Is doubt a good thing or a bad thing?
The answer differs depending on who you ask. Even Shakespeare was not clear on the subject.
He once said, “Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.” While another time he said, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
Which is it Bill, a beacon or a traitor?
Doubt is something I often struggle with. On the one hand, it can become motivation that drives me in the direction of an accomplishment. But on the other hand, it can act as a secret agent that infuriates my confidence and causes uncertainty.
So is doubt a good thing or a bad thing?
I recently read an interview with Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright who was asked if he ever wondered if he would be able to get his team back to national prominence. Coach Wright answered, “You always have a little doubt and that doubt is probably good. It’s probably part doubt, part fear. It motivates you.”
Mark that under the doubt is good column.
And then I heard an interview with author Seth Godin who was discussing his feelings prior to launching his 2012 Kickstarter campaign. Godin said, “Almost everything I do, there is a voice in my head that says ‘this might not work’. At the beginning, 25 years ago when I was really struggling, the voice of ‘this might not work’ was the voice of doom and gloom and death. And now the voice of ‘this might not work’ is the thing that reminds me I am still alive. That the day I am only willing to do things that I know will work is the day that I have been doing this for too long.”
That first line feels like a check for the doubt it bad column, but the second line appears to reverse course.
Maybe doubt in itself is not good or bad. Maybe your response to the doubt is what creates the positive or negative.
Do you turn doubt into motivation like Jay Wright? Do you use it as a reminder that you are still alive and have work to do like Seth Godin?
Or do you allow it to act as an agent of fear, the voice of doom and gloom, like Seth Godin experienced 25 years ago?
So maybe the question shouldn’t be whether doubt is good or bad. Maybe the question should be, what will you do with the doubt?