So, are there really any proven ways to build confidence in ourselves and to live more confidently?
Yes… there actually are.
How do I know? Well, I’ve invested the past two years working with a team of some of the best high-performance coaches in the country. They’ve coached Olympians, business and military leaders, and a slew of others to increased success and confidence.
Prior to starting that work, I thought I was a pretty high achiever. I had gone to great schools and built a $200 million dollar basketball footwear and apparel company called AND 1 right out of college. I would have said I was a pretty confident person!
I had also invested nearly 10 years of my life studying Buddhist and yogic thought as well as traditional western psychology and the positive psych movement.
But I had also been kicked in the teeth by life a time or ten and struggled. I’d set a goal and miss it. I know what it’s like to feel fear — we all do, but there are simple tools to learn to use that fear as a motivator — to use that fear as our rocket fuel.
And here’s what I’ve learned… confidence isn’t blindly believing. And it’s not the same as self-esteem. See, there are a series of steps we can take to grow our abilities and our beliefs.
There’s a recipe for living confidently.
Confidence — real, earned, dirt-under-the-fingernails confidence — is the belief that we’ll perform our best when it matters most.
“The belief that we’ll perform our best… at what?” you might ask. Well, that’s up to you!
Do you have an important speaking engagement coming up? A job interview? A cross-country roadtrip with your two-year-old triplets… a scary trip to the dentist even?
The way we exude confidence might look different for each of these scenarios. But the mental skills we train to boost our confidence are universal. These include effective goal-setting, focus, self-care, and motivation (among many, many more).
For example, here’s my top 12 confidence tips for building up confidence, reaching success, and learning to live more confidently overall:
12. Build and maintain a Confidence Resume
A confidence resume is a list of the things we’ve done well when faced with past challenges. Every time we have a win, we add an item to this list. This helps boost our memory around how capable we actually are. It’s a great and simple tools for building confidence.
We can also build a Failure Resume to cultivate our Resilience… by listing all the things we’ve failed at, and reminding ourselves that we’re still here and we’re still trying — we stop seeing each little “win or loss” as so life-defining.
11. Engage in Deliberate Practice
We can all figure out one or two small things we can do to improve each day, some core skills we need to work on to perform well, and practice these skills with our full conscious attention and awareness in a deliberate way — working to nudge ourselves towards our ideal model of performance. This is a great way to grow more confident.
10. Use Regular Performance Journaling
Tools like the Balanced Critique and regular reflective Performance Journaling are the foundations for building and sustaining confidence. Having a tool that gives you reflective prompts, lets you regularly record what you want to keep doing and what you want to change, and lets you search past journal entries is core to sustaining this growth.
You could buy a paper journal and track it there, or you can use a tool like the Confidently app to prompt you to reflect. Whatever is the best choice for you, start the habit now!
9. Talk to Someone who has been there.
By reaching out in our social network — or blindly to others, we find on Linkedin or through our friends, and interacting with people who might be able to give us insights into the challenges we will face and how best to navigate them — we build our confidence and comfort that we will be able to perform.
8. Visualize Your Ideal Performance
Get in the habit of breaking big “hard” things into smaller components and then practice seeing and feeling ourselves doing each small, specific task as a series of ideal performance movements or elements — the same ones you are practicing with your deliberate practice. The more we work at “seeing” these ideal perfect performances in our mind’s eye, the better we get at them.
As we get better at this, we can add in situational pressures and clues — for example, we can play loud music or crowd sounds and dress as we will for our performance and, if possible visualize while on the field or in the boardroom.
7. Master STEP Goals.
Use small STEPS with weekly STEP goals to get ready and prepare in the days and weeks leading up to the event for an increased chance of success.
Preparation is one of the great ways we have to improve, gain or build up our self-confidence. Small, regular weekly goals — in particular STEP goals is one of the most powerful methods there is for making this practice happen regularly and consistently.
6. Create a “best performance” checklist.
Having a checklist that is short and simple and reminds you what you want to do, in what order — is one of the most effective ways to manage and sustain high-performance. This is used, and has been widely studied, in areas from pilots pre-flight to investors pre-trade or pre-deal, to surgeons and surgical teams pre-operation and is, quite literally, a proven life saver.
How does it work? Checklists help us narrow our focus to only what we can control. This is called attention regulation. It refers to our ability to direct focus to what we want to be focused on, and ignore what we don’t.
Good checklists are precise — they’re easy to use, specific, and able to be deployed quickly in challenging situations — like speaking confidently in front of others, or making sure you have all your talking points set prior to a job interview.
5. Develop a Pre-Performance Routine
A pre-performance routine (or “PPR” to its old high school buddies) is defined as a “series of task-relevant thoughts and actions that a person engages in systematically prior to the performance of a specific skill.” (Moran, 1996)
In effect, it is what it sounds like: a pre – performance – routine, but there are characteristics of a good one that can unlock consistent peak-level performance, and elevate PPRs above your run-of-the-mill, same-underwear-every-game day superstition.
Pre-performance routines typically include any energy regulation technique, a self-talk phrase, and a physical motion or activity to prime the body. When used in combination, they are a powerful tool for managing and maintaining high-performance.
Here are a few tips to get you started on building your own PPR:
Tinker with your energy levels. If you tend to be too amped, practice integrating deep, purposeful breathing to relax. If pressure tends to sap your energy, experiment with quick exercises to stimulate your muscles before a performance.
Use music. Don’t be afraid to integrate your favorite pump-up or cool-down song into your pre-performance routine.
Talk to yourself. Motivational self-talk can be a powerful PPR tool. Simple phrases like “you got this” and “let’s go” can align your focus and energy.
4. Show up early.
Arrive at any “strange or unfamiliar” situations ahead of time (but not too far ahead) and bring an “ally.”
Getting to places a little bit early saves a lot of stress, and can let us find the location and check it out, as well as giving us time to take a quick walk or do a little warm-up activity to get in the mood. Arriving too early can build pressure or leave us flat — so we’ll want to play with the optimal amount to be “early.”
It can also help to bring an ally — someone who gives us confidence and always has our back. If we can’t bring them physically, we can bring a photo of them or a note from them (even if we wrote it ourselves).
Remembering that we are loved and supported — win or lose — is a great way to relax and do our best more consistently.
3. Learn to focus under pressure
Practicing with tools to notice where our attention is and to direct and redirect it to the elements in our control that drive our best performances is one half of the key to performing under pressure. There are proven tool to help with this — tools like W.I.N. (what’s important now) and the 5-4-3-2-1 method of attending to 5 things we see, 4 things we hear, 3 things we taste, 2 things we feel and 1 thing we can touch — is a great way of re-grounding.
2. Channel Your Emotions.
Mastering awareness of our emotional energy in high-pressure situations and our ability to self-regulate
Our emotions and our emotional energy are at the heart of our ability to manage big moments. They energize us and make us compelling as speakers or overwhelm us with anxiety or lost opportunities. There are core tools to learn to “dial up” or “dial down” our emotional energy — tools like box breathing, motivational self-talk and pre-performance routines that can really help.
1. Get Your Sleep and Engage in Regular Self-Care
From sports psychology, we understand that recovery is critical to have focus, to manage our emotions, and to make effective decisions. Sleep has been identified as the number one performance enhancer.
It’s a sensitive system — under times of stress, a common sign is disruption of sleep (waking up too early, not being able to fall asleep at all). Using routines to unwind at night unwind is critical. You need 30 minutes of unwinding before you get into bed. Your room should be dark, cool, but not too cool, and please — take a break from the screens. Your bed is only for sleep and sex only! You can also use active relaxation techniques.
Regular rest and recovery, led by sleep and time off and good nutrition and physical health are foundational to being able to perform our best and self-regulate.
So, that’s it. That’s my “Big 12 tools for Living Confidence” list. We can strengthen our confidence just like we can any other muscle.
And that’s what we do here at Confidently — give you a confidence building framework that helps you grow and improve your confidence and your self-esteem.
And it’s completely free for everyone until 2/1/21. It’s been a hard year, so you deserve this.
If you have an IoS (apple phone or i-pad), feel free to check it out here:
If you have an Android, we can’t help you yet — but we’ll have something early next year.
Good luck and enjoy!
Tom (Confidently co-founder)