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Confidence is misunderstood

I had the privilege of hearing a presentation by sports psychologist, Dr Sean Richardson recently. One of the biggest insights I got was that confidence is great if we have it, but we don’t need confidence to make progress or get results. In fact, we have been mis-guided around the whole confidence thing, at least for people without major traumas and mental illnesses.


Confidence is often seen as the key ingredient to success. The reality is, though, it’s difficult to feel confident simply by being told to be confident, or being cheered on with a “you can do it!” or going to a course to “let go of your fears” or even being coached to “believe in yourself”. We might momentarily feel confident, possibly about something specific or in a particular context. But when we encounter something new, something we haven’t been able to do in the past, something that triggers fear and poor confidence, we’re right back where we were with our confidence levels.


So here are some tips based on what I heard:


Take action, even if you don’t have confidence: Even if it’s just a small step, just do it. Even if you don’t get results straight away, keep focused on actions that are likely to lead to results.


Don’t focus on results, focus on actions: We can control what we do but we can’t control the results. There are too many variable at play.


Celebrate courage and taking action: If you had the courage to take action in spite of your fears, give yourself a pat on the back, a reward or have a celebration! Regardless of the results, at least you had a go and won’t have regrets.


Confidence is an outcome, not a prerequisite: Confidence grows by taking action and making progress. Key is to focus on actions and progress, not the results.


Try this out, next time you don’t feel confident. These tips are in line with Dr Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindsets” and Susan Jeffers’ “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. COURAGE is what we need, not confidence.


In organisations, leaders can create an environment that supports people to step up, regardless of confidence levels. As mentioned in my previous post, Can you empower people too much? there are gaps in how some leaders empower people. My next few posts will be on how leaders may help or hinder people to have the courage to step up and grow their confidence.

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