If there was one thing that every client I talk to wants more of it is confidence. While watching the PGA Tour Players Championship over the weekend the commentators were talking about the recent struggles Jordan Spieth has faced. Paul Azinger said that what he is facing is all about confidence and the only way to improve confidence is through achievement.
So, If you have to be confident in order to achieve and you have to achieve in order to have confidence, what comes first? The ole', chicken or the egg? While Mr. Azinger is absolutely correct, that achievement is the most powerful way
to build confidence, there are many, many, more techniques you can employ to feel more confident when you are struggling. To rely on your achievements, successes, or wins to supply you with confidence is to set yourself up for failure, for these are all outcomes outside of your control. To rely on any source that is outside of yourself is to set yourself up for failure. To truly be confident, you must be able to derive confidence from many different sources, many of which should be within your control.
To truly be confident, you must be able to derive confidence from many different sources.
A study led by Stanford psychologist Claude Steele (1999) had two groups take a math test. The first group were asked to first answer questions about their core values and reflect on them. The second group did nothing. The group that reflected on their core values, those things that would not be changed by the outcome of the math test, performed significantly better than the group that didn’t. Those that reflected on their core values also showed lower levels of cortisol and epinephrine (stress hormones).
This study is fascinating to me because it had nothing to do with the participants ‘psyching themselves up’ and having them tell themselves “I’m great at math, I can do this!” beforehand. What happens when you tell yourself something similar? You know it is BS and usually the opposite happens, you become more anxious and less confident. This study showed that the first, and perhaps most important, part of building confidence is having a strong sense of self.
If confidence is defined as “the belief in your ability to succeed” (Vealey, 2001) then you better have a good idea of what helps you to succeed. Through an understanding of your own values, how you gauge success and failure, and your strengths and weaknesses (among others) you can develop a base for which confidence can be built upon. This is the self-awareness piece that I teach before any mental skills. To have a strong understanding of your core values and your own sense of self is vital to building a strong foundation for which confidence can be built upon.
Even if you have experienced a tremendous amount of success and achievement, the first sign of failure could crush your confidence. If, however, you are able to derive your confidence from many other sources your confidence will be much more stable and able to withstand adversity. Add to that a strong sense of self, no amount of trash talking from your opponent will get to you.
To build your confidence, start by asking yourself the following questions:
· What do I value? How do I live out my core values?
· What are those things that will remain unchanged no matter the outcome?
· What does confidence mean to me?
How does it feel?
· What makes me feel confident?
· How do I gauge success and failure?
· What other “wins” are you overlooking throughout your day?
· What do you attribute to your successes? Your talent or your effort?
· How do you regain confidence once you’ve lost it?
These questions will start to develop a stronger sense of self. Developing affirmations based around this information, things that you know to be true, can be a powerful mental skill to jump start your confidence when needed. Once you have developed a strong sense of self we can employ different mental skills to continue to develop and maintain your confidence such as optimism, preparation, watching others, gratitude, social interactions, self-regulation, visualization, focusing on your process, and other mental skills.
Confidence is a verb, it is a process you engage in, not an adjective that is magically bestowed upon you. It takes action, it takes self-awareness, and it takes mental skills. If you are looking to learn how to develop and maintain your own confidence give me a shout.
Let’s get to work.