In Defense of Doubt

  • Doubt can free us up| I’ve never met an organizer who can’t stay busy. We are excellent at filling our time. Doubt gives us the incredible gift of helping us to ensure we’re using our time well. When we listen to it, it can guide us, toward a sounder strategy and toward our own calling within it. Listening to doubt, means we don’t have to do the same tired tactic we do every legislative session. It means we don’t have to keep maintaining an old institution that has outgrown its purpose. It means we don’t have to fill the role we no longer feel called to. Following doubt means we can be more available to what we and a given moment needs. In short, it can help us root our actions in choice, rather than obligation or convention — which for a group of folks fighting for freedom, is no small thing.
  • Doubt can be a sign that there’s something for us to learn| The times the groups I have been in have been most doubtful are after large pushes, big groundswells of work. Doubt creeps in when we’re coming down from the high. When we’re searching for what’s next. In fear of losing ourselves or what we’ve built, we careen ahead, trying to replicate the thing we just did, or else find the next bright shiny way. What doubt is saying in these moments, if we listen to it is: “Did that thing you just did work?” Or said more generously, “What did you just learn?” Doubt begs us for deeper reflection. And can be an invitation to make more meaning of what we’ve just done.
  • Doubt can be a sign that a different pace or direction is needed| Doubt is one of the best tools we have for diagnosing our groups. When it shows up, it’s often a sign that other things might be up too: confusion, tiredness, a longing for appreciation, a need for more freedom or choices. Doubt can be be a sign that slowing down, and tending, is actually the most necessary work of our group for a time. That going deeper, rather than father, is our next best move.
  1. Make exploring the things you feel doubtful about a part of your groups’ workplan. “Over the next 6 months, we want to better understand...”
  2. Schedule meetings with your team or time with yourself that is just for reflection, and take planning off the table.
  3. Run experiments. Try out living into a few different futures before embodying one entirely.
  4. Say no to things that don’t call you, so you can have more room for finding things that do. Name this intention to a friend.
  5. Talk about it. Bring doubt into the room and invite others to do the same: “What do you feel uncertain about?”

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