Whether you think you can, or you can’t — you’re right.
– Henry Ford
Confidence. That elusive je ne sais quoi quality. It’s like art, you know it when you see it. You know it when you feel it. The thing is, confidence isn’t summoned on demand from the heavens. Confidence isn’t brought on by clenching your fists. Although you can strike a power pose and allow a burst of dopamine to create a burst of confidence, true and profound confidence comes from …
One way you can step up on the field, on the stage, or at the meeting with strong confidence, is if you have done the work that will set you apart. Being prepared ranks as one of the highest confidence measures among professional athletes. Competence is almost always a strong predictor of confidence.
Visualizing Past (and Future) Performance
Recollecting past positive performances can give you a confidence advantage. When you take a moment to recollect a time in which you were previously successful, you’ll fuel a sense of confidence that you can repeat that success. Just as powerful is visualizing future success. Common among high performing professionals and athletes is visualizing the events unfolding in the most positive light. Wayne Rooney does this before every soccer match:
“Part of my preparation is I go and ask the kit man what color we’re wearing — if it’s red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks. Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualize myself scoring goals or doing well. You’re trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a ‘memory’ before the game. I don’t know if you’d call it visualizing or dreaming, but I’ve always done it, my whole life… you need to visualize realistic things that are going to happen in a game.” (David Winner interview)
There are many aspects to great coaches that can instill confidence, but the greatest coaches have the ability to be honest, specific and positive all at the same time. Honest, in that they don’t ignore the behavioral or performance weaknesses of the people they coach, but instead address weaknesses head on. Great coaches provide correctional advice that is both specific and positive.
For example, if you are practicing a presentation and constantly turn your back to the audience and read bullet points, your coach might say, “You know your content. Turn and face your audience and smile. They can read your bullet points on their own. Or even better, tell your audience a story that illustrates the bullet points on the slide.”
If your team is simply bigger, faster, and stronger, you will likely show up with more confidence. Just don’t let confidence become arrogance. If your firm simply has more capacity and resources than the competition, your team will likely enter the proposal negotiations with more confidence.
First-time parents, exercise clubs, cooking classes, and OCD groups all get together for one purpose: to support each other through a specific change, or toward a specific goal. When you feel a little lost or unsupported, that’s a good time to reach out to those in your work or community who are experiencing the same pain point. You aren’t as unique as you think, and you can bet someone else is going through the same issue. Asking for help is the first sign of strength.
The sun is in their eyes, the field is tilted, their lane is full of gravel, or the competition simply has a crappy internet connection. Recognizing a competitive advantage is a valuable source of confidence. The key is you have to do the diligence to recognize the advantages you might have. This is when competitive sleuthing can be valuable to help you both recognize, and articulate clearly to the customer what your advantages are.
Contrary to the old wisdom of positive self-talk such as “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” using positive questions is much more powerful as a confidence booster. If instead you say to yourself, “Can I do this?” you will have to answer the question in your mind and be specific about how you will overcome the obstacle, win the debate, or conquer the challenge. Be both positive and explicit in your self-talk is much stronger than simply repeating “I think I can.”
Could be the biggest factor here in team settings. I once watched a dynamic, high trust youth soccer team crush a team of hand-picked all-stars. The all-stars been told that each of them was amazing, so they played like that. The kids passed the ball as little as possible and selfishly worked for their own glory. The other team was a team – a team that had built the strength, experience, and trust of each other over years of working together. They were never told that individually they were great. They had built their wins by always relying on each other.