I went through what I thought was a silly exercise a few years ago. In my perpetual quest to always be improving my personal confidence and also the confidence in others I lead, manage, and work with, I one day looked up the definition of confidence in the dictionary. What happened from there astounded me and changed how I think about confidence and the very practice of it. Yes, confidence can be practiced, folks…this is an undeniable, scientifically-proven fact!
According to Dictionary.com, confidence is: “A feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s own appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” Makes sense. So basically, confidence is a feeling. A feeling that arises from within us. Interesting. I then asked myself, what is a feeling? Again, according to Dictionary.com, a feeling is, “… an emotional state or reaction.” Okay that’s a duh…a feeling is an emotion. So, you guessed it, I next looked up the word emotion. Emotion is, “… an instance of this.” Oh, that’s interesting…an instance of this. Then what is this? According to Dictionary.com “this” is “…what is about to follow.”
Wow, let’s think about this. Could it be that confidence is the feeling we get when we know what is about to follow? And, we can practice that? We can actually practice mastering this kind of knowing? Knowing what is next?
The more I thought about it the more I realized that my silly little dictionary journey led me to the very best understanding of what confidence really is: a feeling or thought when you just know what is about to unfold next. You can’t explain exactly why or how but you just know.
I am sure this has happened to you at least a few times in your life. You knew what was going to happen before it actually did. However far in the background of your mind, you had that millionth of a second thought that you gave little credence to. Yet…it was there. It happened.
If you believe any of this (and you should!) here is my simplified 6 Step Program I developed years ago that you might want to think about incorporating into your life to further develop and improve your confidence in life and in business. If you do, you likely will not only elevate your confidence level, you may at times become a master in “what is about to follow.”
1. Face Yourself
Face yourself and be honest. Insecurity plagues every human being, either consciously or subconsciously. Overcoming this self-doubt starts with honestly assessing your abilities (and your shortcomings) and then getting comfortable enough to capitalize on and correct them. A good way to start assessing your abilities honestly is…
2. Find Five Brave Souls
Find five brave souls who know you well. Ask people you know VERY well (personally and professionally) to list your top strengths and why they believe them to be such.
3. Analyze The Feedback
Compare what they say your strengths are with what you believe they are. After the assignment, you will most likely find that their answers will mostly match yours, but not entirely. Find the gaps. Find your blind spots and explore them. Ask the person who gave you an answer that you didn’t expect to tell you more. The more you learn about yourself (from those who know you best), the greater the insight you'll have. These are the confidence building blocks.
4. Create Activities To Practice
Now that you have crystallized what your strengths are – both realized and formerly unrealized – create activities aligned with your strengths and practice them daily. A long time ago, I discovered that one of my greatest strengths is taking difficult, highly complicated subject matter and making it easily digestible for almost anyone to not only understand, but really get it!
Thankfully, I very quickly knew that I needed to develop this strength further and practice it somehow. I did that by practicing writing. I decided that I needed to start tackling all those subjects and making them easier for the masses, not just the person I was speaking to. As such, I made it a habit to blog, compose lectures, essays, white papers…heck, I even wrote a book. So again, now that you have zeroed in on precisely what you are gifted at, develop activities to practice your strengths. If you do, you can’t even imagine the satisfaction and confidence that will simply find you.
At its fundamentally flawed core, the aim of almost any learning program is to help us become what we are not. If you don’t have natural talent with numbers, you’re still forced to spend time in that area to attain a degree. If you’re not very empathetic, you get sent to a course designed to infuse empathy into your personality. From cradle to cubicle, we devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths. The truth is, people have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies. Furthermore, a wonderful consequence of focusing on your strengths is not only amplified confidence but also satisfaction and happiness.
Perhaps we are living by a misguided maxim when we say, “You can be anything you want to be if you just try hard enough.” Maybe, just maybe, our new cultural understanding should be, “You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a whole lot more of who you already are.” So, now that you know better who YOU already are…practice, practice, practice your newly created activities.
6. Make Your Practice A Habit
We are creatures of habit. We like to do what we have always done. It is most comfortable that way. There is no unknown or discomfort that we’ll have to deal with and confront. However, the reality is, those who are the happiest, most successful, and confident in life are those who are continually reinventing themselves. Reinvent your life to incorporate the new, good, empowering, confidence-building practices as habits. Structure these new activities as daily, weekly, monthly habits. If you make your practice a habit rather than simply a periodic activity, the chances of you elevating your confidence in that area is, well…a duh!
Practice these confidence-boosting activities and you’re sure to reap the rewards in both your professional and personal life.