Confidence takes many forms, from arrogance to self-assurance. But truly confident people always have the upper hand, because they are the leaders who drive results and inspire others. They don’t need the false confidence some people use to mask their insecurities. Instead, true confidence transcends what we do and what we know. But the beauty of confidence is that it can be built over time.
Confidence is Sexy
Researchers from the University of Michigan recently studied whether men’s confidence in social settings with women could be improved with a video tutorial. Those men who were trained felt more confident going into conversations with the women, while the women perceived those men to be higher in confidence, status and dominance, the study showed. The study’s lead author says this proves that social confidence is trainable.
There are different types of confidence to work toward: behavioral and emotional.
Behavioral confidence is about doing what you say you are going to do when you say you will do it consistently. Having that level of accountability instills trust in yourself that you believe in what you say to yourself, as well as what you say to others. This is your ability to act and get things done in your life.
One of the fastest ways to build behavioral confidence is to give yourself a stretch goal, which is something that you think you can’t do or think would be a stretch for you to do. For example, if you applied to colleges you didn’t think you had a chance of getting into yet did, that built confidence and likely laid groundwork for you to work hard and have a successful career at the university.
If you think you can’t achieve something but yet work hard, persevere and eventually conquer it, you’ve built up some behavioral confidence. Once you do this over and over, you’ll build bigger and better asks of yourself, as well as others. This helps increase the probability of your success.
There are four associated traits of behavioral confidence:
- Belief in your ability to take proactive action.
- Belief in your ability to follow through with your actions and to be consistent.
- Belief in your ability to push through obstacles.
- Belief in your ability to do the things you think are a stretch.
Emotional confidence is also about trusting yourself, but it involves the capacity to know that you can manage your reactivity in most, if not all, situations. That means you have the capacity to be appropriate in situations regardless of impulses that could make you want to act inappropriate, unprofessional or not thoughtful. People with emotional confidence have resilience; they know they can recover from whatever happens to be thrown their way. This is confidence in your belief and your ability to master your emotional world.
When you are building emotional confidence, you recognize that life isn’t just a series of failures and successes but rather, that many failures are often required to reach success. Entrepreneurs know this all too well. Those leaders who don’t exit prematurely but rather press on to achieve something great are displaying emotional confidence or trust in themselves.
There are four associated traits of emotional confidence:
- Belief in your ability to know your own feelings and to identify what you are feeling, when you are feeling it.
- Belief in your ability to express your own feelings, to get what is inside out.
- Belief in your ability to connect with other human beings in a meaningful way.
- Belief in your ability to find a perspective of understanding and compassion in all situations, especially difficult ones.
Why People Fail to Reach their Goals
Just like you master other skills in your life, learning how to be more self-confident requires patience, hard work and practice. When you have confidence, you pursue your goals and persevere until you achieve them. Without confidence, you can be stuck in your rigid comfort zones, unable to move forward.
Here are the most common reasons that people fail to reach their goals:
- The outcome they desire is not realistic.
- They are not sufficiently motivated and fail to keep their moods, thoughts and actions in alignment with their goals.
- They take ineffective action (not enough, not the right kind, no plan, etc.)
- They have competing commitments that they may or may not be blind to.
- They are unwilling to experience discomfort.
Enemies of Confidence
One of the biggest enemies of behavioral confidence is procrastination. When you constantly procrastinate, it chips away at the trust in yourself that you are going to do what you said you were going to do and on the timeline you designated.
It’s important to remember that procrastination is a habit. It is the repeat behavior of avoidance. When you procrastinate, it may feel as if you have a weight piled upon your shoulders. Those who procrastinate constantly feel behind, overwhelmed and as if they never have enough time. Living in this state is draining, so you may also feel as if you have less energy. Once you can face and overcome your procrastination habit, you will accomplish more during the day and be left with more energy at the end of the day. That emotional burden of avoiding or pushing things to the side will be gone.
Another obstacle to confidence is the inability to build mastery. When you are first learning something, you likely aren’t going to be good at it. People don’t like the feeling of being a beginner, so they often stop persevering to improve. However, working through the steps to build mastery builds behavioral confidence. Whether it’s learning a second language, becoming a better public speaker or improving your knife skills in the kitchen, very few people actually get to the level of mastery.
When you have tenacity and stick with something through the periods of frustration, the lulls in performance, and the stagnation that can occur at certain learning curves, you are building confidence. If you can tolerate the journey of learning and master that new skill, you have not only gained a new expertise in life, you have also boosted your confidence. If you don’t have the patience or perseverance to get you through it, you will be less confident.
We talk a lot about mental fitness with our coaching clients at JMA, but it’s really the same as building confidence. When you are mentally fit, you are able to create your own emotional mood states, designed for whatever you need to handle a particular situation. You aren’t simply reacting to your environment; instead, you are controlling your thoughts, moods and behaviors.
The first step to building confidence and mental fitness is working on your accountability. Once you understand that you are responsible for how your life plays out, you will begin to look in the mirror and not point fingers at others. Someone who is confident has no victim mentality, but rather they take ownership for their situation.
The Rock Pile Exercise™
One of the best, yet hated, exercises to eliminate procrastination and build confidence is what I call the “Rock Pile Exercise” which I’ve assigned to many clients. First, I instruct them to buy a big bag of rocks from their local hardware store and dump the contents in one corner of their yard. This makes absolutely no sense until they get the assignment:
- Get up 30 minutes earlier than you are used to getting up.
- Go outside first thing in the morning, no matter the weather. Time doesn’t stop because it’s raining or snowing. Set a timer for 30 minutes.
- Pick up one rock and walk all the way to the other side of the yard and put the rock down to build a new pile.
- Do this repeatedly until you have transferred the initial pile of rocks from one place to another or until your timer goes off.
- Distractions such as playing music, listening to a podcast, scrolling on your phone, or chatting with neighbors are not allowed. Just move the rocks mindfully.
- Briefly journal your experience after each day.
- Repeat the next day for however long this assignment lasts. I generally assign this exercise to last from 15 to 30 days.
- If you skip a day, you start all over with day one.
- There are no excuses.
You should see some of the journal entries I’ve read from clients who have been assigned this task! Often, they include explicatives I won’t share. This exercise seems nonsensical with no purpose or achievement. It’s not a task many of us want to get up early to do, especially in bad weather. It’s an enormous waste of time and energy!
But hear me out. This exercise is about building mental muscles. When you do something you don’t want to do and execute it perfectly in a mindful state, there’s a sort of epiphany. It builds discipline in people who have none, and they can finally see those demons and face them. When clients complete the assignment, they are ecstatic that they followed through on their commitment to be accountable. They finally get the concept of uber accountability to themselves and can clearly see how much our mind gets in the way. It’s an exercise in mindfulness that builds perseverance. It’s an exercise in the new Nike slogan, “Just Do It!”
Put your Confidence to the Test
At JMA, we have developed a confidence quiz to help you identify the behaviors that you believe may be undermining you in your capacity to be perceived as confident at work. It helps our coaches identify what areas need work to strengthen your range of interactions as a leader and ways you may be self-sabotaging yourself. From there, we create a personal development plan to help you reach your goals. It may or may not include the rock pile exercise!
In the meantime, you can get started on your journey to accountability and MindMastery, with our virtual 2-day workshops held once a month.