What is confidence really?
Ever heard the saying ‘confidence is key’?....Well It is.
Problem is that solid self confidence does not come easy or fast.
You need to work at it.
In order to build unshakable confidence you need to instill some key mindsets and perform certain mental training exercises on a regular basis.
In this guide we will instill those mindsets and teach you the exercises you need to perform in order to build up a deep rooted level of confidence for just about every situation in life.
Having true self confidence is one of the best feelings that you can have. It will be well worth the work that you put in and will be a key pillar to your success.
Just take the thing you feel most confident doing. It could be a hobby, sport or field of expertise. Something that you could do 100 times over and still feel certain that you’re doing it correctly.
Now imagine feeling that way in business, social situations, with the opposite sex and in every day life.
Now that you are motivated to build up your self confidence, let’s get into it.
Part 1 Key Attitudes for Self Confidence
Your Most Important Relationship
First things first, YOU are YOUR most important relationship in this world. And if you can only treat one person with respect in this world it better be yourself. Seems simple but most people do not do this.
They consistently break promises to themselves. Then they beat themselves up with negative self talk.
Think about it…
Do you always wake up when you say you will?
Do you always work fast and effectively without procrastination?
Do you eat healthy and avoid lousy food that you know is bad for you?
Do you always do the difficult things that you know you need to do without putting them off?
Do you stick with your workout schedule?
If you answered no to these questions then you are probably not treating yourself with the utmost respect.
Now, no one is perfect. But how bad are you? Even being somewhere in the middle is not good enough. Especially if you are a performance driven individual who is trying to get ahead.
If you are constantly sabotaging yourself and breaking promises to yourself then why are you confused or upset about not having any self confidence or getting respect from others.
You are not respecting yourself.
What do you expect?!?!
Nothing, and I mean nothing, will help if you don’t respect yourself.
If you don’t treat yourself with respect, who will? And why should they REALLY???
The promises you make to yourself are critical. Do NOT make promises to yourself that you can not keep. Or you will be extremely miserable.
When you do make promises to yourself, make a strong conscious effort to KEEP THEM! This is self efficacy in a nutshell. How much can you rely on yourself to do what you set out to do.
For example if you keep cheating on your diet, surfing facebook when you are supposed to be working or skipping workouts, why in the world would you ever feel confident???
On the other hand if you keep the promises you make to yourself. You will feel like you can rely on yourself and you will respect yourself, thus having high self efficacy. This will improve your internal dialogue.
Why Self Efficacy is Actually More Important Then Self Confidence
Self Efficacy is basically your confidence in yourself to do what you planned to do.
It mirrors confidence and gives the ability to control your own motivation, behavior, and social environment.
In order to make promises to yourself, you need to believe that you can truly keep those promises. This is essentially the purest form of confidence. And requires self-efficacy and the ability to motivate yourself to take action.
In order to build self efficacy, you need to start out with small tasks and habits and take pride in the small wins. The more things you plan to accomplish and actually accomplish, the better your self efficacy will get.
A game changing book on habits building is called Mini Habits by Stephen Guise.
The main premise in this book is making habits small and actually doing them. This will build your self efficacy. As your self efficacy grows you can increase the magnitude of your habits. As you do this your self confidence will inevitably grow as well.
Make your habits stupidly small. Something like 3 pushups a day.
Consistency is key. Imagine walking around each day knowing that you have accomplished everything you set out to accomplish and actually overachieved.
Here are some examples of mini habits from Stephen Guise himself: https://minihabits.com/mini-habit-ideas/
Some of these things will take literally under 10 seconds to complete, just checking them off everyday is a confidence booster.
Stop Complaining and Look for Solutions and Move Forward
There is nothing that kills confidence more than complaining.
Basically complaining is being in a situation that is not good for you, doing nothing about it and simply stating that you do not like the situation.
Makes no sense!
How can you be confident with yourself or feel good about yourself if this is the case?
There is no better way to get out of a negative mindset than taking action to resolve your problem. And this is precisely what you need to do. Get into the solution mindset.
Shift your mind from dwelling on the problem to thinking of the next steps that you need to take to move on to a solution.
Learn from your mistakes and always look forward. What are the next steps you can take to overcome your current challenge and get ahead.
Ruminating and dwelling on the past is a total sinker to your confidence.
Make a commitment to yourself to be solution and opportunity focused. Decide to move forward no matter what. This will be a massive confidence booster.
To kick things up a notch, science proves that you actually need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. And that is what the next section talks about.
Get into a Grateful State of Mind
Gratitude is simple yet often a forgotten feeling. If you are grateful you are happier, and being happy makes you more confident!
There is science behind gratitude.
‘People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, and express more compassion and kindness.’ Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier
Here’s a great mental exercise. Proactively be grateful for 3-4 of your good traits every day. Write them down or think about them before going to sleep or when you wake up in the morning.
In addition to taking advantage of gratitude you are also proactively focusing your brain to think of good qualities about yourself.
Try to mix up the things you are grateful for. Basically don’t think of the same positive qualities each time you do the exercise.
Your brain has a Reticular Activation System (RAS). The best way to describe how the RAS works is it highlights the things you are looking for for your brain.
For example, there may be a bunch of orange things in the room that you are in. But unless you are actively looking for orange things you will not notice them.
So if you tell your brain that you are looking for good qualities about yourself to be grateful for on a daily basis, your RAS will go to work for you and look for those things day in and day out. Talk about an attitude of confidence!!!
Here is a great video about how the RAS works.
Look for the Silver Lining
In 2001, the mediocre New England Patriots did not start out their season well.
In the second game they lost their starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe to a horrifying injury. Bledsoe was rushed to the hospital and his season was over.
To make matters worse, Bledsoe’s replacement was a scrawny, unathletic, slow quarterback who was the 199th pick in the last draft. A guy by the name of Tom Brady. He did not play well that game and the Patriots lost. It pretty much seemed like the season was over.
Instead of drowning in sorrow, the head coach Bill Blechik, saw this as an opportunity to develop his young quarterback. He stuck to his system of consistent action.
Most of you know how the story goes. The Patriots finished the regular season 11-5. Won the Superbowl. And they won 5 more since. Tom Brady, became the greatest quarterback of all time, winning countless MVP’s. And the Patriots became arguably the greatest sports franchise of all time.
Bill Belicheck, solidified his place as the greatest coach of all time.
In fact there is probably no better person to look up to for confidence, discipline and consistent action than Bill Belicheck.
This is just one example from sports. But problems turning into opportunities happen in business and all walks of life all the time. You just have to cultivate the attitude of looking for the silver lining.
Get into the attitude of always looking for the silver lining and your confidence is bound to go up.
Part 2: Practical Exercises you can do to build confidence.
Identify GOAL(S) that Excites You
Now that you have the right mindset for self confidence you need to determine where to use it!
People, especially performance driven people, are designed to be always moving towards something.
Remember that movie, the Pursuit of Happiness. There is a reason why the US Declaration of Independence mentions the phrase “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
People are the happiest and most confident when they are moving toward something.
For this reason you need to set the right goal(s). Your goal(s) will be your ‘beacon’, something you can work towards and be motivated by everyday.
Your goals should be specific and have a deadline. You should also have a goal in each of the 3 key areas in life: Health, Wealth and Happiness.
Often times just having a big goal, makes you more confident in your actions and interactions. Which is a great thing because it means your brain is focusing on what motivates you rather than your fears.
The goal should be the ultimate promise to yourself. It may be out of reach now. But you will do whatever it takes to accomplish it. This commitment will make it the ultimate motivator and will put things in your life into perspective.
Having the right goals and a sense of purpose is simply essential for unshakable confidence.
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.
To learn more about setting and achieving your goals check out our Definitive Guide to Goal Setting.
Set the Right Objectives
You have most likely heard of Tony Robbins, Brandon Burchard and Tim Ferris. But what about Daniel Kahneman?
Daniel Kahneman, is a god father of behavioral science that you may not have heard about. He is the Nobel Prize winning PhD in Psychology who wrote the book called Thinking Fast and Slow. This book is filled with science backed behavioral analysis that is the foundation of a ton of marketing and self improvement work.
One of the sections in Thinking Fast and Slow is about the “Planning Fallacy”. Basically, people will often overestimate how much they can accomplish and how fast they can accomplish it.
This obviously leads to disappointment and creates a negative feedback loop, which lowers self confidence. Here’s a great short video of him talking about the planning fallacy and why it isn’t a good thing!
A good way to avoid falling trap to the Planning Fallacy is to clearly think about your goals before you set them and start working on them. It’s almost like taking a practice swing in Golf.
Identify key objectives, tasks and problems that could occur. And think about how you will overcome these problems.
Don’t worry about being a perfectionist here. You do not need to figure out every possible task and objective going forward. But identifying some key milestones, some big potential problems and how you will overcome them can be super helpful.
A good idea is to keep a 1 year time horizon for your goal(s) and identify some big quarterly objectives for each of them.
You will know your goals and your short term objectives. This will boost your confidence by helping you make better decisions in your everyday life.
Properly assessing your goals will increase the likelihood of you accomplishing them. This will obviously raise your self concept and self confidence.
Take Advantage of the Science of Willpower
Pay Attention to Biology - Keeping the promises you make to yourself and respecting yourself is the bedrock of confidence.
And in order to keep the promises that you make to yourself you must know how willpower works and how to use it.
A great place to start learning about willpower is to read the book called The Willpower Instinct by Stanford Ph. D. Kelly McGonigal, who actually teaches a class at Stanford on Willpower.
The idea is simple. We established that you need to keep the promises you make to yourself to have self confidence. And in order to keep the promises that you make to yourself you will need Willpower.
Now ask yourself this question, will you have more willpower when you are tired, hungover and hungry or when you are well rested, fed with proper food and motivated?...Obviously the latter.
The idea is that you need to set up your routine so that you work on the hard habits and tasks when you have the most Willpower.
A great way to do this is to have a morning routine. For example you can put together a stack of habits such as meditation, exercise, cold shower and walk outside all in the morning.
You are more likely to do them because you will be well rested and not bothered by your day to day activities.
Find your Most Productive Times - There are also certain times of the day when you are more productive than other times. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist with special interest in the brain. He wrote a book called Brain Rules. In his book he describes how some people are more productive at night and some in the mornings.
This is a bit contrary to the popular, get up early and start working hard, hype. Some people are just more productive at night. And if you are not a morning person and you drag yourself out of bed at 6am and are not able to focus or be productive this will very likely reduce your confidence.
Instead, keep a journal in order to identify your most productive times. And work during those times. This will position you to take advantage of your willpower to accomplish the most when you are at your best.
Willpower can be trained - Another Thing to Consider is that willpower is often compared to a muscle. Meaning the more you exercise it the stronger it gets. Basically, in the beginning, you're going to need to push yourself more to do good habits and activities that will move you towards your goal(s). Overtime, your entire self concept may change. You will have more willpower, not only in those activities, but in other activities and habits as well.
Mood and Attitude Affect Your Willpower - There was a will power study done by Mark Muraven, a Ph.D. out of Albany. He found that people who had an internal drive exhibited greater willpower for longer periods of time and their willpower was less likely to be depleted. Therefore if you set the correct goals you will have more willpower and naturally more confidence.
They also found that a good mood has a positive correlation to Willpower.
A study by Veronika Job a PhD out of Stanford found that the people who believed that willpower was not limited did not show as much signs of willpower depletion as people who did. Taking this into consideration, try to motivate yourself proactively everyday.
A good way to do this is by watching youtube videos of guys like David Goggins
or Eric Thomas
or watching motivational speeches from movies. If you dont get motivated after the famous “Inches” speech by Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday nothing will do it :)
Knowing what can drive you to have more willpower, be productive and accomplish more will absolutely charge up your self confidence....
...So start training your willpower ASAP.
Use cognitive behavioral exercises to take your confidence to the next level.
To make your self confidence even stronger you can do some mental training on a consistent basis.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an approach that changes your brain’s thinking patterns.
It is widely used to deal with anxiety, depression and OCD.
It can also be used to make you mentally tougher and stronger.
You can do things like break down limiting beliefs and reinforce empowering beliefs.
Here is an example. Take a limiting belief that you may have. Now visualize it like its a chair or a stool in your head. And break down the legs that it stands on by thinking of 3-4 reasons why it is not true.
For example you can take a belief like “I will never make a lot of money” and think of reasons why it’s not true like:
- I made money in the past.
- Other people as smart as me are making a lot of money.
- I can study what successful people are doing to replicate it.
These thoughts will essentially deflate or break down your limiting beliefs.
Conversely you can inflate or build up your empowering beliefs.
Think of an empowering belief like “I will get into great shape”. And think of reasons why it’s true. For example:
- I work out every day.
- I live near a gym
- I am changing my diet.
Write down or think of these things on a proactive basis and your thought patterns will adjust over time to have more empowering belief and less limiting beliefs.
The key is to do these exercises when you are in a calm state, as the thought patterns don’t change in one sitting. They change gradually.
When you are stressing out the best thing to do is to control your physiology with things like breathing and meditation. Than only after you are calm you can implement these exercises.
CBT is a way of becoming your own therapist (that being said you can find specialist CBT therapists).
Practice CBT proactively to boost up your self confidence.
Learn to Deal with Your ‘Monkey Mind’
So what is your ‘Monkey Mind’?
Your brain's main job is to protect you.
And your brain believes that if you stay in your current position and in accordance with your past programming you are safe.
The problem is, this contradicts with the human drive to improve, reach new goals and have new life experiences. A well known deterrent mechanism produced by the brain is FEAR!
What if, what if, what if… overcoming fear is often a battle. Roller Coasters, spiders or whatever it might be. Most fear is unwarranted but your brain causes you to think otherwise.
You most likely have heard the famous saying by Franklin D. Roosevelt “There is nothing to fear but fear Itself”
Since your Monkey Mind wants you to stay exactly where you are because it knows that you are safe there. It will cause you to have limiting and self sabotaging thoughts such as: "Things are going well, what if I mess up"
In order to deal with the monkey mind, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) may be a great option. A great book about this topic is called The Confidence Gap by Rusel Harris.
Here is a link to read about the ACT approach: https://contextualscience.org/act
ACT was essentially developed to deal with negative and self limiting, sabotaging thoughts. .
If you resist these thoughts. You actually give them more power. Which actually makes you feel miserable and unconfident!
The idea instead is to:
- Understand that these are just thoughts and they are not you, it's your brain trying to do its job and protect you.
- Label these thoughts. It will help you separate from them. Even give them a name. The key is to make it clear to yourself that they are not you.
Tell your brain “thanks for sharing”, and get into the action mode. According to the book Rewire Your Brain by John B. Arden, a PhD with 35 years of experience in providing psychology services, when you are in action it is very hard for your brain to ruminate or think limiting thoughts...
...So get into the action mode as soon as possible.
Like Marshon Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks running back says. “I am all about that action baby”
Use life hacks to mitigate these limiting beliefs. Basically position your life so that there are less things to worry about. If you are worried about money have multiple streams of income, if you are worried about safety get a good alarm system, if you are worried about health eat a very healthy diet.
Quick warning though it is possible to go overboard on these lifehacks by letting the monkey mind take control. Remember you can never make things perfect. If you feel like you are going overboard it is a good idea to talk to a mentor or a coach to get you back on track.
- Build yourself up proactively. Even when your monkey mind is quiet, proactively do cognitive exercises every day to keep yourself confident.
Finally a VERY VERY IMPORTANT NOTE do not get into avoidance based on your negative limiting beliefs.
For example, if you are afraid to approach a girl because your monkey mind is telling you she is way too attractive for you, force yourself to approach her. Even if you mess it up it is better than avoidance.
Or Don’t stop hanging out with a group of people because you feel inadequate around them. Most of the time it’s your monkey mind making noise in the background.
Push yourself into uncomfortable situations and use ACT to tame limiting beliefs.
Learn to get comfortable with discomfort, this is a surefire way to boost your confidence.
We repeat, Do NOT avoid situations because of limiting beliefs. Push yourself!
The second and slightly contradictory part to this note is that if you do avoid something because of your monkey mind don’t dwell on it. Learn from your mistakes and go on. Most things get blown out of proportion in your head.
Failure is really nothing to be scared of. Most things in this world are not that important if you look at them in the grand scheme of things. Building up this belief will really tame your monkey mind and of course boost your belief in yourself.
Find a Mentor or a Coach
One great way to keep the Monkey Mind at bay is to find a good mentor or coach. Sometimes you will have so many weird limiting thoughts running through your head that you may lose touch with reality.
This can be when you are on the brink of success. Or when you have a major challenge or issue in your life.
Remember, your mind is there to protect you and when a major change is coming up, positive or negative, your mind starts to scramble and do everything in its power to keep you from making a drastic change in your life.
Basically, your monkey mind has a certain concept of you and it will be putting thoughts in your head to keep you in line with that concept.
For example, it may think that you are the safest being a little boy protected by your parents. You may be 30 or even 50 years old. But your mind does not know or care about that.
It will not want you to surpass your parents financially. And will put all kinds of negative thoughts into your head, causing you to act in a self sabotaging way.
Another example is that it can think that you are better off single and sabotage relationship after relationship for you.
If not properly handled, this can be a massive limiting factor to your self confidence and your life in general.
A good way to work through these types of issue is with a coach, mentor or a very good therapist.
They can put things in perspective for you and build up your confidence to keep you on the right track to success.
BIG WARNING though, everyone and their mothers are trying to get into the life coaching business right now. So be extremely careful and selective with who you work with.
Because the wrong coach/mentor/therapist can only make things worse.
Look at reviews, get personal recommendations, look at accolades. Is the person successful themselves? Does his/her mentality and outlook match yours? See if you can set up a meet and greet and feel what effect does he/she have on you.
If you have a good primary care doctor ask for recommendations.
People have different personality types, values, motivations and goals. Your mentor’s outlook needs to match yours.
For example, if you are a success and performance driven person whose goal is to become a multi-millionaire visiting a kumbaya singing, tree hugging, mentor in a tent, who will discuss how your mom looked at you wrong when you were 3 years old, will probably not cut it for you.
In other words finding THE RIGHT mentor can be essential to your success and confidence.
Confidence is not something you just obtain fast. You need to work on it.
Self-efficacy is the key starting point to building confidence.
First understand the core mindsets:
- Keep the promises that you make to yourself.
- Get out of the complaining mode and be grateful.
- Get into the solution mindset.
- Look for the silver lining and the opportunity in everything.
Once you do this, implement the right mental exercises.
- Identify your goals and objectives to be your beacon.
- Build up your self efficacy with mini habits.
- Understand and train your willpower. .
- Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to breakdown limiting beliefs and build up empowering beliefs.
- Use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to quiet self limiting beliefs and tame that annoying Monkey Mind.
- Try to find a good life coach, therapist or mentor.
There are 2 HUGELY IMPORTANT notes to consider:
We repeat for the third time! Under no circumstances, avoid things because of limiting beliefs and/or your monkey mind. Instead, always push yourself forward. Try to differentiate between your overprotective monkey mind and yourself. They are not one and the same. Do exercises like meditation and breath work to calm your limiting thoughts. And try to find a good mentor or coach that will help.
However if you do end up avoiding something because of your monkey mind do not ruminate on it. It will happen. Learn your lesson and move on.
Building up your confidence is NOT an overnight process. You will not feel like Rico Suave after completing 3 mini habits and 2 cognitive behavioral exercises. In fact for the first few weeks you may not feel any difference at all. You need to give it a few months to really see the deep rooted effects.
Finally, for some more ideas on improving confidence check out our Confidence Routine in the Routines section and filter our Habit Directory by “Confidence” to get ideas of habits that will help.
To Your Success!
- What you need to know about willpower: The psychological science of self-control
- Brain Rules: Brain development for parents, teachers and business leaders | Brain Rules
- minihabits.com: Elastic Habits Shop
- "The Willpower Instinct" by Kelly McGonigal (Book Summary)
- Planning fallacy
- Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is the Current Gold Standard of Psychotherapy
- McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct. Penguin Group, 2012. Print.
- Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. Print.
- Medina, John. Brain Rules. Narrated by John J. Medina., Pear Press, 2008. Audiobook.
- Arden, John B. Rewire Your Brain. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010. Print.
- Guise, Stephen. Mini Habits. Narrated by Daniel Penz., Stephen Guise, 2014. Audiobook.
- Harris, Russ. The Confidence Gap. Narrated by Graeme Malcolm, Audible, 2014. Audiobook.
- 38 Scientific Papers Reveal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Does Work
- Effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy on Anxiety and Depression of Razi Psychiatric Center Staff
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