Monday, February 16, 2015

5 Steps to Building your Self Confidence

Perhaps one of the most common requests that I receive from my coaching clients is for guidance on how to feel more Confident. Perhaps one of the most highly prized, and envied, characteristics of leaders is their confidence, that ease and belief they have in their ability to make things happen.

We know also that highly confident people tend to: get promoted more and faster, be seen as more attractive, make more money, be seen as charismatic, be remembered longer, be viewed as more decisive, smarter, and even taller.  In fact, the list is far longer than this but it all stems from the projection of confidence.

This is all well and good for those that possess confidence, that belief in their ability to perform, but what about those of us that could do with a little more of this quality?  That struggle to find it in ourselves to believe in ourselves?

The good news is that confidence is not something that you are simply born with, it is something that you can develop and grow.  To start it is helpful to have a clear idea of who you are, gaining a clear picture of what your current strengths and abilities and even weaknesses are.  You need to have a clear perspective of what you currently bring to the table, in order to know what to work on and what to promote.

If you need to gain a better perspective on this, complete the following exercise.  Divide a piece of paper into three columns and label them Strengths, Weaknesses, Accomplishments.

  1. Strengths.  You want to understand the Strengths you possess because these are the areas that you are most likely going to want to promote to others and perhaps build your expertise around. 
  2. Weaknesses.   I deliberately label the second column Weaknesses and not Developmental Needs because you don't want to waste time in developing weaknesses that aren't needed by your current job or that you do not possess an interest in.  You can't be good at everything so don't waste time that could be spent creating excellence in a strength just to create mediocrity out of an unnecessary weakness.  
  3. Accomplishments.  The third column requires you to compile a list of your Accomplishments to date.  Large or small you have them.  Don't stop until you have listed at least 20. Any obstacle you have overcome in life is an accomplishment.  Anything you did that you felt a sense of pride in doing or attempting is an accomplishment.  If you struggle with completing any of your columns then consider enlisting the aid of a few close friends.  Ask them to complete the form for you, using their responses to help you gain some perspective on strengths and accomplishments that you are failing to recognise and give yourself credit for.  
Many find that just completing the exercise above helps them to already feel more confident about themselves and what they offer.  It is sometimes far too easy to lose sight of everything that we have accomplished, everything we do possess strength in when we are only focused on what we lack.  We are all a constant mix of strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures.  It is important to always be looking at the full picture and not just a portion.  As good a starting point as this is though, I offer the following 5 tips for helping you to continue to gain and strengthen your confidence.
  • Focus on Learning and Improving.  Developing our skills and knowledge about something can increase our confidence and belief in our abilities in that area.  Often our lack of confidence stems from our belief that we don't know enough or that we lack the necessary skill. Use your understanding of your strengths to build your skills and talents.  We can't be great at everything, but we can all be great at something.  Pick your area and focus on strengthen your skills in that area.  
  • Don't aim for Perfect.  Making mistakes is normal.  Use them as an opportunity to learn. Not leaving any mental room for the possibility of mistakes can undermine our confidence, feeding into the belief that we can't do it.  Instead, expect mistakes, learn from them and move on.  
"A person, who never made a mistake, never tried anything new"    Albert Einstein
  • Start Small.  It is the act of doing and accomplishing things that builds our confidence to do more and other in future.  Even small steps have a positive impact.  Take action, get it done and build positive proof of your ability.  Doing things builds your confidence, worrying about doing them builds your fear.  Take action.
 "Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment"  Thomas Carlyle
  •  Do Your Homework.  There is no substitute for preparation.  The more prepared you are for something, the more confident you will be in your ability to achieve it.  Don't focus on how much better prepared you 'wish' you were, focus on being as prepared as time and circumstances allow.  Preparation, of however much, is always better than none.
  • Keep a Success Log.  As you likely discovered, trying to recall our accomplishments can be a difficult task.  Far better to maintain an ongoing Success Log, in which you continuously record your victories, both large and small, as they occur.  As we continue to focus forward, on all we want to accomplish, it can become far too easy for us to lose sight of all of the successes that got us to this point, or to minimize their value and import.  Recording them as they occur will help to remind you of everything you overcame to get to where you are, helping you to minimize any doubts you may have about your abilities to overcome barriers in the future.
Our confidence is not static, it rises and falls in the face of different situations and their perceived level of challenge.  Use the above exercises and tips to help you to gain the level of confidence you need to face those challenges head-on, to become all that your meant and deserve to be.  I know that there is greatness in you and have every confidence in your uncovering it for yourself.  

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