

But there you are, in the middle of it all, going through it one second at a time.

Hurt when you hurt and miss what you miss, but don’t for any one of those seconds think that you’re any less or any worse as a result.

Instinct will urge you to cling to the hurt of what you’ve lost as a way to keep it close and keep the past alive, but the only thing that brings is the diminishing of your self and the growth of fear.

You have the right to make mistakes, lose everything and start again

It’s actually kind of a miracle if you think about it; a right that lets you experiment and a right as essential as breathing or free speech, but a right that’s pulled back from out of fear.

I hope you flourish and I want the best for you. But the only thing to be afraid of—with genuine, heart-stopping fear—is that you go through your life as if this right wasn’t yours, as if losing everything would see life standing over you, pressing its boot down onto your beaten chest, and that it would be that way forever.

You have the right to make mistakes, lose everything and start again.

How does that feel?

How to Do The Thing You Never Thought You Could Do

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Snow wall
I never thought I could give a keynote speech. I never thought I could write a novel. I never thought I could complete a marathon. But I have done those things, and there’s a heap more stuff that I never thought I could do that I’m working on.

That’s the thing with doing the thing you never thought you could do.

You think you could never do it, until you do.

Then it’s real

I’m willing to bet you’ve done things you never thought you could do. And I’ll put money on the fact that there’s something right now that you think you could never do.

So if the evidence supports anything, it’s that you can do it. And who knows, you just might.

Of course, it’s easier said than done, and there are a 3 walls you might have to push through on your way. I call them the 3 walls of doing the thing you never thought you could do. Yeah, I should work on a catchier name, but in the meantime, here they are.

Wall of identity

I’m not known for my sporting prowess or extreme fitness challenges. I’ve never been into that stuff, and always shudder a little when someone says I should try bunjee-jumping, kayaking or sky-diving. That stuff isn’t who I am.

Or rather, they haven’t been. As demonstrated by my fund-raising marathon, I do have a body and I can do stuff with it. The belief of that’s not who I am, could have been enough to stop me, simply because the action didn’t align with my beliefs about my identity.

Don’t be precious about your identity. Your identity isn’t you, it’s just a set of thoughts about who you are, what you do and how you deal with life. If you’re confronted with the wall of identity, just say, “Oh hey identity. I know you want to keep me safe, but remember, you don’t define me, I define you.”

Wall of capability

Identity is one thing, but you also have a heap of stuff in your head about your capability. These are the thoughts that tell you can’t do it, you’re not ready or you’ll screw it up.

And to be brutally frank, some or all of those things might be true. We just don’t know yet.

But should you let your beliefs (which are just sticky thoughts) dictate what you give your energy to or what you give your best to? I’d suggest that if something matters to you—if it rings true, resonates or sounds like fun—that thoughts about your capability are somewhat irrelevant.

You’re not born being able to do everything. You have to learn stuff. Whatever your thing is, you can learn, practice and try it out. You can test and learn as you go. You can develop strategies for getting better. You can pivot and refocus your energy.

Your capability is never fixed unless you think it is.

Wall of worth

So that’s identity and capability looked at, and you might think that’s enough. But the final wall is perhaps the most pernicious and complex—the wall of worth.

This wall is built from thoughts like “I’m not good enough“, “I don’t deserve it” and “other people are so much better than me”.

Holding those thoughts fuels a belief that you’re somehow insufficient and drives behaviour that keeps you small; neither of which are helpful to doing the thing you never thought you could do.

What’s key in pushing through the wall of worth is acknowledging the fact that you’re not broken. You are already a complete human being. There’s no “thing” that others have and you lack. You’re already worthy of the best in life.

You don’t need the thought “I’m not good enough” any more than you need a friend who says that to you every day. That wouldn’t be a friend at all, it would be someone who wants to keep you small and control you.

So take a breath, feel how whole you are and how pregnant you are with possibility.


After you’ve pushed through those walls, you’re all set.

You’re on your way

And magically, your confidence will have grown the next time you want to do something you never thought you could do.

Confidence is nifty like that.

10 Great Insights About Confidence (but not from me)

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Sometimes I can be really dumb.

I know a lot of stuff about confidence, what stops it and what fuels it, but I’m a gazillion miles away from having all the answers. So I like to take a look around the Interwebs to learn what other people think about confidence and how they see it.

Some of what I see is, in my humble opinion, horseair (that’s a cross between horseshit and hot air), but some of it is gold. There’s some great wisdom out there among the weeds, and here are 10 perfect examples and links to where you can see each piece.

Seth Godin
Effective confidence comes from within, it’s not the result of external events.


Chris Brogan
I’m not confident about everything I do. I’m just confident about enough different little bits of my life that it sometimes lines up with a moment of achievement. Once you believe in yourself, magic starts happening.


Danielle La Porte
You need blind faith to build confidence.


Zen Habits
If you start to build confidence that you’ll be OK, you can let go of the worries.


The Talent Code
Negative emotions are “hot” — they cause the brain to spark and short-circuit, they cause performance and confidence to dissolve in a cascade of doubt and judgement.


Steven Pressfeld
There’s stuff “down there” in all of us. It’s vast and deep and limitless. That’s the vein we need to mine as artists and as entrepreneurs.


Karen Walrond
In the off-chance you lack confidence in what your conscience is telling you: if you’re leading with kindness, you’re more that halfway there


Chris Guillebeau
Your confidence from overcoming earlier challenges has given rise to two new belief structures:
1. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
2. What’s next?


Marie Forleo
Training yourself to come back to the moment and re-engage in the task at hand is the secret to breaking the self-doubt pattern.


Brene Brown
Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.


Those all get a massive thumbs up from me, and hopefully you get value from them too.

Let me know if there’s something out there you think I should take a look at. I’m always learning!

Launching October: Get Your Backbone Back

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Recently I wrote some thoughts about backbone.

I also mentioned that I was thinking about running a short course to help people find theirs (and then trust it) and invited people to share a comment or drop me an email to signal their interest.

The interesting thing is the flurry of emails I received from people saying they’re interested and would love to take part in something like that, while at the same time nobody commented on the post itself to signal their interest.

Which tells me a couple of things. First, people are afraid to be the first to speak up or to admit to a lack of backbone in a public forum. That’s okay. That makes total sense. No finger pointing or judgement here. But it also tells me that with a little more of this thing we’ll call “backbone”, people may be more willing or perhaps even more lassez-faire about being the first to speak up or to admit to a perceived weakness in a public forum.

Those two things made up my mind. Let’s do it. Let’s get some backbone back this October.

Read more and enrol here.

Be sure to enrol soon - the doors close on October 1st!

ActionPoint: Try a Little Mindfulness

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You will have done mightily well to not come across this thing called mindfulness, as it’s been talked about and written about for a while now. It’s the not-so-new big thing, having been around for thousands of years, and the benefits of mindfulness are many.

I’ve been practising mindfulness meditation daily for the last 5 years to help manage chronic fatigue syndrome, and I can say without doubt that it’s been fundamental in helping me live with this chronic illness.

It’s taught me that the state of my body (which, right now, is aching like a building’s landed on me) doesn’t need to dictate my experience, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s also reduced stress, helped me appreciate the small things and fixed a leaky tap in the bathroom.

Kidding about that last one, but I would love you to dip your toe in the water of mindfulness and I’ve written this ActionPoint to do just that.


  1. Read through these steps slowly and non-judgementally. Don’t skim; breathe them in. You’re going to close your eyes in a moment, so you’ll need to know what to do ; )
  2. Sit up in your chair so that you’re sitting “tall”. Straighten your back, ease into the position and gently close your eyes.
  3. Bring your attention to the sounds around you, whatever they happen to be. You don’t need to go out searching for sounds, hunting them down like looking for a friend in a crowd, because they’re already right here. They already arrive at your ears without you doing anything, so simply let them come to you, and be aware of them when they do.
  4. Don’t judge the sounds for being too quiet, too loud or too dissonant. They are what they are, and you have the ability to hear them all. Just hear what’s already there, without wanting them to be a certain way.
  5. Your mind will wander, that’s what minds do after all. As soon as you notice that your mind has wandered away from hearing, note that it’s been wandering and gently bring your attention back to the sounds that are arriving at your ears. Don’t turn it into a problem or tell yourself off for letting your mind wander, just move your attention back to hearing what’s already there.
  6. Keep this going for 15 minutes.
  7. If you care to, and if practising this feels like it could be a good idea, feel free to repeat this exercise daily. Find 15 minutes when you’re awake and alert, and go for it.

Tough, right? We’re not used to focusing our attention this way, and the trick isn’t to force your mind to be a certain way but to let your mind be however it is and yet aim your focus on just the area you’re interested in.

It takes practice, and it’s practice that’s never “done”.

But why bother with mindfulness in the first place? The science is in its infancy, but I’ve seen first hand that it offers a sense of accepting the present moment—and your place in it—just as it is. It’s a sense that knows you’re whole and allows you to choose based on that wholeness.

It’s a direct route to natural confidence. I’d love to hear how you get on with this, so add a comment to let me know how you get on!

Want to stop second guessing yourself? Sign up now and I'll show you how.