Confidence is everything.
Renown social psychologist Albert Bandura said that self-confidence is considered one of the most influential motivators and regulators of behavior in our everyday lives. Another famous researcher, Anders Ericsson, and his colleagues have taken the position that the major influence in the acquisition of expert performance is the confidence and motivation to persist in deliberate practice for a minimum of 10 years.
When it comes to performance, confidence is everything.
Study after study shows that your beliefs impact your actions, which in turn impact your beliefs, which further impact your actions...and round and round we go. If you believe you can do something, chances are more likely that you will do it successfully. And when you succeed, your confidence grows, as does your motivation for continuing to improve. That’s a recipe for success if I’ve ever seen one.
But which comes first, confidence or success?
Well, you can’t fake it. Most of us cannot simply talk ourselves into feeling more confident. If you’ve ever tried to plead with someone who is struggling to “be more confident,” you know it never works. The words are superficial. Deep down they feel inadequate, which will overpower any hollow words in that moment. The foundation needs to be set before we ever get to that point.
Individuals with a strong sense of self-confidence train their minds differently. They engage in more positive self-talk. They are better able to recognize little victories along the way. They allow themselves to be proud of their performances, but stop short of becoming arrogant and overconfident. They prepare better and get more excited about the future. They obsess over achieving more success. This mindset breeds positivity, which leads to greater confidence, which leads to greater success.
The point is this - confidence is not a trait. It’s a judgment. And how you judge your actions or ability to perform a task can and will greatly influence your performance.
If you try to fake it, your brain knows. The smallest hint of self-doubt is a weed in your garden, and weeds spread quickly. Start by recognizing the little wins along the way. Allow yourself to celebrate the small steps of success. Be proud of all you are doing. Your confidence will continue to grow. Remember, beliefs impact actions, which impact beliefs, which further impact actions…do you want those beliefs to be positive or negative? Your beliefs in your ability will determine your future.
If you struggle with self-confidence, are a “self-doubter,” or engage in negative self-talk, then let’s take some practical steps toward breaking this vicious cycle. Designed by psychologist Ruth Kanfer, here is a simplified mental framework to help change your mindset, train your brain, and develop more self-confidence.
Monitor. Evaluate. React.
Once you’ve set your target goals you need to be able to manage your mind and regulate your emotions. Monitor, Evaluate, React is a three-step action plan that will ensure you aren’t leaving confidence to chance.
The key to changing any behavior is awareness. Without self-awareness you simply cannot make progress or fail to realize you’re even making progress! By having more self-awareness of your specific failures and specific achievements, you are in a better position to take the next step toward evaluating, and most importantly, labeling what has just happened. Most of us skip this step and go straight to judgment. We judge our performances as generally ‘bad’ or generally ‘good.’ That gets us nowhere. By skipping the Monitor step, we relinquish our control over the label we give our performance. Think of this as a mental pause, albeit brief, that can have an enormous long-term impact. If we are able to take a breath and monitor our actions, we can apply a more positive and constructive label to it, leading to a more precise evaluation of our performance. Now we can recognize the things we are doing well and target specific areas for improvement. This is more manageable for our brains and less overwhelming. As a result, we feel more confident about what we are able to do. Throughout the day, in practices and in games, take some time to monitor your behavior and become more aware of your thoughts, especially after experiencing small levels of success or failure.
When we don’t train our minds with intention, this is typically the first step in our mental framework. We skip awareness and make an instant judgment on our performance. We become ‘results-oriented,’ which is a dangerous and limiting mindset. However, when we stop to Monitor our behavior, we can Evaluate our performance much more accurately. The key is being specific when evaluating. The more specific the label, the more effective the evaluation. Now, instead of being a ‘failure’ at something, we can evaluate the specific reasons why we failed. Instead of feeling helpless, we feel empowered and are more likely to take action. We’ve made failure tangible, manageable, and less intimidating. Similarly, we won’t merely be ‘great’ when we succeed, instead recognizing the reasons why we were great. Instead of success happening by chance, we will be able to identify the actions we took to be successful. We then can repeat these actions through intentional practice, gaining more confidence as we improve. Evaluation after monitoring allows you to compare your performance more specifically and accurately with your target goal. This is a more productive way of evaluating your performance, which will lead to better habits, higher self-confidence, and more consistent success.
Once we are able to better Monitor our behavior and more accurately Evaluate it, we then need to control our Reaction. There are two general ways in which we react to our performance - either with satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The higher the expectations, the more powerful our response will be when we succeed or fail. Meaning, if we succeed under high expectations, we will react with higher satisfaction, and vice versa. Based on this reaction, we then formulate expectations and judgments about our ability to attain our goal, which ultimately affects our self-confidence level.
Simply put, how we feel about what’s just happened in the past affects how confident we feel about succeeding in the future.
It’s no secret why the best athletes in the world, whether they are playing good or bad, have the most consistent body language and exhibit almost no emotion. They are always in control.
You can’t always control your results. You certainly can never change the past. But you can 100% control how you React. Furthermore, if you are consistently Monitoring and effectively Evaluating your behavior, you will have even greater control over your Reaction. With a greater sense of control over your fate, your confidence will soar. If you cannot effectively control your reaction to things that happen in your life, you will feel helpless to make changes and your confidence will suffer.
Each of us has a unique set of personality traits and a distinct mindset, which in turn impacts our initial confidence level. Some of us reading this have a high self-confidence, while others low. However, we can all take more control over our self-confidence by implementing the Monitor, Evaluate, React framework into our daily lives and routines. By taking control of this powerful motivator, we are well on our way to reaching our full potential.
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