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Archive for June, 2011

The Confidence Game

I was having lunch with a client a few weeks ago. She was bemoaning the fact that she had not taken the necessary steps to start her own business.

Despite the fact that she had thoroughly researched her market and could obtain the necessary start-up capital, she continued to hesitate.

“I’m just not very confident,” she explained.

How about you? How often have important plans in your life been derailed or curtailed because of a lack of confidence?

What We’re Up Against and What to Do About it

Confidence, I would suggest, is little more than the messages we give ourselves about what we believe is doable or possible in a given situation.

We tell ourselves we’re confident and we feel one way. We tell ourselves we’re not confident and we have an entirely different reaction.

And we often unfairly over generalize.

Labeling yourself as a confident or not confident person does a disservice.

When my client made the comment that she was ”just not very confident,” I suggested that the truth was she was just not confident about some things—in this case launching a business. To make the point, we talked about areas in her life where she had achieved success. She is a successful runner. She has a successful marriage. She is a talented artist and is confident in her ability to paint.

As we spoke she began to see that she was over identifying with one part of her life and was generalizing about her abilities.

But that was not the only problem. She was also making the act of being confident about the way she felt.

She did not realize that confidence can’t be based on how you feel in a given moment. To be useful it must be an intellectual exercise and not an emotional one.

Take driving a car for example. Most people are quite confident they can get in a car and do what they need to do to move from Point A to Point B. When you got in the car yesterday you didn’t say to yourself “Do I feel like I can drive today?” My guess is you just drove. You quickly thought about all the things you needed to do to operate the car and just did them. That’s what confidence is. Seeing what needs doing and doing it without fear of failure.

“But,” you may ask, “What happens if I do fail?”

I really don’t think we need to worry that much about failing.

Failure I would suggest is generally misunderstood and often overrated.

But its effects on confidence can be significant.

Confidence is like walking on a frozen lake where the ice is a quarter inch thick. Everybody falls through the ice (fails) from time to time.

That’s not the issue.

What is important is how quickly you “get out of the water” and what you learn.

What we learn from success is that we like it and we want more. We also learn that success must constantly be replicated if we are to continue to have that feeling.

While success is great, it teaches us very little.

Failure on the other hand, is fertile ground. While failure can cause us to temporarily lose confidence, it is a rich with information. Failure is painful and we don’t like it. But it gets our attention.

If we will examine where we have made mistakes and look at strategies for improvement, failure can provide us with the information we need to overcome obstacles.

And as those obstacles are overcome, the result is renewed confidence.

Think about any area where you feel confident and I’ll wager there are stories about over- coming failures and obstacles.

Confidence is often born from overcoming adversity.

And the way you did that was by creating options.

Try this exercise. The next time you have to solve a problem write down all the things you could possibly do. Make a list of every option you can think of-the longer the list the better. (Even include options you would probably never consider.)

Now look at your list. Do you feel more confident than you did before you wrote the list? My guess is you do. Confidence it turns out is also a by-product of options; the more options you have the more confident you will be.

Everyone struggles with issues of confidence from time to time. Understanding what you are feeling and having a strategy to help you overcome your obstacles are the keys to reclaiming and maintaining your confidence.

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CTS Consulting, Inc

3126 Berkshire Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488