“Cognitive psychology tells us that the unaided human mind is vulnerable to many fallacies and illusions because of its reliance on its memory for vivid anecdotes rather than systematic statistics.” ~ Steven Pinker
My first senior management role came with a media delegation. This meant that, once I’d had media training, I was authorised to speak to the media, give media interviews and sign off responses to journalists on behalf of the organisation I worked for.
To be honest, even the training was terrifying. There were a whole bunch of terms I didn’t know, and jargon, and concepts, and not only what I had to say, but also how I looked, and my intonation… I smile too much, apparently, and nod too often… Great for active listening – not so great when you’re being grilled by a ‘hostile’ journo!
Roll forward a couple of months and my organisation was in crisis – a major IT project was in meltdown, and guess what! I’m it!
The next few weeks were a blur. Live radio at 5am, live television news at 6am, evening news pre-records scattered through the day, with a bunch of print media replies to keep me busy in between.
And you know what? I did OK! Some might even say I did pretty well given the circumstances. My confidence grew, and at times I even enjoyed it!
This taught me a valuable life lesson about the extent to which we doubt our abilities in areas that have never been tested. We have ZERO experience of times we did ‘the thing’ successfully, and our brains substitute that for proof that we cannot actually do it. N=1, there is a 100% failure rate.
But you know what? You got this.
Here are six things to do to build confidence when your brain tries to stop you doing that exciting, new, scary thing…
Confidence Tricks – Six Things to Do to Break Through
Be aware – practice mindfulness
Have you ever tried to divide a number by zero?
I’m a bit old school – a calculator would just say E… My iPhone is a little more articulate and says “Error”.
You cannot use zero experience to extrapolate your chances of success – but your brain would like to. And if you are too busy freaking out about the situation you won’t even get the chance to think about it.
Practicing mindfulness, for example by meditating, is an excellent way to increase the extent to which you are present in any given moment, significantly increasing the likelihood that you can hijack your brain before it gets carried away.
I use an app called Headspace every day. This works great for me, but there are lots of other ways to build a mindfulness practice – check out classes and courses in your local community, books, and videos online.
Reflect – this isn’t the first time…
Guess what? Your life is filled with literally hundreds of times when you’ve done something for the first time. You probably learned to walk, to talk, to swim, to drive – none of which you were born knowing how to do.
Part of the trouble with getting older is that the relative prevalence of ‘first-times’ decreases, making it seem as if new things are less safe. But when you were a teenager, you revelled in first experiences! First date! First kiss… Not all of it would have gone perfect first time. And that was OK! You didn’t walk away saying “no way, I’ll never do that again”, instead you brushed yourself off, and tried again. Maybe you even learned a few things along the way.
Being afraid of new experiences might well be a sign that you’ve slipped into the comfort zone – nothing good happens there!
Thank your reptilian brain
Your brain has evolved to protect you from harm under all circumstances. It likes what it knows, and it knows what it has already experienced.
So it’s a little bit risk averse… but it has your best interests at heart, right?
So breathe deeply, say “thank you” to your reptilian brain for trying to keep you safe and then say “I got this”. Say it more than once if necessary. “I got this”.
“You got this”.
Remove the fall-back options and back-up plans
Whatever the situation is, I guarantee there are ways to limit your ability to sneak out of it. Make a public declaration and hold yourself accountable. Get an accountability partner – someone else who is trying to do a similar thing. Set a deadline.
As long as there are viable options for avoiding the scary thing, you’ll keep entertaining them. Send them packing.
Visualise the success party
Whatever the big scary thing is – applying for promotion, public speaking, jumping out of an airplane – chances are you think there’s some sort of payoff – in a good way.
So spend some time imagining that you’ve already completed the scary thing. How good does that feel! Celebrate! You made it! You’re still alive! What a confidence boost!
Invite your imaginary friends around and have a great big imaginary party to celebrate! You’re the centre of attention, recounting the bravery you exhibited, you’re extraordinary confidence, nailing that big scary thing! (Unless you’re an introvert, and then you may want to visualise someone else recounting your heroics on your behalf!)
Just do it – You Got This!
Remember that until Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest, nobody had. Until Roger Bannister ran the four-minute-mile, nobody had. Whatever your scary thing is, if someone else has done it before – you can too. And if they haven’t? You’ll be the first – making it that much easier for everyone who comes after you!
I want to help you to lead. Not from a position of power, but from exactly where you are now.
So I’m writing a book specifically for you. It’ll be out early next year (28 February 2018 to be precise).
If you’d like to know more, please sign up for my newsletter (I don’t spam, just a weekly newsletter) where I’ll keep you up to date on progress, test some ideas, and even share a preview or two as we get closer to launch-day.
Let’s do this!