The Virgin founder and all-around adventurer’s best tricks for pushing past self-doubt.
As Richard Branson’s recent trip to space proves, the Virgin founder and all-around adventurer isn’t the kind of guy to let doubt stand in the way of an outlandish goal. But just because Branson personifies the swashbuckling, risk-taking entrepreneur, that doesn’t mean he never experiences self-doubt.
Like his fellow space company founder Elon Musk, Branson confessed recently on LinkedIn that he, too, is human and is sometimes haunted by doubts. He just refuses to be stopped by them.
So how does he overcome fear when it threatens to stand in the way of his outsize dreams? His first move, he writes, is to remind himself “of all the brilliant innovations and discoveries that would have come to nothing if their inventors had given in to their doubts.” His next is to try a handful of practice fear-busting techniques he graciously shares with readers.
1. Talk it out.
Left in your head, doubts can metastasize or return in an endless loop of unproductive rumination. Rather than worry over the same fear over and over again, it’s better to let the air in with a little conversation and a fresh perspective.
“It’s always a good idea to discuss any doubt you have with colleagues and friends, and to really listen to their feedback,” Branson advises. “If you feel more confident after these conversations, take a ‘screw it, let’s do it’ attitude and push your doubts to the side.”
2. Examine your doubt.
And what if your doubt lingers? Then maybe it’s time to listen to it. Sometimes doubt is there for a reason, Branson acknowledges, and the best way to deal with it is to actually solve whatever issue is causing you to worry.
“Your doubts may signal a niggling problem that needs to be addressed. If you demand proof from your doubt, you’ll be able to either squash it or solve the problem. Either way, your dreams and ideas will be better for it,” Branson writes, recalling a time in the early days of Virgin Atlantic when a moment of doubt led to a business-saving course correction.
3. Take a break.
Like any good Brit, Branson’s final suggestion starts off with a suggestion to “get a cup of tea.” But don’t worry if you’re not a fan of hot steeped beverages. The point isn’t the cuppa, it’s the idea that sometimes the best solution for negative thoughts and tough obstacles is a little distance.
“Whenever doubt starts to get the better of me, I find exercise really helps. I’ll get on my bike, play some tennis, or have some downtime with my family. This is often when my best ideas come to me as well!” Branson continues.
He’s far from the only achiever to notice the magic powers of a change of scene, a little exercise, and some time out of doors. A host of thinkers from Charles Darwin to Steve Jobs to Albert Einstein have recommended a little hiking, sailing, or bike riding whenever you’re hung up on a problem or worry.
Science shows nature reduces stress, exercise makes us smarter, and rhythmic activities that demand some but not all of our attention — like walking or shampooing your hair — can help shake out creative ideas. No wonder taking a break can actually be the fastest, best way to work your way around self-doubt.