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Soulful Sundays: Doubt

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." -Marianne Williamson

doubt; (noun) A feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction. -Merriam-Webster

I used to rock climb quite a lot in my 20s. The process of becoming confident at the sport was long and arduous. It took almost four years and lots of blood sweat and tears for me to climb my first 5.13 (which is decently challenging if you don't know anything about the sport). When I had successfully climbed that route I was in disbelief and quickly sought out another climb of the same difficulty to make sure my success wasn't just a fluke.

I remember the second 5.13 almost better than the first. It had a relatively challenging (5.12ish) start, a decent rest before the top, and then one hard move (the 5.13 part) before an easy finish. This hard move was where I would always fall. I could complete the move after falling, but struggled with linking it all together from the start. After a few unsuccessful tries at the route I gave it one last attempt, and when I made it to the rest stance I vocalized to my climbing partner, "Part of me is scared by the next move." Scared to do what? To fall? Certainly not. I had fallen multiple times there before with no consequence. I was actually scared of success. I will never forget what he shouted back.

"That part of you sucks!" Not exactly a Pulitzer Prize winning statement, but it stuck. I stepped out of the stance, made the move, and completed the route. Thank you, Winston! I have thought many times about that brief moment on the wall in which I was the only thing holding myself back from something that I wanted. In climbing the task may seem simple--you either get the the top without falling, or you don't--but the way in which you get there makes all of the difference. When things come easily, we take them for granted. When they challenge us, we are less appreciative, even hostile toward changing our ways. This is the point where we must decide to either give in to uncertainty and stay in our comfort zone, or suspend our doubt and move out into the unknown. Growth happens right at this moment.

Doubt is a natural part of being human, but it is only a part. We have inside of us an incredible reserve of strength and a near infinite level of plasticity, if we are only able to access it. The Navy Seals have a 40% rule that allows them to do extraordinary physical feats. When you are pushed to quitting, they believe, you are actually only at 40% of your reserve. Plasticity is a whole other subject. Place almost any human in a foreign language environment, and they will be able to communicate with the speakers in a short time. Survival necessitates learning, and our minds are wired to both survive and learn.

A practice that I developed during my years climbing and continue to use today, is not to squash doubt with an iron fist, but merely postpone acting on it. More often than not, we develop a freeze reaction to doubt that causes us to lock up and perform worse, spiraling into cycles of excuse-making and procrastination . By suspending doubt instead and just doing the next action, we teach our brain how to act in the the presence of doubt, thus dulling its effects on our attention. The next time you experience uncertainty or are getting cold feet about some process, ask yourself, "What if I just commit to the next step." If you value the direction in which you are headed, trust is often a necessary companion to bring along the way. Good luck!

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