The other day I was delivering a talk to a large audience and I asked this question: What is more important to innovation and success—Creativity or Confidence?
Hands down, creativity won.
But then I asked: How many of you had a brilliant idea, never had the courage to turn it into something, and now someone else built a big company around it and is making lots of money doing it?
Most hands go up.
Many of us have great ideas and big dreams but if we don’t have the confidence or courage to turn them into a reality, nothing will come of them. If you have great ideas at work but you’re too afraid to speak up at a meeting or if you give up the first time someone puts your idea down, you will never succeed at getting your ideas out there. Companies will find it difficult to innovate if everyone is afraid to express the very creative ideas they have inside of them.
Research shows that when people are feeling confident, they reach for higher level goals, put more effort into achieving their goals, persevere despite setbacks, and they believe their efforts will result in successful outcomes. This is all hugely important to innovation, business performance and goal achievement.
In my book, Wire your Brain for Confidence; The Science of Conquering Self-Doubt, I delve deep into how you can build a more “get into action” kind of confidence. Let me share with you some of the science behind why building confidence can re-wire your brain for success.
Many people spend their time building their skills and accumulating certifications to get better at what they do. What I have discovered after fifteen years of studying confidence, is that it’s not just your knowledge, talent, or skills that fuel confidence, it’s your beliefs about your knowledge, talent, and skills. Beliefs drive how people think, behave, and feel. Beliefs affect whether someone perseveres or gives up in the face of obstacles.
The reason why beliefs are so important is because beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies.
If you have a self-doubting belief that you won’t succeed, you limit your involvement to protect yourself. Then you aren’t surprised when things don’t go well. This sends a message back to your brain saying “See, I told you so.” The self-doubting belief grows stronger, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Equally, if you have a positive belief that you can succeed, you engage in behaviors that are likely to lead to success. The outcome sends a message to your brain, “See, I told you that you could do it.” Your performance contributes to your confidence, serving as a different sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
So how does one develop self-confident beliefs? Here are three science-backed ways:
1. Just Do it, One Small Step at a Time
According to science, the fastest route to building self-confidence is to go and try it, and try it again, until you have built some mastery in it. Perceiving yourself as succeeding at a certain task and believing that the success is due to your own ability, sends a powerful message to your brain saying, “Yes, I can do it.”
When people ask me how to improve self-confidence and I tell them, “Just go do it,” they give me funny looks. “Louisa, if I had enough self-confidence, I would have done it a long time ago!” So the key is to take baby steps towards your goal. So, for example, if your big dream is to write a book, start by blogging or writing a short article for an online publication. This will build your writing skills and your confidence. Learn from each article you write, as if every article was just an experiment that you will learn from, and push yourself to the next level each time.
Every successful writing experience leads to an increase in your confidence which fuels your motivation to work harder and build your skills. If you want to build your self-confidence, rather than focus on the end result, focus on building your capability in small steps. You’ll find your self-confidence increases with every successful performance.
2. Surround Yourself with Encouraging People
Powerful words of encouragement from those around us can be a terrific source of confidence and it should not be underestimated. Neuroscientists have discovered that we are much more socially hard-wired than we knew before. Very deep within us, we want to be accepted. We want to fit in. If you fear doing something that will garner social criticism, your brain goes on high alert with the fear that reaching for your big dream might threaten your social standing.
When you decide to embark on something new, your confidence is fragile so be sure to stay away from the naysayers. They will undermine your motivation to move towards your dreams. On the other hand, someone who encourages you can be a catalyst for achievement. The right word, said at the right time, can give you the energy to move on.
3. Visualize a Successful Process and Outcome
People who visualize themselves delivering good performances and repeatedly mastering more challenging situations experience boosts in their self-confidence. Neuroscientists have discovered that our brain sometimes cannot tell the difference between something we have experienced and something we have imagined.
The kind of visualizing you do also makes a difference. Researchers at the University of California conducted a study to see if visualizing the process toward a successful outcome had effects different from those if you were to just visualize the outcome. Not only did the outcome group perform worse, but they put less effort in and were less motivated. Researchers conclude that visualizing only a positive outcome may be convincing our brain that the goal has already been achieved and therefore nothing more is required. Visualizing the process instead puts us in a state of readiness to act, and we move into action much more easily, which also reduces procrastination. If you are procrastinating, take some time to visualize yourself going through the process of successfully getting the task done.
Now apply this in your life. What is that dream that you never believed you could reach? Set mini-goals and start building self-confidence step by step. Surround yourself with competent and encouraging people. Visualize yourself, everyday, successfully achieving it and going through the process. BELIEVE that it is possible. Start now… Your big goals are waiting!
This is adapted from Louisa’s new book, Wire Your Brain for Confidence; The Science of Conquering Self-Doubt, available September 21, 2017. Louisa Jewell is a speaker, author, and positive psychology expert who has inspired thousands of people around the world to flourish with confidence both at work and in their personal lives. Louisa founded the Canadian Positive Psychology Association and her work has been featured in Forbes, The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post, Live Happy Magazine, Chatelaine, Psychology Today, Women’s Agenda, and many more. For more tips on how to flourish with confidence, visit www.louisajewell.com