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Positive Self-Doubt: There are 5 of them?

If you grapple with self-doubt, keep reading. If you don’t grapple with it, you’re dangerous.

Experts sing, “Believe in yourself,” However, unquestioned self-belief produces self-serving leaders who won’t adapt.

Tom Petty captures the experience of many in, “Saving Grace,” when he sings, “You’re confident but not really sure.

Confident but not sure is better than blind belief.

By Dan Rockwell?

Self-doubt has its benefits.

Robert Sutton in, Good Boss Bad Boss, says, “The best bosses dance on the edge of overconfidence, but a healthy dose of self-doubt and humility saves them from turning arrogant and pigheaded. Bosses who fail to strike this balance are incompetent, dangerous to follow, and downright demeaning.”

Move forward in spite of doubt. Worry if you’re not worried.

Believe in yourself enough to bring self-doubt with you into decisions and commitments.

“The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it’s not without doubt but in spite of doubt,” Rollo May.

Fear of making mistakes is healthy when it raises intensity, motivates preparation, and inspires vigilance. It’s unhealthy when it paralyzes you.

Press into doubt with deadlines. An effective deadline is a mini-crisis.

Give yourself reasonable time to explore options and then pull the trigger.

“When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand,” Raymond Chandler.

Focus more on the process – what’s next – and less on final outcomes.

The 5 positive powers of healthy self-doubt:

  1. Motivates preparation. Useful self-doubt doesn’t paralyze it motivates.
  2. Humbles the heart.
  3. Opens the mind.
  4. Invites others in.
  5. Builds confidence in others. You’re trustworthy if challenges give you pause.

Why are those who sing the song of self-belief so popular? Because everyone has self-doubt. Don’t lose it, use it.

How can leaders use self-doubt as a tool rather than an obstacle to their leadership?

When has self-doubt gone too far?

The Culture and Costs of Anxiety

“Few people today would dispute that chronic stress is a hallmark of our times or that anxiety has become a kind of cultural condition of modernity.”

 

“Anxiety … makes others feel when a drowning man holds on to you,” Anaïs Nin wrote.

“Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down the yawning abyss becomes dizzy,” Kierkegaard observed.

“There is no question that the problem of anxiety is a nodal point at which the most various and important questions converge, a riddle whose solution would be bound to throw a flood of light on our whole mental existence,” Freud proclaimed in his classic introductory lectures on psychoanalysis.

And yet the riddle of anxiety is far from solved — rather, it has swelled into a social malady pulling countless numbers of us underwater daily.

Among those most mercilessly fettered by anxiety’s grip is Scott Stossel, familiar to most as the editor of The Atlantic.

In his superb mental health memoir, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind (public library | IndieBound), Stossel follows in the tradition of Montaigne to use the lens of his own experience as a prism for illuminating insight on the quintessence of our shared struggles with anxiety.

From his personal memoir he weaves a cultural one, painting a portrait of anxiety though history, philosophy, religion, popular culture, literature, and a wealth of groundbreaking research in psychology and neuroscience.

Karim A. Badra shared a link.
brainpickings.org|By Maria Popova

Why? Because anxiety and its related psychoemotional disorders turn out to be the most common, prevalent, and undertreated form of clinically classified mental illness today, even more common than depression. Stossel contextualizes the issue with some striking statistics that reveal the cost — both financial and social — of anxiety:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some 40 million Americans, nearly one in seven of us, are suffering from some kind of anxiety disorder at any given time, accounting for 31% of the expenditures on mental health care in the United States.

According to recent epidemiological data, the “lifetime incidence” of anxiety disorder is more than 25 percent — which, if true, means that one in four of us can expect to be stricken by debilitating anxiety at some point in our lifetimes.

And it is debilitating: Recent academic papers have argued that the psychic and physical impairment tied to living with an anxiety disorder is equivalent to living with diabetes — usually manageable, sometimes fatal, and always a pain to deal with.

A study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 2006 found that Americans lose a collective 321 million days of work because of anxiety and depression each year, costing the economy $50 billion annually;

a 2001 paper published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics once estimated that the median number of days missed each year by American workers who suffer from anxiety or stress disorders is twenty-five.

In 2005 — three years before the recent economic crisis hit — Americans filled 53 million prescriptions for just two antianxiety drugs: Ativan and Xanax.

(In the weeks after 9/11, Xanax prescriptions jumped 9 percent nationally — and by 22 percent in New York City.)

In September 2008, the economic crash caused prescriptions in New York City to spike: as banks went belly up and the stock market went into free fall, prescriptions for anti-depressant and antianxiety medications increased 9 percent over the year before, while prescriptions for sleeping pills increased 11 percent.

To be sure, this isn’t a purely American phenomenon.

Stossel points to similar findings in Britain and Canada, for instance — which begs the facetious observation that perhaps speaking English is what is giving us anxiety. In all seriousness, however, the scale of the epidemic is nothing short of gobsmacking. Stossel writes:

Primary care physicians report that anxiety is one of the most frequent complaints driving patients to their offices — more frequent, by some accounts, than the common cold.

Few people today would dispute that chronic stress is a hallmark of our times or that anxiety has become a kind of cultural condition of modernity. We live, as has been said many times since the dawn of the atomic era, in an age of anxiety — and that, cliché though it may be, seems only to have become more true in recent years as America has been assaulted in short order by terrorism, economic calamity and disruption, and widespread social transformation.

Fittingly, Alan Watts’s The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety, written in the very atomic era that sparked the dawn of our present predicament, remains one of the best meditations on the subject.

But, as Stossel points out, the notion of anxiety as a clinical category only appeared as recently as thirty years ago. He traces anxiety’s rise to cultural fame through the annals of academic history, pointing out that there were only three academic papers published on the subject in 1927, only fourteen in 1941, and thirty-seven in 1950.

It wasn’t until psychologist Rollo May published his influential treatise on anxiety in 1950 that academia paid heed. Today, a simple Google Scholar search returns nearly 3 million results, and entire academic journals are dedicated to anxiety.

But despite anxiety’s catapulting into cultural concern, our understanding of it — especially as far as mental health stereotypes are concerned — remains developmentally stunted, having evolved very little since the time of seventeenth-century Jewish-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who asserted that anxiety was a mere problem of logic and could thus be resolved with tools of reason.

This is hardly different from present cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches or the all too common just-get-over-it cultural attitude towards this particular problem of mental health, which of course misses the debilitating dimensionality of what makes anxiety as crippling as it is. Looking back on his own messy lineage of Jewishness and Antisemitism and describing himself as “Woody Allen trapped in John Calvin,” Stossel counters such oversimplification with a case for layered, complex causality of the disorder:

The truth is that anxiety is at once a function of biology and philosophy, body and mind, instinct and reason, personality and culture.

Even as anxiety is experienced at a spiritual and psychological level, it is scientifically measurable at the molecular level and the physiological level. It is produced by nature and it is produced by nurture.

It’s a psychological phenomenon and a sociological phenomenon. In computer terms, it’s both a hardware problem (I’m wired badly) and a software problem (I run faulty logic programs that make me think anxious thoughts).

The origins of a temperament are many faceted; emotional dispositions that may seem to have a simple, single source — a bad gene, say, or a childhood trauma — may not.

True to this complexity, different epochs have attributed anxiety to various causes. Stossel probes what these historical patterns reveal:

The differences in how various cultures and eras have perceived and understood anxiety can tell us a lot about those cultures and eras.

Why did the ancient Greeks of the Hippocratic school see anxiety mainly as a medical condition, while the Enlightenment philosophers saw it as an intellectual problem?

Why did the early existentialists see anxiety as a spiritual condition, while Gilded Age doctors saw it as a specifically Anglo-Saxon stress response — a response that they believed spared Catholic societies — to the Industrial Revolution?

Why did the early Freudians see anxiety as a psychological condition emanating from sexual inhibition, whereas our own age tends to see it, once again, as a medical and neurochemical condition, a problem of malfunctioning biomechanics?

Do these shifting interpretations represent the forward march of progress and science? Or simply the changing, and often cyclical, ways in which cultures work?

Today, the definition of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in the DSM-IV — the fourth edition of The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of psychotherapy — is at once rather strict yet strangely horoscope-like in its ability to speak to things that feel uncomfortably familiar, at least on some level, to most of us:

Excessive anxiety about a number of events or activities, occurring more days than not, for at least 6 months. The person finds it difficult to control the worry. The anxiety and worry are associated with at least three of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms present for more days than not, for the past 6 months):

  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance

Of course, our relationship with anxiety and its potential cures is colored by our culture’s characteristic ambivalence. In fact, even Kierkegaard believed that anxiety was a necessary component of creativity and without it, genius would be incomplete. One of the experts Stossel interviews- David Barlow, the founder and director emeritus of Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders — echoes this sentiment:

Without anxiety, little would be accomplished. The performance of athletes, entertainers, executives, artisans, and students would suffer; creativity would diminish; crops might not be planted. And we would all achieve that idyllic state long sought after in our fast-paced society of whiling away our lives under a shade tree. This would be as deadly for the species as nuclear war.

The rest of the altogether excellent My Age of Anxiety goes on to explore such facets of our modern epidemic as what anxiety actually is, how early childhood experience might precipitate separation anxiety in adulthood, the promise and perils of antianxiety drugs, and what it takes to cultivate resilience, the trait modern psychology has identified as the most powerful immunization against anxiety and depression.

Complement it with Anaïs Nin’s illustrated meditation on anxiety and Alan Watts on how to heal the essential anxiety of existence.

Highly Creative People? What they do differently?

Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities. It may also change based on situation and context.
 
Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition, and may be distinct from the thinking process.
 
I lately watched a documentary on the “plasticity” or malleability of the brain, on how people born with half a brain acquire the capabilities of the missing brain. 
 
Carolyn Gregoire@huffingtonpost.com posted this March 4, 2014                                  

18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently   

(A list of too many things that are not necessarily related to creativity?)                                                                         

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. 

Neuroscience paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, and the right brain = creative and emotional).

In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.

And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. (I’m doubtful)

And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people.

Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.

“It’s actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self,” Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post. “The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self … Imaginative people have messier minds.”

While there’s no “typical” creative type, there are some tell-tale characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people. Here are 18 things they do differently.

They daydream.

daydreaming child

Creative types know, despite what their third-grade teachers may have said, that daydreaming is anything but a waste of time. (I’m glad I have a specific category called Daydreaming projects, and wish I could get feedback)

According to Kaufman and psychologist Rebecca L. McMillan, who co-authored a paper titled “Ode To Positive Constructive Daydreaming,” mind-wandering can aid in the process of “creative incubation.” And of course, many of us know from experience that our best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere.

Although daydreaming may seem mindless, a 2012 study suggested it could actually involve a highly engaged brain state — daydreaming can lead to sudden connections and insights because it’s related to our ability to recall information in the face of distractions. Neuroscientists have also found that daydreaming involves the same brain processes associated with imagination and creativity.

(Daydreaming projects are necessarily very detailed and produce the objections to moral and safety issues that the project may be lacking…)

They observe everything.

The world is a creative person’s oyster — they see possibilities everywhere and are constantly taking in information that becomes fodder for creative expression. As Henry James is widely quoted, a writer is someone on whom “nothing is lost.”

The writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times, and said that she wrote down observations about people and events as, ultimately, a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind:

“However dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I,'” Didion wrote in her essay On Keeping A Notebook. “We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its marker.”

They work the hours that work for them.

Many great artists have said that they do their best work either very early in the morning or late at night.

Vladimir Nabokov started writing immediately after he woke up at 6 or 7 a.m., and Frank Lloyd Wright made a practice of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. and working for several hours before heading back to bed.

No matter when it is, individuals with high creative output will often figure out what time it is that their minds start firing up, and structure their days accordingly.

They take time for solitude.

solitude

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone,” wrote the American existential psychologist Rollo May.

Artists and creatives are often stereotyped as being loners, and while this may not actually be the case, solitude can be the key to producing their best work. For Kaufman, this links back to daydreaming — we need to give ourselves the time alone to simply allow our minds to wander.

“You need to get in touch with that inner monologue to be able to express it,” he says. “It’s hard to find that inner creative voice if you’re … not getting in touch with yourself and reflecting on yourself.”

They turn life’s obstacles around.

Many of the most iconic stories and songs of all time have been inspired by gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak — and the silver lining of these challenges is that they may have been the catalyst to create great art.

An emerging field of psychology called post-traumatic growth is suggesting that many people are able to use their hardships and early-life trauma for substantial creative growth. Specifically, researchers have found that trauma can help people to grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and — most importantly for creativity — seeing new possibilities in life.

“A lot of people are able to use that as the fuel they need to come up with a different perspective on reality,” says Kaufman. “What’s happened is that their view of the world as a safe place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered at some point in their life, causing them to go on the periphery and see things in a new, fresh light, and that’s very conducive to creativity.”

They seek out new experiences.

solo traveler

Creative people love to expose themselves to new experiences, sensations and states of mind — and this openness is a significant predictor of creative output.

Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement,” says Kaufman. “This consists of lots of different facets, but they’re all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world.”

They “fail up.”

resilience

Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says Kaufman. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives — at least the successful ones — learn not to take failure so personally.

“Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.

They ask the big questions.

Creative people are insatiably curious — they generally opt to live the examined life, and even as they get older, maintain a sense of curiosity about life. Whether through intense conversation or solitary mind-wandering, creatives look at the world around them and want to know why, and how, it is the way it is.

They people-watch.

people watching

Observant by nature and curious about the lives of others, creative types often love to people-watch — and they may generate some of their best ideas from it.

“[Marcel] Proust spent almost his whole life people-watching, and he wrote down his observations, and it eventually came out in his books,” says Kaufman. “For a lot of writers, people-watching is very important … They’re keen observers of human nature.”

They take risks. 

Part of doing creative work is taking risks, and many creative types thrive off of taking risks in various aspects of their lives.

“There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk taking and creativity and it’s one that’s often overlooked,” contributor Steven Kotler wrote in Forbes. “Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent — these are all by-products of creativity gone awry.

They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression.

self expression

Nietzsche believed that one’s life and the world should be viewed as a work of art. Creative types may be more likely to see the world this way, and to constantly seek opportunities for self-expression in everyday life.

“Creative expression is self-expression,” says Kaufman. “Creativity is nothing more than an individual expression of your needs, desires and uniqueness.”

They follow their true passions.

Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated — meaning that they’re motivated to act from some internal desire, rather than a desire for external reward or recognition.

Psychologists have shown that creative people are energized by challenging activities, a sign of intrinsic motivation, and the research suggests that simply thinking of intrinsic reasons to perform an activity may be enough to boost creativity.

“Eminent creators choose and become passionately involved in challenging, risky problems that provide a powerful sense of power from the ability to use their talents,” write M.A. Collins and T.M. Amabile in The Handbook of Creativity.

They get out of their own heads.

creative writing

Kaufman argues that another purpose of daydreaming is to help us to get out of our own limited perspective and explore other ways of thinking, which can be an important asset to creative work.

“Daydreaming has evolved to allow us to let go of the present,” says Kaufman. “The same brain network associated with daydreaming is the brain network associated with theory of mind — I like calling it the ‘imagination brain network’ — it allows you to imagine your future self, but it also allows you to imagine what someone else is thinking.”

Research has also suggested that inducing “psychological distance” — that is, taking another person’s perspective or thinking about a question as if it was unreal or unfamiliar — can boost creative thinking.

They lose track of the time.

Creative types may find that when they’re writing, dancing, painting or expressing themselves in another way, they get “in the zone,” or what’s known as a flow state, which can help them to create at their highest level.

Flow is a mental state when an individual transcends conscious thought to reach a heightened state of effortless concentration and calmness. When someone is in this state, they’re practically immune to any internal or external pressures and distractions that could hinder their performance.

You get into the flow state when you’re performing an activity you enjoy that you’re good at, but that also challenges you — as any good creative project does.

“[Creative people] have found the thing they love, but they’ve also built up the skill in it to be able to get into the flow state,” says Kaufman. “The flow state requires a match between your skill set and the task or activity you’re engaging in.”

They surround themselves with beauty.

Creatives tend to have excellent taste, and as a result, they enjoy being surrounded by beauty.

A study recently published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts showed that musicians — including orchestra musicians, music teachers, and soloists — exhibit a high sensitivity and responsiveness to artistic beauty.

They connect the dots.

doodle

If there’s one thing that distinguishes highly creative people from others, it’s the ability to see possibilities where other don’t — or, in other words, vision. Many great artists and writers have said that creativity is simply the ability to connect the dots that others might never think to connect.

In the words of Steve Jobs:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

They constantly shake things up.

Diversity of experience, more than anything else, is critical to creativity, says Kaufman. Creatives like to shake things up, experience new things, and avoid anything that makes life more monotonous or mundane.

“Creative people have more diversity of experiences, and habit is the killer of diversity of experience,” says Kaufman.

They make time for mindfulness.

Creative types understand the value of a clear and focused mind — because their work depends on it. Many artists, entrepreneurs, writers and other creative workers, such as David Lynch, have turned to meditation as a tool for tapping into their most creative state of mind.

And science backs up the idea that mindfulness really can boost your brain power in a number of ways.

A 2012 Dutch study suggested that certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. And mindfulness practices have been linked with improved memory and focus, better emotional well-being, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity — all of which can lead to better creative thought.

Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski are taking The Third Metric on a 3-city tour: NY, DC & LA.  Tickets are on sale now at thirdmetric.com.


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