During my midlife crisis, I decided to take up tennis. At the last match of the season, I was so confident I could win. I looked great in my tennis dress, and I knew I was going to hit the next high overhead lob that came to me. I got my chance. The ball came toward me at a speed I thought I could handle. I kept my eye on the ball. As it neared, I timed my jump. I jumped as high as I could, but the ball sailed over my head.
I was standing at the baseline and for you who don’t know tennis, if you are standing at the baseline and the ball is sailing over your head, it is going out and you win the point. As the ball sailed out, my entire team stood up and clapped. Much to my bewilderment and embarrassment, because I missed the ball, we won the point and won the entire match.
I had confidence but not the capability. They go hand in hand and as you build your confidence and capability, you progress toward greater potential.
Confidence means you feel sure of yourself and your abilities. Some people fear to show their confidence because they have been taught not to brag or boast about their accomplishments as others will see them as arrogant. On the contrary, true confidence is a quiet, inner knowledge that you are competent and have the ability to perform. There is no need to feel superior to others.
This inner confidence makes you try new things and sign up for growth opportunities in your organization, community, or favorite association. This belief in your capabilities helps you pick yourself up when life knocks you down, as motivational speaker, Les Brown said. The full quote is “When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. If you can look up, you can get up.”
As you look up at a better life and you get up and start taking action, your confidence grows. Confident people feel ready for everyday work challenges as they rely on their skills and strengths to handle the dilemmas, conflicts, and decisions that are part of work life.
Part of confidence is self-talk. In my tennis example, I thought “I can,” not “I’ll miss it again.” Even though mere positive thinking did not work out for me then, I learned a valuable lesson: If you are standing at the baseline and a ball is over your head, let it go out.
The Gallup organization in their book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, makes the case that confidence comes when you discover your natural talent, or what you are good at, and develop that natural talent through study, learning and taking action.
As you gain knowledge and use the knowledge in your activities, you develop more capacity and advance faster to your potential. I would add that when taking action, you may have a learning opportunity like in my tennis match which could be mistaken for a failure. It was not a failure. It was advancing my capacity to perform and helping me move toward developing my tennis playing potential. That is the funny thing about “failure.” You learn and grow.
In the process of increasing your confidence and capability, it is of the utmost importance to control your self-talk. I was telling myself that I could hit that high overhead lob. However, in my first tennis lesson, the instructor showed us how to hit a ball sent to the forehand. I tried and as the ball scooted way off the court, in a serious way intended to be self-deprecating humor, I said, “Oh, I can’t do that.” Next, he showed us how to hit a ball sent to the backhand. Once again, I said, “Oh, I can’t do that.” Then he showed us how to serve and I thought, two-hand coordination? And yes, I said, “Oh, I can’t do that.”
The instructor stopped the entire class, looked straight at me and said, “Karla, do you realize that to everything I have shown you today you have said, “I can’t?”
To experience increased capacity, competence, and confidence I now avoid negative self-talk because it can become a self-fulling prophecy.
True confidence comes from belief in your capacity and competency from the top of your head down to your tippy toes. The best way to get that belief is through the Gallup process: learn and practice – endlessly repeated.
Another way to boost your confidence is to listen intently when someone gives you a compliment. Tuck the compliment into your long-range memory. Make it part of the victory film you play when you start to doubt your self-worth, feel inferior, or unworthy.
As your competence and capacity increase and your potential blossoms, let your body language display self-confidence. Stand up straight, walk with purpose, look people directly in the eye, smile, and speak with conviction. Never give a wimpy handshake.
Follow these tips and you will hit that high overhead lob when it comes your way.