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5 poisons of the Mind – #4 – Hesitation

When faced with difficult choices most of us hesitate. Some of us hesitate longer than others, and some people simply freeze when confronted with hard choices. Most often we pause because we are waiting for more information. Sometimes we are waiting for a sign that it is OK to proceed. We crave clarity in our decisions and actions. And often it makes sense to wait until we have enough information to make a sound decision. But not always.

The hesitation that poisons the mind arises when we know what we need to do, but we delay. We say we need more information when in fact the real issue is our emotional discomfort. We don’t want to face the situation, person or decision right now. So we delay. And delay. And the opportunity or choice goes away. And then we doubt our ability to make decisions. So the next time we face a decision we question ourselves and hesitate again. Over time we develop a habit of waiting too long, and opportunities vanish and people no longer ask us for our opinion.

It’s OK to hesitate because we don’t know enough to make a good decision or because we are caught off guard. It’s not a good idea to hesitate simply because we are not emotionally prepared to choose or because we would rather wait. Choices go away and situations change rapidly. Opportunities evaporate.

So it’s good to learn to tell the difference between hesitating because you truly need more information, and hesitating because you are scared to make a commitment. And you can prepare yourself for situations and decisions that you see coming your way. When fortune calls, you don’t want your response to be, “Can it wait just a second?”

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5 poisons of the mind – #2 – Doubt

When we doubt something, we are questioning its value. When I doubt what you say is true, I am questioning the truthfulness of what you say. When I doubt myself, I am questioning my own value and abilities.

Doubt does serve a purpose. It stops us momentarily as we evaluate something. Where doubt becomes a problem is when it becomes negative. If we doubt that we can do something, but we go ahead and try anyway, our doubt may only be a safeguard. But when we doubt and then give up without trying, we allow our own thinking to block us from growing.

Negative self-doubt is poisonous. If your first response in facing something new is, “There’s no way I can do that!”, then you very likely won’t even try, and you will have already failed. So while doubt can be a tool that serves to guide us away from danger, it can also become a weapon we use on ourselves, which guarantees our failure.

If you always choose what to do or how to think based on pessimistically doubting the value or outcome of an action or plan, then you are allowing your doubt – which exist exclusively in your own mind – to determine your future.

So learn to doubt wisely, that is, to doubt without choosing to let your doubts be your only guide.

5 poisons of the mind – # 1 – Fear

Emotions can enrich our lives. Who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of pleasure that comes from accomplishing something difficult or helping someone who is in need? Who doesn’t like the delight that accompanies mastering a new skill? And who doesn’t  comprehend the relief that comes when we forgive someone who has hurt us deeply?

Emotions add color to our lives. However they can also darken our experiences, and we need to understand how to recognize and manage the emotions that don’t serve us well. Here’s my list of the 5 most dangerous ones:

Fear

Doubt

Anger

Hesitation

Surprise

Let’s look at these one at a time:

Fear causes us to freeze, to hesitate and doubt ourselves and our abilities. It is often an instinctive response to new situations and experiences. If we don’t acknowledge it and factor it into our lives it will secretly dominate our lives. What we fear controls us. It distorts our thinking and limits our willingness to grow.

We can’t will fear away. We have to work around it. And we can use it to our advantage.

Personal example: I dislike heights. Climbing ladders freaks me out. But I own a house where I have to use a ladder to do certain jobs. So I have learned to manage my fear. I know I am going to be nervous when I’m 25 feet up, so I factor this into my actions. I acknowledge the fear, and use it to slow myself down and focus on doing things safely, one step at a time. The fear doesn’t go away. I redirect it to help me succeed.

The result? I’m still afraid but I get the work done. I don’t expect the fear to go away. I’ve learned to use it to my advantage. And the bonus is that now I know that fear doesn’t have to stop me. I know I can manage it and use it to perform better.

Don’t fight fear. Understand its value in protecting you and redirect its energy toward your goals.

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