How to handle doubt in entrepreneurship

Let’s face it. Every entrepreneur EVER has had to face a mountain of doubt at one point in their lives. It’s easy to claim that doubt never existed for you when things are going well, but what if you were still taking large amounts of action without seeing a single return?

Entrepreneurship is a balance between being patient enough to see results before quitting, and being fluid enough to adjust and improve along the way to make the most of your results. This balance can be a difficult thing to maintain if you don’t recognize the inherent issue within.

As an entrepreneur, doubt is going to make you question your effectiveness, but consider what occurs if you doubt yourself before you’ve given your efforts ample time to produce results.

In this way, doubt intrinsically harms us. But I’m going to break the mold and give you an entirely new perspective with which to view doubt that may just turn the tables!

The Ambiguity of Doubt

Doubt is ambiguous!

Doubt is AMBIGUOUS. Just like potential, doubt can be used for bad AND good. The difference is in how you choose to define it and manipulate your self-doubt.

“What does this mean,” I’m glad you asked. Think of potential. When somebody says you have potential you choose to perceive that meaning as complimentary and inherently positive.

Even though potential itself, by definition, has no positive denotation. We have the “potential” to do good things AND bad things. Doubt is also ambiguous in that we have the ability to doubt our abilities AND our inabilities.

Doubt is a “conversion” emotion because we take something we can accomplish and doubt our ability to do it. The result? We never accomplish it because we lose motivation, drive, or discipline.

But what if we had a goal that seemed impossible and we doubt our INABILITY to do something as a result. The result would be our belief and resolve to accomplish that thing.

This is why doubt can work for you and against you. The only difference is in how you define doubt to yourself and whether you choose to doubt your ability or inability.

So, now that we have that piece of the puzzle defined, let’s tackle our doubt and make it work for us with some simple tricks!

How To Handle Doubt

With these tips and tricks, you’ll become far more effective in limiting the power that doubt has on you and how you can alter your perspective around your capabilities and not your inabilities!

Stop Personal Comparisons

When it comes to making personal comparisons, the most debilitating and demotivating comparisons occur between yourself and others. In other words, the more you compare yourself to other people, the more likely you are going to feel doubt within yourself and your abilities.

let me ask a simple question to drive my point home: Why is it that, with the vast amount of positivity and potential that social media has, that we feel more and more depressed when we use it?

The answer? It’s because we do nothing but make internal comparisons between ourselves and others. We see the highlight reel of other people’s lives, yet compare that highlight reel to our own internal struggles and problems.

In essence, we are comparing their peaks to our troughs, an unfair comparison that is easily made given what we see on social media day in and day out.

There is one beneficial comparison you can make, and it’s between yourself and your PAST self. To put it simply, only ever compare yourself now, to who you were before.

Doing this has a lot of amazing benefits, it often causes you to feel motivated to continue growing, improving, or bettering yourself. Even if you feel you have lost the way between then and now, you will have the self-reflection to adjust your course because you will recognize the things that you crave out of life.

Focus less on others, and more on yourself.

Quit the Excuses

Just like sound requires a medium through which to travel, doubt requires a medium through which to be communicated and affect your decisions. Excuses are that medium.

Think of it this way, without the air for which sound waves to travel, there is no sound. Which is why we don’t hear things in space. And without the excuses you make for yourself through which doubt can travel, doubt would no longer exist in your mindset.

Excuses are toxic. That’s because the people who make them are willingly giving away the power they have to better themselves and change their condition by blaming other things or people.

You are the only person that has the power and drive necessary to make a difference in your life. This is because everybody else is so focused on themselves, nobody is going to do it for you. You need to make the choice each and every day regarding whether you will use that day to improve, or do nothing and stay still.

Quitting the excuses is going to drastically help you make that choice, and make the right one.

Who Do You Spend Time With?

It’s commonly known in the self-improvement circle that you are the culmination of the 5 people you spend the most time with. I don’t know how scientifically accurate that is, but the premise is spot on.

The people you have around you will certainly affect your mindset and the way you choose to see the world. Surround yourself with people who make excuses, blame others, or refuse to take their power into their own hands and you are likely doomed to justify taking those actions too.

Although it’s not exactly easy to rid yourself of these things when you can’t control the actions and decisions that other people make, what you CAN do is limit the amount of time you spend with people who encourage debilitating thoughts within you.

Remember, YOU can’t change anyone, but you CAN give them the tools to change themselves. Choose who you spend time with wisely, and you’ll begin to feel the shifts in your mindset quite quickly as a result.

Never Seek Validation

Never seek validation from anyone other than yourself. Validation is an attempt from your mind to quantify your sense of worth on external variables. We like to have validation from external parties because it silences the doubt we have in our own sense of worth.

Here’s the issue. People are so absorbed in their lives, problems, and doubt that they rarely spend the proper time getting to know the worth of another person. And how can you objectively quantify that worth in the first place?

Placing your doubt in the hands of another person based only on the subjective nature of “self-worth” is going to harm you. And for no good reason either.

The key here is to only seek validation from yourself on the basis of your values and your own beliefs. Are you taking action that you are proud of? Can you justify what you do on the basis of the fundamental building blocks of your character? These are the questions you need to ask.

Seeking validation is an attempted bandaid solution to an otherwise much more dangerous problem. And it usually never ends well because we always crave more validation until the point at which somebody DOESN’T validate us. Then we get hurt, inevitably.

Become Aware of a “Doubt-Trigger”

In the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he mentions that there are three essential stages to a habit. There is a stimulus (i call it a trigger) that warrants a response, to which gets a reward.

That stimulus is important because it puts the entire habit into motion. If you can become aware of that stimulus, you can effectively alter your habit.

In a way, doubt can become a habit to us. We often doubt our abilities without even realizing that we are doing so. This is why it is so important to recognize the existence of a doubt trigger so that we can better choose our own response.

I’ll give a personal example: After lunch everyday I would mindlessly scroll on social media, and I would always just feel horrible afterwards. After recognizing that the trigger for this scrolling was the extra block of time I had after lunch, I would schedule more important things during that time like content creation, meetings, and whatnot.

The result was a deconstructed negative habit and a reconstructed positive one. All because I recognized a doubt trigger.

Action Over Thinking

Instead of overthinking, take action!

When we think too long and too hard about things we begin to let doubt inherently affect our mindsets and our efforts as a result. This is why confidence is one of the key characteristics of successful people, they took action instead of overthinking.

Every motivational speaker, author, or poet has mentioned this point, but I think we can afford to hear it again. You can think and plan all day long, but if you don’t take action you are never going to improve your situation.

Action is what actually gets things done. Thinking doesn’t accomplish much on its own. And Overthinking doesn’t accomplish anything.

The balance here is finding the point at which you have properly planned and prepared and can start taking action, and at which point you are overthinking and stuck in “analysis paralysis.”

When all the chips are down, action is going to make the difference in your life, prioritize it.


At the end of the day, doubt can only be as powerful as we let it be. Learn to define doubt differently and begin to doubt your inabilities instead of your abilities.

Think of it this way, doubt is trying to get you comfortable. If you are striving for growth, doubt may honestly be a good thing to see. Consider this: If you do NOT feel doubt in what you are doing, are you doing something big enough?

Doubt occurs when you are first trying to climb the plateau of the exponential scale, but once you are at the top, doubt can no longer affect you!

Thanks for reading!
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-Austin Denison is a management consultant and coach from Southern California and founder/CEO of Denison Success Systems LLC. He is the author of The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master The Art of Organizational Change as well as The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life.

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