Harvey Mackay: Believe in yourself: How to develop your confidence
September 1, 2012
When I am interviewing potential employees, one of the traits that I look for is confidence. I’m not referring to hubris or arrogance but someone who understands their ability and is not afraid to use it.
With the college football season just starting, it reminds me of a revealing story my good friend Lou Holtz told me when I helped bring him in to coach the University of Minnesota football team back in 1984.
“I was at a convention just after taking the job at North Carolina State,” Lou said, “and I was talking to Wayne Hardin, who was coach at Temple.”
Hardin asked, “Lou, do you think you’re the best coach in the country?”
Lou answered, “No way. I’m not even in the top 10.”
“Well,” Hardin said, “North Carolina State hired you because they think you are. If you don’t act like you are, you shouldn’t even be coaching.”
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Confidence doesn’t come naturally to most people. Even the most successful people have struggled with it in their careers. The good news is that you can develop confidence, just like any muscle or character trait, if you’re willing to work hard. The better news: These tips can help you strengthen your confidence. Here’s what to try:
• Don’t compare yourself to others: Focus on your own achievements and ambitions, not anyone else’s. Other people will always be more successful than you at different stages of your life and career, and obsessing about them will only send your confidence plunging. Concentrate on identifying and improving your own unique strengths and skills.
• Track your success: Keep a log of your accomplishments, large and small. Recording victories on a daily basis will make you feel more successful, and looking over your progress will boost your self-esteem. In addition, reviewing your achievements should give you some good ideas for what to work on next.
• Practice being assertive: Take an active role in pursuing success, no matter how anxious you feel. Start by visualizing situations where you feel nervous, and picture yourself being assertive. Make these scenarios as vivid as you can so you’ll be ready for them in real life. Check your body language in a mirror, and practice good posture and a self-assured expression. Then go out and take a few chances, starting with low-risk situations. Once you’ve survived those, you can move on to bigger personal challenges. You may be surprised by how practice helps make perfect endings.
• Accept that failure is not the end of the world: Learn from your mistakes. Understand that the pursuit of perfection often limits your accomplishments. Many great achievements have been far from perfect but were more than good enough to be proud of.
• Step out of your comfort zone: Push yourself beyond your known limits, and see how successful you can be. When you realize what you can accomplish, your confidence soars. Your potential is unlimited. You are the only one who can limit it.
• Set goals: Decide what you want to accomplish, both in your career and personal life. Reaching goals is a tremendous confidence-builder. It also spurs you to set higher goals.
• Prepare to succeed: Keep improving your skills, and you will build confidence. Knowing that you are capable is central to a positive self-image. Take care of both your body and your mind.
One of the greatest violinists of all time was Nicolò Paganini. Born in 1782, he had a long, illustrious career before his death in 1840. One day, as Paganini was about to perform before a packed opera house, he suddenly realized that he had walked out on the stage with a strange violin in his hands – not his own treasured instrument made by the master violin maker Guarneri.
Panic-stricken but realizing that he had no other choice, he began to play with all the skill he possessed. Everyone agreed afterward that he gave the performance of his life. When he was finished, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
In his dressing room after the concert, when he was praised for his superlative performance, Paganini replied, “Today, I learned the most important lesson of my entire career. Before today, I thought the music was in the violin. Today, I learned that the music is in me.”
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