When I worked in PR many moons ago, part of my job was preparing senior executives for press interview. The thing that struck me most was how nervous and lacking in confidence these otherwise very confident and accomplished individuals would be at the thought of giving a press interview. The other thing that stood out was the huge (negative) impact this lack of confidence could have on their performance levels. This piqued my interest in coaching people to build their confidence and self-belief and it’s been my passion as a coach ever since.
So what are the things that make the biggest difference to your confidence levels and how can you have more of this magic ingredient in your life?
- TAKE TIME TO SET YOUR COURSE
All too often we rush around madly like hamsters on a wheel without taking the time to stop and think clearly. Getting off the wheel and getting clear on what you want is a good way to navigate back to a sense of confidence in yourself and being master of your own destiny.
Taking time out to get clear on our long-term aspirations is vital. It is equally important ahead of an interview, a meeting or at the start of your day. It doesn’t need to take more than a couple of minutes.
Here are a few questions that may help you:
- What is it that I really want? (…In this situation/area of my life/today?)
- How do I want to BE? (Calm? Confident? Straightforward?)
- What do I want to create/achieve? (3 – 5 things)
Getting clear on your intentions is way more effective then working, hamster style, through a to-do list and gives you the opportunity to set your course and be able to re-adjust quickly if you go astray.
2) KEEP YOURSELF ON COURSE
Now that you’ve set your course, the next step to greater confidence is taking some action towards whatever it is that you said you wanted. And the good news is, it doesn’t have to be a giant step.
So if, having done the exploration above, you feel that you would like to give an inspiring presentation, need to have a difficult conversation with someone or want to spend more quality time with friends, then you can start to take tangible steps towards these.
Let’s face it, sometimes life can get pretty wobbly, and we can never have control over everything, but knowing that you have control over something can really help. Picking a couple of ‘quick win’ actions can really boost your confidence – and every time you take an action you are re-enforcing your self-belief and trust in yourself.
3) EMBODY CONFIDENCE
Let’s do a little experiment. Right now, stand ‘as if’ you were really confident. Notice how you are standing. Notice your posture and just notice how you feel.
Based on the research of social psychologist Amy Cuddy, it appears that just by changing our body posture we change our mind. So when we stand ‘as if’ we are confident, it affects how we feel because it automatically changes our thoughts and beliefs and even alters the hormone levels in our bodies, which in turn positively affects our confidence and behavior in an upward spiral.
So walking around ‘as if’ you are confident is an excellent way of building your confidence. Not only will you feel better but it will have an impact on your behavior and how you come across to others.
Watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk ‘Your Body Language Shapes who you are’ here: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en
Try standing ‘as if’ you were confident for at least a couple of minutes a day and notice the impact that it has. Once you’ve mastered that, try acting ‘as if’ you were really confident all day every day.
4) MANAGE YOUR MINDSET
There is a well-known Henry Ford quote that I like: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right!”
Being aware of what our attitude is, and being able to shift it, is vital to our confidence levels. We think between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day. Most of our thoughts are on ‘repeat’ and affect how we feel, our behaviour and our whole experience of life.
So building on points 1, 2 & 3 above, let’s try another experiment. First of all think of something that you really want for yourself in life – a dream or a goal.
Now try on these disempowering attitudes (I can’t; I’m not good/smart/capable enough; it will all go wrong anyway) and repeat them to yourself a few times. Stand or sit as if you really believe these negative thoughts (embody the attitude) and think about your dream as you repeat them. How possible does your dream seem now on a scale of 0 – 10, where 0 is not at all possible and 10 is fully possible?
Now let’s shift your attitude. This time, try on more empowering attitudes (I can; I’m really good/smart/capable; I can find a way to make it work) and again say them to yourself a few times as if you really believe them (embody them) as you think about your dream or goal. On a scale of 0-10 how possible does your dream or goal feel now? I imagine they will be feeling significantly more possible, probable and even desirable!
So that experiment was just for a couple of moments. Imagine the difference your attitude can have on your experience of life over 24 hours, a month, or even a lifetime.
The good news is that through building awareness, strengthening our powerful inner resources and managing the sabotaging inner voices, we can build the mindset that we want. Literally. The neural pathways in our brain can change and adapt and the more we think and experience any thought pattern, the stronger these neural pathways become. This means that, with practice, confidence can become a natural state of being.
5) PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!
It’s true that the more we do something the more confident we become at it. I remember when I first started to speaking in front of groups I was so nervous I virtually had to peel myself down from the ceiling every time. Yet a few years on and with several hundred training courses under my belt, I now feel confident in front of groups.
Doing something we don’t feel ‘confident’ about involves us getting out of our comfort zone. By definition that’s just plain uncomfortable, so we tend to avoid doing it, get stuck and lose confidence in ourselves.
Whatever you want in life, practice really does make perfect. Repeatedly doing something, whether giving press interviews, singing in public, learning a new skill or talking more confidently to strangers, makes that thing become easier over time. The more we build our skills and expertise and the more often we practise them, the more natural and confident we feel.
It took Edison 10,000 attempts at inventing the light bulb and when asked by a reporter “How did it feel to fail 10,000 times?” Edison replied, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Transfer that sort of commitment to any area of your life and you are almost guaranteed success.
Though these five steps may seem very simple, they are incredibly effective. I challenge you to put them into use right now and keep going for at least a month, keeping a note of your confidence journey. Let me know how it goes and, if you need any help, I’m only a phone call away.