Who dares wins
I once coached someone who wanted to "have more confidence". We talked about the situations he was concerned about and then I asked him what were some of the things he wanted to be able to do that he couldn't do now. He answered, "I just want to have more confidence." We went round this loop a few times, always ending with the expressed desire to have more confidence. Eventually we moved on to practise some new behaviours. Predictably, this wasn't successful because we hadn't established what "confidence" looked, sounded or felt like to my client, nor what he would do with it if he had it!
What he was expressing was a belief, or collection of beliefs, that limited his range of possible outcomes. He "knew" that certain actions were impossible for him, either because he didn't know how to do them, and/or because he expected to fail or be embarrassed whatever he did.
"Confidence" is also a set of beliefs, perhaps one or more of:
- If I keep trying I'll succeed in the end
- I can't fail
- Anything is possible
- Failure isn't important
- If it doesn't work it won't kill me.
Some people will tell you, "There is no failure, only feedback". Very easy to say, but sometimes things turn out in a way that really feels like failure! It's true though that the process of learning involves trying things out before you've mastered the skill. It's the only way you'll ever master it! So, many times, you won't get the result you want. That's feedback, telling you that the way you did it that time was ineffective and so you need to try again - differently.
How do you avoid the feeling of failure?
Maybe one way is to get into the habit of thinking about those risky, new things that you're nervous about doing as experiments: try something - see what happens. This is very different from "decide what to do - do it - succeed or fail". You can dissociate yourself (your identity) from the outcome if you choose to!
Sometimes it's not the outcome that worries you but the actual doing. The result might be highly desirable and perhaps even certain - if only you could do what you know you should!
What are you afraid of? Is it a genuine threat of real harm? Or is it a phobia (an irrational fear of something that can't actually harm you)?
We're not concerned here with activities that carry a high risk of physical injury, rather those things that carry an emotional risk. They are usually things that many other people do without hesitation or any apparent effort, as in these examples:
- Public speaking: you're probably not concerned about whether your presentation or speech will have any impact (the outcome), rather you're afraid that you'll make embarrassing mistakes in the delivery
- Conflict situations: you avoid these because you feel intimidated, not because you're worried about a failure to resolve the situation.
Are you happy with yourself as you are? If you could change yourself, what would that new person be like? What resources would you have?
Your "most resourceful self" is the person who has all of the knowledge and skills needed to live life to the full and to take full responsibility for it. It's the person you want to be.
Perhaps you have an image of yourself that's not resourceful. You may see a person who's fearful and ineffectual. If that's the case then take some time to reinvent yourself by re-drawing that self-image. Imagine how you would look if you were that resourceful self. How are you standing? What are you wearing? What expression is on your face? How does your voice sound? Create the most detailed image you can of that perfect version of you. Then - step into it! Imagine yourself merging with that other you and becoming them. Feel the buzz of confidence!
Once you've created the image of your most resourceful self you can bring it to mind and step into it whenever you want to. Then you'll be a person who can separate themselves from what they do. Some of the things you do may fail to deliver what you wanted, but you won't fail.
We all doubt ourselves from time to time so there's nothing unique in feeling that. What makes the difference is whether you know how to get past that doubt and run the next experiment - just to see what happens.
For more on this topic, and some highly effective techniques, see my e-book "Confidence".