Self confidence is a precarious topic, one which at some point in our lives many of us have struggled with. We have all read many articles and books or listened to a number of motivational speeches about the subject, most of which seem to leave us without a clear answer or any substantial logic behind it. The message always seems to have a common theme, usually around pushing boundaries, stepping outside of your comfort zone, believing in yourself, imagining the audience naked, positive thinking and so on. The reality is that if we really want to understand how we can control and increase our self confidence, then we need to consider how the human brain works and in turn, how we can manage it better. The fact remains that some of us are naturally more confident than others or certainly appear to be. The most common mistake we tend to make is that we generally view a self confident person as someone who is commanding, often loud, outgoing and happy or someone who is perhaps very decisive and engages very well socially, the life and soul of the party kind of person. However these are all behaviours and traits which can easily be portrayed by someone who is simply trying to cover the fact that they are terrified and insecure on the inside. If we judge self confidence on the above characteristics, does that mean that all of the more reserved, passive and introverted personality types would be classed as not confident? This is actually far from the truth. Introverts can be extremely self confident and in actual fact some of the world’s leading figures, entrepreneurs and sports stars are quiet and introverted; Albert Einstein, Warren Buffett, Charles Darwin and JK Rowling to name a few. In order to better understand self confidence, we cannot just judge it on traits and behaviours.
We need to consider that it is a mindset (a deep seated mindset) that is based on, logic, rationale and emotional drivers which are controlled and influenced by our brains. If we can understand this, all we then have to do is apply some organisation, simplicity and repetition around what we are trying to achieve on a daily basis.
The Common Denominators of Self Confident People
There are common denominators and similar behavioural patterns in most successful people and in turn this breeds self confidence. Here are 4 simple but highly effective examples of these common denominators.
1. Set Expectations
This is a critical aspect of building self confidence and it is the first step that everyone should consider. By setting expectations, I mean the ones that you create for yourself and for others. The main reason that people lack self confidence is because they are afraid of what others will think of them if they fail. People are also terrified of looking foolish and feeling like a failure themselves, an inadequate human being perhaps. The standards and expectations that we as individuals and as a society create for ourselves are skewed and mostly unrealistic. They do not allow for failure, set backs or differentiation in any form. Therefore the first port of call has to be to correct this. Let’s remember one thing here, you are the captain of your ship, you make the calls and the rules, so spend some time re-writing them. Try this simple exercise: draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and on each side write the words myself and others. At the top, on the ‘myself’ side of the line, ensure that you write down what will define your success no matter how great or small the significance is. Then proceed underneath and bullet point 3 or 4 expectations that you are going to have of yourself and of others along the way.
Let’s take a young upcoming professional golfer as an example:
Define Success – I will be in the top 50 players in the world in the next 2 years.
Expectations of Myself
- I will prioritise and commit to the training, lifestyle and activities required to get there.
- I will uncover my weaknesses, acknowledge them and work hard on them.
- There will be tough times with plenty of mistakes along the way, but I will learn from them and I will not be deterred.
Expectations of Others
- Others will have views and their opinions of me and I will respect them, but I will also remember that they do not hold a greater significance over my own opinions and those of my trusted team.
- I will play bad shots and have bad days (probably publicly) but it is ok. This is going to happen and I am prepared for it.
- This is a media driven sport, I expect that both my achievements and my failures will be very public and always documented. It’s ok I am prepared to embrace the highs and handle the lows.
So now the golfer has set some expectations around what is acceptable and what is highly probable and he has made it ok for any of these things to happen. If they do, he is accepting that this is part of the journey and he is not going to worry about it or let it affect his progress. If we as individuals do not set the right expectations both positive and negative, then we are more likely to lose confidence when we hit obstacles. Life is not simple or easy, everything is not always rosy in the garden and the sooner we reset our mindset around this, the easier it will be to remain calm and confident in the face of adversity.
2. Choose Your Craft
Science has proven that the human mind can only focus effectively on 3 things at any one time. Yet so often in business and in life, people seem to juggle dozens of priorities, goals and initiatives. I am a firm believer in being outstanding at 1 or 2 things, rather than just being ok at many. To build self confidence, you need to have a cast iron decided mind about what it is that you are going to be great at. After all, there is nothing more powerful than a decided mind. What career path are you going down? What will you stand for? What do you want to achieve in the next 5 years? If you try your hand at many things in the hope that you will find the one that you like in the end, or if you keep giving up at the first attempt, you will never build self confidence. In actual fact you, will probably become insecure and less confident because of the number of times you have failed. Pick something that you are passionate about, set expectations, create goals, and focus on achieving them. In the example of the golfer, this is clear to see. He wants to be in the top 50 players in the world in the next 2 years. Golf is his craft, his career and his life, nothing more, nothing less.
3. Master It
Over the years many people have asked me the same type of question. “How do I improve in this area?” Or “how can I become more confident with a particular skill?” This for me is the most simplistic and obvious answer on the planet but one which very few have the inclination or staying power to achieve. ‘Repetition, Repetition, Repetition’. Self Confidence is at its greatest when you can unconsciously carry out a task at hand without thinking. When you are on autopilot you can operate with ease, your stress levels are down and most of the time you are not even aware that you are carrying out a task. For example driving a car, having a shave or typing an email are all things that a child would struggle to do, yet we as adults are experts at them because we have been repeating these activities for years. The more you practise and repeat something the better you get and in turn, the more confident you become. Say you’re going for a big interview or maybe you have to do a speech at a wedding, maybe you’re about to take on your biggest challenge to date in the form of a marathon, ask yourself this: Have you prepared enough? Or are you extremely nervous and underprepared? Typically this is where the anxiety kicks in because your confidence is low and that is the moment when you seriously start to doubt yourself. In the example of the golfer, he knows the only way to break into that top 50 is to practise, practise, practise, and this is why he has set this as one of his expectations. You can not underestimate the power of repetition, I have often rehearsed a presentation over 50 times before delivering it and by the time the day arrives, I am literally on autopilot from a content perspective. In turn, this means that I am able to focus more on the engagement with the audience. This is when self confidence can really start to shine. If there is anything that you take from this blog, consider it to be this because it’s simple, it’s factual and it works. “If you get so good at something to the point which you can carry out the task on autopilot, you will have a huge amount of self confidence when doing so.”
4. Remember How Much Time You Have
The saying “Life is too short” is an old cliché, but it is so true and if you spend some time seriously thinking about this, it can actually be quite scary. However the reality is that this is a truth of life and by understanding and accepting it rather than being afraid of it, you can channel these thoughts to help you build self confidence today. The late great Steve Jobs once said:
“When you wake up every morning and look in the mirror, ask yourself this: If today was the last day of my life, would I be about to do what I am about to do today?” If the answer too many days in a row is no, then it is time to make a change”
By realising that our time is so short lived, it should help you build the confidence to take more calculated risks and follow your heart. A survey was carried out in the US with over 200 people who were on their death bed. One of the questions was “What do you regret the most in life?” There was one astonishing common answer, which was “Not doing the things I wanted to do” Not many said that they regretted what they had done, more regretted what they hadn’t and primarily through fear and lack of confidence. Sometimes we need this emotional driver to push us forward and take a leap. So in order to make that first step towards building self confidence, you could start by setting expectations of yourself and of others. Then choose your craft and master it and finally, live every day as if it’s your last. Self confidence is a mindset, a deep seated mindset that is based on, logic rationale and emotion. It can flourish with simplicity, repetition and a strong state of mind, but it can also perish with a lack of preparation and emotional sabotage. Remember, you are the captain of your own ship and you make the rules, so make them wisely.