I’m sure you’ve seen the kid in your class or the colleague in your workplace who just seems to have it all together. When they enter a room, they do so with a certain swag and panache.
It seems like their lives are easy and if you didn’t know better, you’d swear they had a secret no one else knew. But, you know it’s not a secret because you recognize what they have…CONFIDENCE. Everybody wants it. Not everyone knows how to get it and keep it. It’s easier to acquire than we want to admit. But, most want to walk into a store where they can grab it from the shelf.
What is confidence and why do we want it? It’s easy to confuse confidence with cockiness. The cocky person is a self-promoter who is always seen. They make sure you know they exist. Some people are easily drawn to them and others are easily repelled by them. Confidence, on the other hand, isn’t always loud. It isn’t always seen but when you see it, you know it. Confidence can often be re-labeled as extreme focus.
“You are the only person on earth who can use your ability. “— Zig Ziglar
We want confidence because confident people get more opportunities. Confident people speak without qualifiers. Confident people seem to be in the right place at the right time. Or, maybe confident people just know what to do with the opportunities presented while those who lack confidence, don’t.
In order to maintain confidence and focus, though, you need to add a dose of mental toughness. Confidence can be swayed and broken if it’s hit hard enough. Mental toughness allows you to take the hit and then reframe it as a necessary part of your process.
Over the last 4 years, I’ve interviewed more than 80 successful business leaders, speakers and authors. Here are some of their common steps to help you increase your confidence and your mental toughness.
1. Embrace the journey: The world is set up to defeat you…or make you stronger. People who lack confidence and mental toughness assume it’s personal. They wonder why they can never catch a break. But, if you see the world as a gym which has equipment intended to grow your muscles, your endurance, and your overall fortitude, then you can smile as you move toward the outcomes.
2. Expect pain: After my last session at the gym, I came home with sore biceps. They were sore because I intentionally pushed a bit harder with my trainer. I knew they were going to be sore because I wanted them to get stronger and grow. If there was no pain, then I hadn’t hit my limits. Without the pain, I wouldn’t know if my muscles were being stretched. Pain often indicates the opportunity for growth. So, I go to the gym expecting some pain.
3. Take an extra step: Staying with the gym analogy, I’ve learned how to increase growth. At the end of my sets, I’ll add just a little more weight or I’ll do just one more rep. I’ve gotten in the habit of doing just a little bit more than I intended because I want to build the discipline of pushing just a bit further. When you have not built that habit or discipline, it becomes so easy to quit. It becomes easy to do “just enough.” The people who do just enough stay with the crowd. But those who do just a little more step into possibility.
4. Leave your comfort zone daily: We wake up to our alarms. We take a shower. We eat breakfast. We get our knick knacks together and leave the house. We get on the highway, turn on the radio and get in traffic. Most of us live in routine. We do things we hate and we stay there daily because it’s the devil we know. We’re afraid of change. We fiercely protect our comfort zones. Nearly every debate I see online consists of people going back and forth about their beliefs. But, what they’re REALLY protecting are their comfort zones.
What if you were used to leaving that comfort zone? What if you intentionally made opportunities to walk on firewood daily? This is just like the gym idea. In order to grow, I must create opportunities to break my current capacity level. Otherwise, I will see the same results.
5. Turn off distractions: We are set up for distraction. Our phones have notifications. Things flash on our computer screens. There are billboards all around us. Signs everywhere. Everyone and everything vies for your attention.
Your attempt to satisfy all of the prompts depletes you and you don’t have any creative energy left. No wonder your confidence is unable to grow.
In order to operate at the optimal confidence level, you must find a way to ruthlessly eliminate some things. Some of those items will need to be permanently eliminated. In some cases, you will need to create a space, a two-day retreat or a 7-day sabbatical, where you can remove yourself in order to regain yourself.
In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport refers to this ruthless elimination as key to creating momentum in specific areas of your goal process.
6. Feed your brain winner food: I refuse to look at news or even my Facebook feed first thing in the morning. I used to be able to disconnect by simply not watching CNN or morning news. But, now my Facebook feed has become just as much of a news source as an official news outlet. If that is the food I feed on, then I’m doing my brain a disservice. What will build you up? What will help you grow and learn? What will help you focus and move closer to your goal?
Find it and set up your “meal time” appropriately.
7. Feed your body winner food: Your body affects your performance and your confidence. I don’t drink coffee. Yet, I function at a consistently high level as a trainer and speaker. Instead of food I know will cause me to crash, I eat power food or start with drinks like apple juice which are built to inject morning sugar.
Other superfoods like pistachios help me to maintain a higher performance level.
8. Repetition is key: Nothing feeds confidence like repetition. The first time you perform an activity, you are in exploration mode. You are figuring out the steps and how you can make it work. But, then the second and third time, you have some idea about how to navigate and how to make success.
My boys play video games at home. When they first start playing any new game, they test out the controls in order to see what works. By the time they’ve played the game a few times, their focus has shifted to how they can move further in the game. They’ve built confidence in navigating and even though they don’t exactly know what’s ahead, they move forward because they know they have the skills to handle it. Even if they lose, they are able to process WHY they lost and recognize what they didn’t do. This comes through repetition.
9. Remove negatives from your space: You must do this. People who complain; friends who can only see things from a negative perspective; people who thrive on drama; negative TV; hate-filled, depressing rants on your timeline; remove yourself from it all. The more you surround yourself with negativity, the more it becomes a part of you. If you work in a place where there is always smoke, you will smell like smoke even if you don’t smoke. Negativity works the same way. It seeps into your pores whether you know it or not and becomes a part of your energy.
10. Get goal specific: What are you focused on? Get locked in to what you must get done and push until it is complete. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill refers to Definiteness of Purpose as the starting point for all achievement. When you have a specific focus and a specific goal, it becomes easier to weed away the things that do not serve that goal. If you find yourself getting distracted easily or overwhelmed easily, look internally to re-evaluate whether or not you have fully formulated that specific goal. If not, do it immediately and get back on track.
Sure, it’s easy to sit and write about what you SHOULD do in order to be confident and mentally tough. None of us is perfect at it. But, it’s the constant awareness and the habit of fighting for success that moves you closer daily.
So, start with one step today. Then add a step each day for the next 10 days.