Are we ever really ready? Self doubt is an emotion that is unique to humans and some types of monkeys. It can be a paralyzing emotion that limits the experiences that we have and can oftentimes prevent us from reaching our full potential.
I will be the first to admit that I am very guilty of this emotion and I am certain there have been times in my life when it has cost me opportunities or given me undue stress. Why do we doubt ourselves so much and why are we so afraid of failing?
Unfortunately, I think self-doubt is an emotion that is gradually acquired as we progress from infancy to adolescence to adulthood. Have you ever watched an infant learn to walk? They fail miserably, hundreds, maybe thousands of times before getting it right. But for some reason as we grow older we start to doubt ourselves more and more. And we don’t attempt to do anything that could result in us not succeeding the first time, let alone something that might take hundreds or thousands of times to master.
In his book best-selling book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” We as educators know this and yet we often behave as if we don’t. And those of us in leadership positions need to remember this and help our staff to feel comfortable taking chances and making mistakes.
Gladwell further went on to mention that “researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” While this may true, it is this very premise that often paralyzes us. Too often we think we must be experts at something before we are willing to take that next step. So we never do.
Well, yesterday during a parent conference I had an eye-opening experience that helped give me a little nudge. During the conference the parent was discussing her concerns about her son learning how to ride a bike. She had always had concerns about her son’s development and riding a bike was something that she thought would take him quite some time to learn. Her son’s bike had training wheels and she figured he would need them for quite some time. But then something amazing happened.
She came home one day to see that her son’s bike no longer had training wheels. Apparently one of his friends had decided to take them off. Without anyone’s permission. And it worked! He can now ride the bike without training wheels. All because a child thought it might be possible.
How many opportunities have we missed because we were paralyzed with self-doubt? If we are waiting to be experts before we take a chance then we are going to be waiting a long time. Ten thousand hours according to the experts cited by Gladwell.
My advice for others and myself:
- “Don’t wait for the perfect moment because you might just miss it!”
- “Hurry up and make mistakes!
- “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt
- “Ask a kid what they think you should do. They have less doubt and may know better.”
- “Rip the training wheels off and take a chance! You might fall, but you might just ride off into the sunset!”