There’s a problem with confidence that needs to be discussed, as it’s causing much procrastination and frustration.
And it’s stopping entrepreneurs from achieving their goals.
You know those times you’re learning a new skill or reaching for a goal and your confidence takes a dive?
Your mind lays out all the reasons why you can’t achieve your goal.
You don’t feel confident, so you reschedule tasks you should be doing for tomorrow instead of today.
You believe when you’ll feel more confident, you’ll be better equipped to do the task. And everything looks rosy tomorrow!
Then, you reschedule for the next day. And the next…
However, not feeling confident when starting a new goal is normal.
Actually, it’d be pretty abnormal to feel confident, because your feeling of confidence is linked to your level of competence.
The process of learning shows how closely we link confidence to competence – and how easily you can fall into the confidence gap trap.
Stage 1: The Blind Excitement Stage
You excitedly decide to set a new goal / learn a new skill.
You have beautiful visions of being a successfully skilled ‘X’ and how it’s going to make you wealthier / healthier / happier.
You have little experience in said skill, hence limited insights into what’s involved in reaching your goal.
You don’t know what you don’t know, right? This is called Unconscious Incompetence.
Your confidence level at this stage depends on your skill-set and beliefs about your ability to acquire your goal (more on this later).
Stage 2: The OMG Stage
You realise you know pretty much diddly squat about said skill.
There’s way more that you don’t know than you do know.
You’re acutely aware of being incompetent (hence, ‘OMG, I have a lot to learn’).
Your confidence plummets.
Stage 3: The Breakthrough Stage
You’re now finding the activity easier to perform.
You may still experience some degree of challenge, yet things are feeling easier as you’re pretty skilled at solving challenges you encounter.
Your confidence increases.
Stage 4: The Effortless Competence Stage
You’re not just confident you can do the skill, you can effortlessly do the skill.
Actually, you can perform the skill so easily, you don’t have to think about it. It’s as easy as brushing your teeth. You’ve reached Unconscious Competence.
You’re seeing results and feeling happier / healthier / wealthier. Huzzah!
The OMG Stage is where you become aware of your competence gap.
You don’t yet feel confident, and take that as a sign that you’re not cut out to achieve your goal.
You want to wait for when you do feel confident enough to start.
This problem is – you’ll be waiting forever.
So you postpone, procrastinate and eventually quit.
Yet there are two types of confidence: the act and the feeling.
And feeling confident comes AFTER you act confidently.
So action (practising the skill) increases your competence, leading to feeling confident.
You cannot feel truly confident without taking action.
So, how do you act confidently when you aren’t feeling confident?
Here are some strategies:
1. Focus on what you do know
Recognise that your focus on lacking confidence is just awareness of your competence gap.
Focus on what you DO know.
What skills, background and knowledge do you have that can make reaching your goal easier?
For example, if you’re learning sales techniques, you might be great at networking, or a skilled copywriter. These skills make your experience easier, as you can confidently bring those skills to the party.
2. Commit and engage fully
Belief and trust in your ability to accomplish a task is key to acting confidently.
You only get better (and more confident) with practise, so make a commitment yourself 100% to achieving the task, regardless of how badly you perform, or how challenging it is.
Get clear on what each task involves. Work out how much time you’ll dedicate to perform each task, schedule them in and get them done.
Approach each activity being fully present, open and curious to what you’ll learn or encounter. See it as a fun experiment (because it is!).
When negative thoughts come up…
3. Detach from your thoughts
It’s easy to believe that when you’re confident enough, fear and negative thoughts will go away.
Yet fear, negativity and confidence aren’t mutually exclusive.
Anything that remotely puts you at risk – like stepping outside your comfort zone – will trigger fear, regardless of your confidence level.
These thoughts are your mind’s way of trying to keep you safe.
The trick is to detach from these thoughts and recognise they’re ONLY thoughts.
What makes them real is if you believe and attach to them.
When you start feeling the desire to postpone tasks, your thoughts have trapped you.
Imagine your fearful thoughts are coming from a paranoid friend who wants to keep you safe. What they predict is highly irrational and unlikely to occur.
With thoughts of failure or not being good enough, recognise them as unhelpful thoughts that won’t get you to your goal.
Only focus on thoughts that WILL help you achieve your goal – regardless of whether some of your unhelpful thoughts are true.
Imagine these thoughts written on a piece of paper. Visualise scrunching the paper up and throwing it in the bin, putting it through a shredder or setting it alight.
Tell your brain that those thoughts aren’t helpful (e.g. ‘Not helpful, brain!’), then return your focus to your task.
4. Analyse, however let go of judgement
When you inevitably make a mistake, avoid judging yourself as inadequate.
Making self-judgements based on whether you fail or succeed means your confidence will continually fluctuate.
Simply analyse what happened and why, then take steps to learn from the mistake.
You’ve just grown more competent as you know another way NOT to do something.
This is what the pathway to success and mastery looks like.
This article was originally published on the Huffington Post.
Melissa Smith helps entrepreneurial women get the energy and confidence they need to take bold action and maximise their productivity, profits and impact.
Melissa runs the Limitless Fempreneurs community, where she shares resources and training to help female entrepreneurs maximise their success. Join here.
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