So you want to be more confident? Who doesn’t?
But it’s pretty tough to be more confident when your dreams seem totally unreachable and you don’t feel like you’re getting any closer to them, isn’t it?
If you are an adventurer – someone who takes risks in life – you probably ride a roller coaster of confidence. One minute, you’re feeling great, climbing towards your ever-nearing goals and the next…
Confidence freefall! Fuuuuuuuuck.
How do I know this? Because it happens to me. Constantly.
There are nights I wake up in a cold sweat, convinced that none of the things I’ve set out to do will ever happen. In those moments, I am convinced we will end up broke and on the street, without a penny to our names. Like Oliver Twist, we’ll have to learn to pick a pocket or two just to survive.
(Yes, the middle-of-the-night me is a total drama queen!)
I know I’m not alone in this struggle to be more confident, and to be more consistently confident.
The Struggle of the Unconventional
One of the great things about travel is that we get to catch up friends who have scattered across the globe in pursuit of their goals. When we chat with adventurous friends about their lives, we hear the same refrain over and over again.
They’re not sure if they’re good enough to ever “make it”.
The demon they all face – and that Stephen and I face with them – is a lack of confidence. Or if not a total lack of confidence, a fluctuation of confidence.
None of us is rich and famous. None of us has a Grammy Award or a Pulitzer Prize. No one is banging down our doors with demands for our talents. Instead, we struggle to book the next gig, we struggle to get more students, or fans, or readers.
In our hearts, we know what our path is. We have created a vision and we are all following through. However, that kind of action is not readily supported by our culture.
The world rewards conformity. To choose an unconventional life is to struggle.
Or, as this article in Men’s Health puts it:
If you’re taking chances in life, here’s an uncomfortable truth: Your confidence will take a hit from time to time, and certainly more than the average person.
One Little Confidence Boost After Another
There is something you can do on a day-to-day basis to help you be more confident. It will help you feel better about your progress, keep you motivated, and keep you on the track to success.
It’s a small change that can have powerful consequences.
To be more confident, you need to start noticing and appreciating daily small wins.
In a study, Teresa Amabile, Director of Research at Harvard Business School (fancy!), found that:
Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.
Think about that.
It’s not a big pay cheque or a customer service award or a promotion that keeps people happy and engaged at work. “The single most important” factor is “making progress in meaningful work”. The level of productivity is connected to the frequency of that sense of progress.
And how can we experience this frequent sense of progress? By tracking small wins.
So How Do I Use Small Wins to Be More Confident?
It’s simple to put in practice, but can be a powerful way to keep you headed in the right direction and keep you building your confidence.
Every time you experience a small win:
- Stop and recognize it. Take a moment to appreciate every little thing that goes well on your journey, whether it’s just sending one important email or making one student smile in yoga class.
- Write it down. From today forward, I am going to keep a small wins list – and I challenge you to keep one too.
Every time you accomplish a tiny step towards your goal, write it down. Every time someone praises you or your work, write it down. Every time you tick another to-do off your list, write it down.
Soon your list of small wins will be big. Every item on this big list of small wins will be another notch on your confidence bed post. (How’s that for a metaphor?)
- Focus on progress, not perfection. Every step is a step forward, even if you trip a little, even if you go in the wrong direction for a while. You can learn and grow from every step, false or true, and isn’t learning and growing exactly what you want out of your adventurous life?
What If I Never Get Any Small Wins?
You do. I know you do. You just have to look for them and start acknowledging them when they come your way.
The thing with people like us – the adventurers, the risk takers, the unconventional – is that we tend to be big thinkers. We have all dreamed a big dream and leapt off the cliff, hoping like hell that our parachutes will open.
It’s this big thinking that can lead to our downfall. Big thinkers tend to ignore the small (good) stuff that happens to us.
Sure, maybe an editor praised your work, or you sold a print of your art. Maybe you just pitched your first story or taught your first yoga class.
As big thinkers, we tend to downplay these little wins. The editor is “not important enough”, the art buyer “doesn’t know anything about art”. Our pitch will “probably be rejected” or that first yoga class “only had two students”.
By focussing on the big, we negate the impact of small wins. They don’t build our confidence, they don’t encourage us, and they don’t help us to move forward.
But with a little effort, we can turn these small wins into daily boosts that motivate us, build our confidence, and increase our productivity.
Got your vision and your action plan?
Small wins are a lot easier to come by if you’ve laid the foundation. For those of you who haven’t been adoringly hanging on our every word for the last two months, let me lay it our for you, step by step.
First, start with creating your vision for your life.
Second, make sure you cast yourself as the hero of your life.
Third, break your vision down into manageable steps that you can work on every single day.
If you only focus on the big picture, you will always feel like a failure (until you win the Nobel Prize. Maybe even if you win the Nobel Prize). But you’ll never win that prize if you quit before you’re even 100th of the way there. Without the confidence to keep moving forward when every sign-post is pointing in the wrong direction and every road is riddled with roadblocks, you’ll never go anywhere.
So start today and see how taking notice of your small wins can give you a big boost in confidence.
Happy adventures, Jane & Stephen