Confidence Builder 101: Ditch your ideals and get real

leaping person“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.”  ~Author Unknown.  Most of us struggle on a regular basis with trying to live up to the picture we’ve created of our “ideal” selves.  The boss we want to be, the spouse we aspire to be, the parent we believe we should be… the space between where we are and where our “ideal life” is, can be cavernous and filled with negative thoughts and long lists of things we haven’t accomplished.  All of which leads to an overall sapping of confidence… which is exactly what we don’t need.

Case in point, I have a friend who’s just started a new role.  He’s in day 4 and feeling completely anxious and over his head.  All he’s focusing on right now is what he doesn’t know, what he has to learn, and has lots of great inner critic messages flying around that go something like “what if I fail and can’t do this??”

As someone who’s switched careers on at least 4 occasions and have been essentially underqualified for any role that I’ve stepped in to, I can relate to the anxiety.  Ah, how I remember those nights where I’d go home and cry into my pillow during those early weeks, wondering why the hell I’d left my former (boring) role for this new exciting exercise in career self punishment.  But here’s what I’ve learned…

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and into trying new things is what actually builds your confidence.  Although it doesn’t feel like it at the time, when you’ve come through the fire, you can look back and realize that the overused saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” actually has its merits.

However, that’s often not easy to cling to when you’re struggling in the pit of inadequacy.  So, until you’re out on the other side, it’s important to build your confidence and stay focussed on your accomplishments vs. your shortcomings.  Whether you’re starting a new job, trying to turn around a horrible business result, coping through downsizing or facing any of the other myriad of challenges we face as leaders, try these ideas to increase the confidence of yourself and your teams:

  1. Keep track of your wins…. Take 10 minutes at the end of every day to write down 5 things that you accomplished that day.  They don’t have to be big things… they can be small successes.  Write down what you did and how you’ll leverage that success to move forward.
  2. Involve your team in creating a culture of confidence… Start your meetings with a round of successes.  This is especially powerful if your team is in a tough spot and morale is dipping.  Start each meeting having everyone share something that they’re proud of accomplishing over the past week.  It will set up in the energy in the right direction.
  3. Silence your inner critic… When you find yourself focussing on all the things you haven’t completed, stop and take a few minutes to reflect on what you have accomplished.  Seeing your successes in black and white is always a good way to boost spirits.

Dwelling in the space between today’s reality and the ideal that you hold in your head is a sure-fire way to get discouraged.  Make sure that you carve out time every day to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and your successes.  You’ll be surprised at what it will do for your confidence.

Happy leading!