To get more self-confidence we have to get good at what we are doing. Even when you feel or when your mind tells you that you are not good at anything, you actually are competent at so many things. You don’t even realize it because they come so naturally for you.
Just for a moment, think about all the things you can confidently do today, things you do so naturally that you rarely even stop to consider them. For example, you can use a pen to write, you can read books, you can use a knife and fork (maybe even chopsticks), you can tell the time, you can tie the shoelaces. Some of you even can skateboard, drive a car, speak a foreign language, write code, knit socks or even a sweater. What are the things that come easy and naturally for you? And how did you learn to do this?
You had to practise! Practice, practice and then some more practice. You were learning what is working, what is not, you were assessing the results and modifying when needed. With doing this you developed the skills to such an extent that you can now take them for granted.
You can use the same process to get good at doing anything. To structure this learning process Russ Harris in his book “The Confidence Gap” is introducing the Confidence Cycle.
Practise the skills
If you want to become confident at anything, you have to practise. Unfortunately there are many mental barriers to practice. For example, lack of motivation or willpower, feeling tired, anxious or fearful, the desire to give up when progress is slow, the tendency to quit after failing, perfectionism or harsh self-judgment, lack of time, money and energy, and a wide variety of self-limiting beliefs.
Whenever you are practising a new skill and come up against one of those mental barriers, accept what you are feeling is normal. Also understand that preserving will help you get past this barrier. You have a reason why you want to practice this skill, why you want to get better and feel more confident in it. Keep this in mind when the going gets rough.
This new skill has to be something that you really want. When the motivation is coming from outside of you, just to please someone else or to follow somebody’s orders, it is much more difficult to find the will to do the work. So before starting make sure you have your own reasons why you need this skill and why you really want to master this.
Also make your life easier and use habits to make practicing automatic. Connect your practicing session with something that you already do. For example, after brushing my teeth, I will practice speaking out loud in front of the mirror. Keep it simple and easy to practice. Don’t take on too much at once.
Start with small steps and do only the minimum to get yourself used with this new activity. Make it your habit to start practicing, to do the first step. When this becomes comfortable, add the next steps. Break this skill into parts and start from the easiest steps. For example, when you want to get better at writing, don’t start with writing 10 pages per day. Start with writing a couple of sentences. Get used to it and then write more.
So make sure that you really want this new skill, break it into smaller parts and start with small steps.
Apply them effectively
Practicing the skills is important, but that’s not enough to make us good at something. We also have to apply our skills effectively. We also need to step out of our comfort zone and apply our practiced skills effectively into real life challenging situations.
Practicing the speech alone in front of the mirror is helpful, but you also have to get the experience to stand on the stage in front of other people. This situation is totally different and gives you experiences that you would never get in your cozy bathroom.
Writing for the drawer is also developing you, but you have to put your writing out there. Publish a blog post, write in social media, try to get published in some online magazine. You need to get the experience and feedback.
Getting real-life experience helps to develop your self-confidence and hone the skills. The more experience you get the more confident you are and the more easy and natural this becomes for you.
Assess the results
After we apply our skills, we need to reflect on the results. What did we do that worked? What did we do that didn’t work? How could we do it differently next time around?
Make it a habit to reflect on your actions. After putting your new skill into action, take time to think over it and make some notes so as not to forget what happened and what you learned.
If there was something that went wrong or wasn’t as good as you would have hoped, note it down and look for solutions on how to make this part of your skill better. Do you need to learn something more? Do you need to change your approach? Do you just need more practice?
One thing that we usually forget is to notice what went well. We already take it for granted. But it might be that even when it was good one time, the next time it might not be, because the situation is different or you did something different. Note down when something went very well for the first time and figure out what helped. Remember it and use this knowledge the next time.
Modify as needed
Depending on the results you get, you have to modify what you are doing. Do more of what is working well and change or modify what is not working well. This is the only way to develop and improve.
And then repeat the cycle. Practice with the new modifications, apply them again, assess the results and modify them further. If it feels too much then remember that you have done this before with other skills that you have mastered.
Remember the famous saying that is usually attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If it is not working the way you are doing it, something needs to be changed.
The Confidence Cycle (I think you could also call it the Learning Cycle) illustrates something that you already know unconsciously and you have been using it for your whole life. When you were taking your first steps, you practiced a lot. You gathered experiences in real life situations: on the carpet, on the parquet, on the tiles, on the grass, on the pavement, while holding someone’s hand, while keeping from the couch. You fell, you figured out what you have to do differently. You did it again. You practiced and practiced. And now you are here, walking so confidently like it was the easiest thing to do in the world.
So figure out what skills you need and want and start following the cycle.