By Tim Ursiny, Ph.D., RCC, CBC
When you do circuit training at the gym you move from station to station to systematically work out several different muscle groups. This gives you a well-rounded work out and hopefully a well-chiseled physique. Imagine if you just worked out your biceps and never worked out any other part of your body. Your arms may look great, but your legs, shoulders, etc. might look ridiculous in comparison. It is healthier and more effective to work out various muscles in various ways. The same principles apply when it comes to building confidence.
There are at least five different paths to developing unbreakable confidence. Most people have a preferred path and at least one or two neglected paths. In this article we will address each of the five paths and give one specific tactic for building confidence using that approach.
Path #1: Mental Techniques (thinking your way to confidence)
Cognitive theories of psychology address the destructive and irrational things we can say to ourselves that hurt our performance and happiness. Our perceptions (or self-talk) impacts confidence, overall emotions and how we behave. Negative thoughts can create insecurity while powerful rational thoughts focused on action can create wonderful results in our life. Some common beliefs that can hold you back from being your best are:
- There is nothing I can do.
- I need others love to feel worthwhile.
- I am sure that bad things are going to happen.
- Failure is terrible.
- I can't deal with this.
These are not statements of fact, but are rather automatic or chosen beliefs that we form out of our own perceptions. These beliefs keep us off centered and performing at less than our potential. Examples of more helpful thoughts include:
- Most challenges also bring opportunities and it serves me better to look for those.
- This is a chance to really help others during a difficult time.
- I am going to prepare for whatever the future holds.
- I can learn from every mistake I make.
- Through focus and tenacity I can tackle challenges in my life.
With practice you can eliminate insecure thoughts and replace them with confidence. Psychological interventions like Rational Emotive Therapy help you master your thoughts in a structured manner. Here is a sample process for impacting your self-talk:
- Write down the facts about the situation. Do not record your interpretation of the facts, but just the truthful data.
- Write down what you "felt" from the event (sad, angry, frustrated, hurt, etc.)
- Taking responsibility for your emotions, record what you are saying to yourself to make you feel what you felt in Step 2. In this step you fully buy into the belief that only YOU can upset you. No one and nothing else has that power (unless you allow it).
- Fourthly, if the perception in the previous step does not serve you then create a more truthful, realistic or helpful perception that would build your confidence and move you to positive action.
You will likely need to repeat your new thought over and over until you believe it and move to action.
Path #2: Emotional Techniques (feeling your way to confidence)
While mental techniques focus on words and beliefs, emotional approaches center on confidence building tactics that are not dependant on words. These techniques can appear "different," but are highly effective for many people. One example of an emotional strategy is to use music to change your confidence and mood. Instead of listening to the blues when you are sad, instead listen to music that inspires you, gets you up dancing and gets you focused. Music hits a primal part of us that words can't always reach. Individuals who use this technique build CDs or IPod playlists of songs that pump them up. Most people pick music to reflect their mood. Top performers use music to control and channel their emotions. So make a list of confidence-inducing music. You can choose classical or you can choose Prince; it really doesn't matter. What matters is that it hits that part of your brain and part of your heart that may be hidden from thoughts and words.
Path #3: Action Techniques (behaving your way to confidence)
Procrastination can destroy confidence. Procrastinating difficult or fearful activities infuses subconscious messages of inadequacy and failure. When we face fears we build confidence. Of course there are many ways to face fears. It is just like getting into a cold swimming pool; you are either a dipper or a diver. Divers just do it. They jump in the cold water and swim until they are use to it. This method is more immediately painful, but you get use to the water quickly. Dippers have a different technique. They start with a toe, get up to the knees, move in further (wait a little) and then eventually get all of the way in the water. They experience the cost of taking longer to get accustomed to the water, but their experience is less painful. Neither technique is right or wrong. The important thing is to get into the pool. So if you are avoiding something that you know you need to face, either be a dipper or a diver. You can dip by building a list of gradual actions that will help you slowly and methodically deal with the situation or you can just dive in and keep facing it until you change the situation. Avoiders create helplessness in their lives; dippers and divers build confidence.
Path #4: Relational Techniques (relating your way to confidence)
The people we associate with and listen to have a significant impact on our confidence. When we are surrounded by people with negative attitudes and energy our confidence can be subtly impacted and eroded over time. In contrast, when we surround ourselves with positive friends and family, we can bring out our very best. To decide who you want in your life ask yourself the following questions:
1. Who drains me and how can I limit my time with him or her?
2. Who inspires me and builds my confidence?
3. Who is a great best problem-solver and never seems brought down by the world?
4. Who pulls out the very best in me?
5. Who do I know who could hold me accountable to my toughest actions and goals?
Energy is contagious and surrounding yourself with negative people WILL impact you! It is worthy to help struggling people, but do it as a mission and only help them to the level that they are willing to also help themselves. That said, also make sure you surround yourself with people who help and positively impact you.
Path #5: Spiritual Techniques (living your way to confidence)
Spiritual paths to confidence can include religious approaches such as prayer or secular approaches such as staying focused on your mission. When you are off of your mission your confidence will suffer. In contrast, when you are centered on your purpose on this planet nothing can destroy your confidence. What is your noble calling? Why are you on this planet? How consistent are your actions to this belief? We are in an era where many baby boomers are moving into the second half of their lives. In the first half many focus on success. In the second half of life it is about purpose, mission and significance. At the deepest only you have the ability to betray your mission. Take time every week to reflect on the consistency between what you believe and what you do. Make sure they are in alignment and that you are living the life that you want to lead!
When you address mental, emotional, behavioral, relational and spiritual approaches to confidence you will have a well rounded self-perception and your actions will show it. Just like that person with a well toned body, you will walk around proud of yourself and can be in the best emotional shape of your entire life!
Tim Ursiny, Ph.D., is the founder of Advantage Coaching & Training. He trains and coaches individuals and teams in areas such as stress management, conflict resolution, dealing with change and building client loyalty. He is the author of multiple books including "The Confidence Plan," "Tough Times Tactics" and "The Top Performer's Guide to Attitude." For more information, visit www.advantagecoaching.com, or contact: Drtim@advantagecoaching.com.