Openness or Doubt?

Is being open to being wrong the same as doubting that you’re right? The simple answer is no. Let’s contrast openness and doubt to see why they are different and what that means for you.


Doubt is an emotion and, like all emotions, it’s an automatic response. We can’t prevent it, nor should we. Doubt alerts us to potential risks associated with whatever we’re considering. Like all emotions, doubt only becomes problematic when we nurture it. When our focus is on doubt instead of ways to overcome doubt, we severely limit our ability to deal with what we’re facing.

Used appropriately, doubt enables us to objectively and consciously plan a course of action that enables us to get past the doubt we have so that we can achieve what we desire to achieve. Used inappropriately, doubt severely limits the options we see for dealing with our doubt, results in delayed action or, worst case scenario, causes us to forgo what we desire.

Let’s see how that differs from openness.


Being open to the possibility of being wrong does not involve any emotion. Confident people are always open to the possibility that they are wrong. It’s a conscious, candid state of mind in which they acknowledge the vulnerability of their human nature…an aspect of human nature common to all of us. They do not bemoan this human tendency, instead they accept it as one of life’s realities.

During a presentation, the attorney presenting said that his partners say that he’s “often wrong, but never in doubt.” You could tell from the way he shared this assessment that he found it accurate and that he was comfortable with that characterization.

I believe that we would all benefit from his mindset. We should never doubt our ability, yet we should be open to the fact that we’ll make mistakes along the way.

We need to get comfortable with the idea that what we learn from mistakes accelerates the attainment of our goals. This mindset can only be attained when we replace the doubt we feel with confidence combined with openness to the possibility of being wrong. This combination of confidence and openness results in plans for overcoming whatever doubt we may experience.

For you

When you experience doubt, do the following:

  • Focus your attention on overcoming the doubt you have.
  • Establish a plan of action to overcome the doubt.
  • Be open to the possibility that you’re wrong, yet confident in your ability to succeed.
  • Remind yourself that the mistakes you make along the way accelerate your progress.
  • Enjoy the inevitable success you’ll experience.

This simple process will enable you to quickly set aside your doubts before they escalate to fear, anxiety and frustration. Creating a plan of action helps you quickly set aside doubts and replace them with objective analysis and candid assessment.

As you replace doubt with a plan of action you’ll find that you’re more open to, less defensive about, the possibility of being wrong. You realize that discovering what’s wrong with your plan actually accelerates your progress toward your goal. In other words, you’re not letting your ego get in the way of achieving what you desire.

You’ll find that life is easier, and a lot more fun, when you quickly replace doubt with comfort in the possibility of being wrong.

For our kids

When kids express doubts, share with them the difference between doubt and openness to the possibility of being wrong. Share with them the debilitating nature of doubt when it’s nurtured versus when it’s replaced with a plan of action.

Share with them the process for dealing with doubt outlined above. Ask them whether they’d like some help developing a plan of action or whether they’d prefer to develop one on their own. More often than not they’ll opt for doing ti themselves which is a wonderful sign that they are confident in their ability to do so.

As they experience success in dealing with the doubt they’re facing, they’ll use the process again and again as they face doubt in every new endeavor they pursue. Being open to the possibility of being wrong will become a natural byproduct of their success in dealing with doubt.

It’s a gift that’ll keep giving throughout their lives.

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