“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
A s we start looking toward spring, how are you doing on all your big dreams and goals that you set for this year? If you aren’t getting the results you want or are fearful of taking the actions that you know will get you the results you want, don’t despair! Now is the time when you want to continue to focus your energy on your dreams and take consistent action. Most people fail because they give up too soon. Don’t get discouraged if you know in your heart that you are on the right path but frustrated that you aren’t moving as fast as you’d like. Now is the time to focus on your inner energy and your confidence muscle. In this article, I give you eleven activities for strengthening that confidence muscle so that you maintain your energy, focus and momentum and can manifest your dreams.
Pick your favorite three of the following – or try them all – to boost your confidence and get you closer to living your dreams.
1. Give yourself permission to be scared. Being confident doesn’t mean that you are never afraid. It means that you trust yourself enough to create a solid plan, try your best, get help when you need it and not give up. A reasonable amount of fear just means you are moving outside your comfort zone and that builds confidence and helps you reach your goals. Say to yourself (aloud): “It’s OK that I feel scared right now.”
2. Spend time with little kids. Three to six year-olds aren’t afraid to say how great they are. They have not yet responded to social cues that discourage bold self-confidence. They happily tell you they run fast, know a lot, can climb very high and are quite cute to boot. Be honest with yourself about your own abilities. If you have great penmanship, shout about it.
3. Take Risks. Approach new experiences as opportunities to learn rather than occasions to win or lose. Risks do not need to be huge to count as confidence builders. Anything that challenges you becomes a risk. For example, drive a different route to work, talk to someone you don’t know in your business or in your neighborhood. Sign up for a class you know nothing about. Take an acting class. Volunteer to speak at your child’s school or your local chamber of commerce.
4. Use positive self talk. When you catch yourself thinking negatively, tell yourself to “stop” and then substitute more reasonable assumptions. For example, when you catch yourself expecting perfection, remind yourself that you can’t do everything perfectly – no one can. It’s only possible to take the risk and do your best. Positive self talk reminds you to accept yourself as you are now even as you work to improve. Rather than reminding yourself you aren’t good at something or aren’t as confident yet as you want to be, tell yourself that you are working toward your goals of mastery and confidence. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love and respect dearly. Also, if someone compliments you on a job well done, just say thanks. Don’t minimize the compliment by claiming the work wasn’t difficult or didn’t take much time. If you say it, others will believe it.
5. Learn to evaluate yourself independently. This allows you to avoid the constant sense of turmoil that comes from relying exclusively on the opinions of others for your sense of well being. Focusing internally on how you feel about your own behavior, work, etc. gives you a stronger sense of self and prevents you from giving your personal power away to others. If you like the way you dress, don’t worry about what others are wearing.
6. Track your progress. Think back (or reread your journal) and note the times you exhibited greater confidence. Just seeing how much your confidence muscle has grown is confidence inducing. Look for how your thoughts about confidence and yourself have changed in addition to how your behavior has changed over time. You are likely more confident in reality than you are giving yourself credit for in your mind.
7. Visualize yourself acting and feeling confident. Picture something you would like to do that you aren’t sure you are confident enough for yet. Picture the scene in your mind exactly how you want it to be. What are you wearing? Who else is there? What will you say? Be very specific. Positive visualization builds confidence because it accesses your subconscious mind’s ability to make fantasy appear real (think about how easy i t is to be scared during a movie even though you KNOW you are sitting on your couch). Use this technique in general as well as in specific situations.
8. Treat yourself. Being good to yourself builds self-esteem which is necessary to confidence so take the time to pamper yourself and remind yourself how special you are. Get a massage, buy your favorite ice cream, take a day off, light scented candles, etc.
9. Get to know yourself better. Self-reflection helps you access your true feelings, notice progress, consider the sources of your beliefs and revise what doesn’t work for you any more. Journaling is one of the most valuable tools for gaining insight into who you truly are at your core and growing confidence. Whatever major change you seek – whether it’s in your business, relationships, athletic performance or any other area that matters to you – you simply can not move forward with purpose and intention until y ou begin to understand the inner workings of your own personality. Greatness is about attitude, positive thinking and creating environments that best serve your own ends. We all have greatness within us and it’s up to us to draw it out. Do you consistently see yourself as a follower or as a leader? Do you have optimistic or pessimistic attitudes and/or behaviors? How do you answer the question: Is the glass ½ empty or 1/2 full? What inner thoughts occupy your mind? Do you consider yourself to have a positive or negative outlook? Do you believe people can change their attitude? Do you need or want to change any of your habits or attitudes? How do these questions relate to your current state of confidence as well as where you want to go? Writing down what you want and who you want to be helps make it happen.
10. Learn a new (or pick up an old) sport. This provides physical activity and camaraderie with team members or other enthusiasts both of which increase feelings of confidence. Confidence caused by accomplishment in one area often blends into other areas. Exercise also releases feel good chemicals in your body that help boost your confidence.
11. Get a pet. Being the sole caregiver for a pet builds confidence because you are able to provide for another’s well-being. Many pets also give us companionship and unconditional love which boosts confidence (goldfish and ant farms don’t really work well for this aspect but can provide the responsibility confidence). It feels great to be the center of another’s world. If a dog or cat is too much work or not allowed in your building, small birds and rodents can provide a similar level of feedback.
BONUS: Celebrate your newfound confidence! At every step along the way give yourself credit for being where you are and praise yourself when you have done well. Even getting a tiny bit more confident is reason to celebrate. Acknowledging your progress and embracing yourself where you are along the path builds confidence.
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