“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who believed that something inside of them was superior to circumstances.”
— Bruce Barton
Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s Personal Commentary:
Take two people … one experienced and the other one inexperienced … and guess which one is most likely to win in a contest. Of course, you’re going to say the experienced one. But you need to look a little deeper to understand WHY the experienced one is most likely to win.
Let’s use the game of darts as an example. The contest is about to begin. The inexperienced half-drunk dart thrower enters a dimly lit room. On the wall across the room is the barely visible dart board. He stands next to a box filled with an endless supply of darts and begins throwing them, one by one. Under those circumstance, his chances of hitting the bull’s-eye with the first few darts are very low. In fact, he might not even hit the dart board. But if he continues to throw 10, 20, 50, 100 or even a 1000 darts, chances are he’ll become more accurate. He’ll eventually hit the dart board, and sooner or later he’s going to hit the bull’s-eye.
Of course, when he hits a bull’s-eye, everyone else in the room will congratulate him on his good luck. But it wasn’t luck. It was simply a matter of probabilities.
Contrast that inexperienced dart thrower with the experienced one. He walks into the same room after having practiced throwing darts for months and months. When he comes into the room, he turns up the lights so the entire room and the dart board are fully lit. And like his competitor, he stands in the same throwing position and has an endless supply of darts. How many darts do you think he’ll have to throw before hitting the bull’s-eye?
The answer is obvious. A lot fewer than the inexperienced dart thrower. He’ll hit more bull’s-eyes more quickly than the inexperienced dart thrower ever will.
There’s a lesson in all of this. Success is a matter of probabilities. Anything you do to increase the probabilities you will hit a bull’s-eye at whatever you attempt, the better off you’ll be. The winners in this world watch what successful people do and they PRACTICE the same behaviors. And successful people ELIMINATE or minimize the factors that stand in the way of achieving their goals … such as eliminating the darkness in the dart-throwing room. They know when they practice certain behaviors and eliminate others, their probabilities of success go up dramatically.
Well, one of the most important factors in success is SELF-CONFIDENCE. You can practice it, acquire it, keep it, and eliminate its enemy of insecurity. Here’s what you do.
1. Get a proper understanding of self-confidence.
Self-confidence is a quiet strength or a calm power inside of you that says, “I’ll be okay” and “I can do it.”
It has nothing to do with pride, conceit or arrogance. Those are simply cover-ups worn by people who lack self-confidence … cover-ups to convince other people that they’ve got it all together … while they’re shaking on the inside.
If you lack self-confidence, you may across as prideful, conceited, or arrogant. Or you may behave in ways that are just the opposite. Your lack of self-confidence may come out as:
apprehension (fearing change),
resentment (despising people who have more than you do),
depression (believing things won’t get better),
passivity (failing to take initiative). or
insecurity (needing constant reassurance from others).
And as you can tell, none of those behaviors are very attractive. So it’s no wonder a lack of self-confidence can hamper your professional career and your personal relationships.
To increase your probabilities for success, you must have self-confidence. And the good news is … self-confidence is not an all-or-nothing personality trait … that some people have and others don’t. The truth is … confidence can be acquired when you follow certain steps.
You don’t have to be confident to become confident. You can ACT your way into it.
The author Bob Proctor talks about this. He calls it “the beautiful truth.” As he says, “It is well established and clearly documented that you’ve believed an over abundance of lies with respect to who you are and what you are capable of doing. It’s high time that you begin to tap into the beautiful truth that, if you can see it in your head, you can hold it in your hand.”
In other words, think. Visualize. Get a picture in your mind of how a confident person would behave and do likewise.
For example, you may be about to make a presentation to a very important group of prospective customers that could dramatically change your career for the better. You’re nervous. You’re not sure you can give the polished, professional presentation that is required in this situation. So you stop and ask yourself, “How would I behave if I was filled with confidence? How would I look? How would I stand? And how would I speak?”
Or you might ask yourself, “How would (a very confident, successful person you know) handle this presentation?”
When you visualize how a confident person would behave and when you act-as-if you had that same confidence, you WILL become more confident. Guaranteed.
Use this act-as-if principle throughout your daily life. Raise your chin … whether or not you feel like it … because it will raise your spirits. In fact, it’s very difficult to be depressed if you keep your chin up.
Smile, whether or not you feel like it. Dr. Dale Anderson, the world’s expert on the healing power of acting, says if you put a big smile on your face your body chemistry actually changes for the better. You will feel better and be more self-confident.
3. Be flexible.
People who lack self-confidence tend to be overly rigid. They feel like they have to follow a well-planned route or stick to a certain belief system to be safe.
But they’re wrong. The only people who don’t change their behaviors or their minds are either stupid or stubborn. Self-confident people know there’s always more to learn and there’s always a better way of doing something. So they go for it, and as a result, their probabilities of success shoot straight up.
Matthew Leake, one of my “Tuesday Tip” subscribers from the Edward Jones company, told me he learned self-confidence by writing out a little sign that he reads every day. It encourages him to be flexible. His sign reads:
There is no ‘NO’.
If I don’t know how,
If a way exists,
I’ll find it.
If a way does not exist,
I’ll invent one.”
You might try it. Read those words every day because they will build your confidence.
Or you might try a little technique I learned from my friend Tim Richardson. If you’re in business or sales, if you’ve had your fill of rejection, if your self-confidence is dimming, simply tell yourself, “NO really means Next Option.”
There’s always another way. Be flexible.
4. Learn from failure; let it make you better.
You’re going to make some mistakes. Everybody does. Successful, self-confident people learn from their mistakes and move one. Other people use their mistakes to justify their lack of confidence.
You’re also going to have some tough times. Everybody does. When that happens, the non-confident gripers and groaners ask, “Why me?”. They figure they should be exempt from life’s misfortunes, and when they find out they’re not, they become even more insecure.
By contrast, self-confident people ask a better question. They ask, “Why not me?”. The question helps them deal with their tough times in a way that helps them become stronger. As psychologist Dr. Terry Paulson says, the motto of self-confident people could very well be: “Adversity need not define you; instead, it can refine you.”
Yes, make the most of your tough times and then leave them behind. Learn from YOUR failures.
And learn from the failure of OTHERS. This might sound kind of silly, but study some failures. As business philosopher Jim Rohn used to say, “It’s too bad that failures don’t give seminars. Their information would be so valuable.”
Rohn said he always wanted to approach a guy who messed up his life for 40 years and say, “John, would you spend a day with me? I’ll bring a journal and take good notes. Teach me how you messed it up.”
Learn from the failure of others. That’s why I say in my program on “The Leadership Payoff,” find out what the failures are reading and don’t read those books. Find out what the failures talk about and don’t talk about those subjects. And find out how the failures talk and don’t talk like that.
5. Stop punishing yourself.
Put a statute of limitations on your mistakes. Stop punishing yourself for past mistakes.
Give yourself a deadline. Tell yourself, “After this date (specify a date) I will not put myself down or beat myself up for this mistake or that failure (specify the behavior.) It’s done. It’s over. I refuse to spend any more energy ruminating over it.”
And hold yourself accountable for doing exactly that. You’ll be amazed at how much more confidence you’ll have.
You might even want to forgive yourself. Dr. Frederic Luskin, a senior consultant in health promotion at Stanford University, talks about that in his book, “Forgive For Good.” He says, “You can let go of a grudge you’ve held against someone, even if you never see or speak to the person again. Forgiving takes places inside the person who has the change of heart, not the person who is forgiven.”
The same truth applies to self-forgiveness. When you forgive yourself for past mistakes, a change takes place in your heart and then in your confidence.
6. Be kind to yourself.
As I mentioned above, you’ve got to STOP punishing yourself for past mistakes. And you need to START rewarding yourself for successes.
When you do something well, when you use some of your talents effectively, reward yourself with a treat. Maybe it’s five-minute stretch break or a nice meal with a friend. Your self-rewarding action can be powerful. According to Dr. Sidney Simon, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, these little acts of kindness are IALAC messages or ways of telling yourself “I Am Loveable And Capable.” And your conscious and subconscious minds need to hear those messages again and again.
And no, you’re not being egotistical when you’re being kind to yourself. You’re simply affirming that you’ve got some talents … that you count … and you’re important. Not having something to feel important about in life would be a good definition of hell.
It takes practice to become self-confident. So review the strategies above and keep practicing them … at all sorts of time. Practice building your confidence when you’re feeling weak and vulnerable, and practice when you’re feeling strong and powerful. You want self-confidence to become a way of life rather than an occasional burst of energy.
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and hard enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” He’s right. You’ll wake up the champion inside of you.
Pick one of the strategies between numbers 2 and 6 and focus on using that strategy as often as possible this week.
Make every day your payoff day!
Dr. Alan Zimmerman
©2011 Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman, a full-time professional speaker who specializes in attitude, motivation, and leadership programs that pay off. For more information on his programs … or to receive your own free subscription to the ‘Tuesday Tip’ … go to http://www.drzimmerman.com/ or call 800-621-7881.