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The Benefit of Doubt


Why do we choose New Year’s day to be the first day of our resolution to live better lives? Most of us would say just about anything at that time of year, what with all the distraction and hype of the holidays.

It’s the one time of year we tend to lose our more practical approach to life. Our judgment can be impacted by fantasies of unlimited gifts for almost everyone. We are encouraged to spend lavishly where we might otherwise be frugal, and to be kind to strangers. We often indulge ourselves in food and drink for weeks. Is it rational to make “solid” decisions about what we would like in our lives while we are in a mild sugar coma, dealing with the high drama and high demands of the high holidays?

Well, maybe it is.

It’s the one time of year we give ourselves the freedom to go beyond what we think we can have. We open ourselves up to possibility. We feel free to set a pie-in-the-sky goal for ourselves. We imagine the possibilities, and then say yes to it. And this is a good thing.

But now, after the holiday decorations are put away and the dead of winter is upon us, maybe you are thinking: “Ugh, I’ve set my sights too high, I gotta lower the bar, or maybe forget about the resolution entirely. There’s always next year.” But why are many of us so quick to quit a goal that really could improve our lives?

Well, usually the reason is doubt.

Though January seems to be a big month for it, at one time or another we've all experienced doubt, that dreaded feeling of uncertainty. Conversely, people who have "overcome" doubt seem to be highly praised and revered. We celebrate their conquest over doubt (a bad thing) and hail their certainty (a good thing), especially if they are in the midst of change and uncertainty at the time of their triumph.

But has doubt itself gotten a bad rap?

Doubt can prove to be a positive or a negative influence in anyone's life. It has been an integral part of the growth of all the great mystics and spiritual leaders, including Jesus, Buddha and Ghandi. Doubt is a powerfully transformative emotion that only becomes a negative experience when we decide we are powerless against its hold on us.

When we overcome our doubt, it would be helpful to remember that it was doubt itself that acted as an integral part of the transformative elixir for change. Doubt can fuel our journey inward, and upward. Doubt, that state of not knowing or uncertainty, is the seedling of faith. And from faith, so much possibility is born.

Instead of running from doubt, or letting it rule our lives by harping on it and living in constant angst from it, what if we were to see it as the fire-starter it is? Can we consciously feel the doubt and then actively spring into action to expand and grow in this new year in ways that feel appropriate to us?

As you work to uplift your life with powerful goals, if you feel doubt rising in your heart, decide consciously to experience the benefit of your doubt. Simply sit with your uncertainty and ask yourself: "What is the next marvelous experience waiting to happen in my life?"

Will Donnelly

Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer, and is the author of “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life" (2017), a compilation of his most popular online essays now available at Will has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher, Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice. Will currently lives in Hawaii, where he leads weekly yoga and writing classes at Kalani retreat center. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year. Information on retreats, his book, DVDs and other inspiration to be found at

GET A COPY of Will's New Book, now at 
Practical Yoga's Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life 
JOIN ME for one of my popular Healing Retreats! At Kalani on Big Island of Hawai'i!: 
Holiday Yoga Retreat (7th Year!) December 21 - 27, 2017

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