If you think lack of confidence is the reason your progress is stalled, think again & take action.
Jack failed the state bar exam for the third time. He explained his inability to get back on his feet again by saying, “I lack confidence.”
Let’s get real: when you fail to achieve your goals and if you’ve failed several times like Jack did, it’s discouraging—and often depressing. You could develop a Fear of Failure and a fear of trying again–especially if you’re in the habit of beating yourself up.
But waiting to feel confident isn’t going to increase your chances of bouncing back, getting back on track, and taking steps to achieve your goal. In fact, it’s very possible that “lacking confidence” has almost nothing to do with why you’re not taking action.
How do I overcome my lack of confidence and self-doubts?
Confidence usually comes after you take action. You don’t need to feel confident before you choose to face fear and self-doubt and show up to start over again. The key is planning. The Journal of Psychology and Health [Volume 31, Issue 1, 2 January 2016, Pages 65-78] reported on research that found:
“Planning seems to stimulate preparatory behaviors, which in turn make future physical activity more likely. . . . [and] represents a step forward towards the enactment of behavioral goals. [Therefore] preparatory behaviors may be particularly beneficial for individuals afflicted by self-doubts regarding physical activity.”
In plain language, the researchers found that when you plan what steps you will take toward your goal and plan when you will take them, you’re more likely to actually show up and take the actions that lead toward your goal. Not only that, thinking about what steps to take [mental rehearsal] reduces self-doubts (lack of confidence) about your ability to exercise or perform other healthy goal behaviors such as eating more vegetables.
Lack of confidence is not a reason to stop taking action. Each time you take an action step you’ll learn something new and you’ll be smarter tomorrow than you are today. In fact, when you show up to take a step forward on a project, you’ll be smarter in 15 minutes than you are now! Your brain will show its appreciation by giving you the neurotransmitters Serotonin and Dopamine that will calm you and give you the motivation to take the next step.
Fiore Productivity Coaching
Jack was angry and embarrassed that he failed his bar exam three times and didn’t feel confident that he could pass on his fourth attempt. He was in fact resisting preparing for his fourth attempt all the while telling himself “You have to take the state bar exam and you have to pass to have a career as a lawyer after all this hard work.”
When I heard how Jack was talking to himself I asked him: “Are you going to take the bar exam again?” To which he replied, “Yes, of course, that’s why I’m asking you to coach me through it.” I said, “Great. If you’re going to take the bar exam again and if you’re going to prepare for it again, stop confusing your mind and body with ‘have to’s.’ “You have to” means you don’t want to or that someone is forcing you to do something against your will.
“You have to” messages tell your brain to resist, rebel, and procrastinate. It communicates that you are split, ambivalent and indecisive about moving forward. If you are going to take the bar exam again [this also applies to surgery, income tax, root canals, concerts and sporting events], and if you are planning to study and prepare, give your brain clear, leadership messages such as “I am taking the exam on this date, I am committed to taking the exam, I have chosen to take the exam, I am determined to take it, I demand my right to take that silly exam and show them what I know.”
I asked Jack to Choose the date he will take the exam, choose when you will arrive, choose what clothes you will wear, choose which part of the exam you will prepare for first, and choose to be in the exam focused on each question.
By operating from choice – rather than being stuck between “You have to” and “I don’t want to,” Jack was shifting to his leadership brain, called the Executive Organizing Function by neurologist. That’s your human forehead, the only brain on the planet that can plan and choose to face tasks that are difficult.
Using choice Jack was ready to fully demand another opportunity to prove that he could perform optimally on each question – all the way through a 6-hour/day, 3-day exam. He stayed focused on doing what he could do, ready to deflect the nagging voice in the back of his mind that continually asked, "But, what if you fail?" He was prepared with the answer, "Regardless of what happens, I won't let it be the end of the world for us. I won’t make you feel bad. You can feel confident that your worth is safe with me."
Now that’s real confidence that can be depended upon even under severe pressure.
Neil Fiore, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, author and trainer specializing in productivity and success. Click here to read more articles on Optimal Productivity, Building Confidence and to learn about Effective Goal Setting and how to make yourself feel safe with you.