In many ways, confidence is the name of the game. It’s a key element in both productivity and success, because feeling confident allows for relaxation and poise, both of which support high-level performance.
What’s more, confidence is itself powerful, particularly because it heavily impacts others, both positively and negatively.
Confidence has a positive impact not only on yourself, but on those working with you, helping them feel like “you got this,” and encouraging them to put forward their own best efforts in support of you.
At the same time, confidence has a negative impact on those working against you (as in competitive situations, negotiations, or other “zero sum” games), tending to weaken their resolve and increase their estimation of your ability to prevail.
That’s why it’s important to maximize your confidence, without feeling so overconfident that you allow your ego to write checks your skills and abilities can’t cash.
As with other important human traits, some people are born with a good level of confidence, some earn their confidence by dint of great work, and some must take special steps to gain as much confidence as their actual level of competence deserves (I’m looking at you, low self-esteemers).
Here are some effective ideas for boosting and maintaining your confidence up to where it ought to be:
Recognize Any Confidence Gap
The first step in developing an appropriate level of confidence is to recognize when you don’t have enough of it. Fortunately, there are some signs of low confidence to help with this. They include:
Regular surprises at your level of achievement. If you keep scoring higher on tests than you anticipate, or accomplish goals faster or easier than you expect, or hear praise from others when you feel you’ve done nothing special, take these achievements as signs of capabilities that warrant considerable confidence.
Others treat you like you’re special. If the people you encounter tend to ask for your ideas, or listen carefully to your arguments, or agree with your choices and decisions, or want to follow your lead, take these behaviors as signs of intelligence, perspicacity, and charisma that warrant a high level of confidence.
Exceptional performance levels. If you can do things that others can’t, or easily learn what others find difficult, or exhibit natural abilities that others don’t, or navigate through difficulties that swamp other people, take these higher-than-average performance levels as signs you deserve a commensurate level of confidence.
Strengthen Your Capabilities
One of the best ways to build and maintain your confidence is to aim for and reach meaningful milestones on the road to your goals. Depending on many variables, you may want to accumulate relevant academic degrees and/or professional certifications, compete for challenging awards, master particular skills and abilities, or achieve something else – even something that’s important primarily (or only) to you.
Any or all of these efforts will not only strengthen your capabilities, they will provide solid foundations for you to attain an appropriate level of confidence.
Mark Your Completed Goals
Your journey through your work and your life will naturally include completing many important goals. Pay close attention to these as you attain them, and review your track record at regular intervals in order to remain vividly aware of your accomplishments. Maintaining this honest perspective on your journey and your successes will help you keep your confidence level where it belongs.
Watch for Confidence-Draining Pitfalls
Like most feelings, your level of confidence is likely to vary from day to day. This is unavoidable. But you may also be subject to psychological pitfalls that unnaturally pull the rug out from under your confidence without good cause.
Your personal pitfalls may reflect past failures or difficulties, anomalies in your upbringing, or even specific stories you may tell yourself about the world and your place in it that don’t truly reflect reality.
When you are not aware of these pitfalls, they can temporarily or permanently undermine your confidence, and thus your productivity and success. By learning to recognize your pitfalls, you can more easily find ways to avoid or remedy them before they sap your confidence.
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