You're in the grocery store.
A beautiful girl catches your eye.
You start coming up with a million ways to say hello.
Your paths are about to cross.
She's walking by you right now, and….
The opportunity is lost.
What held you back?
Lack of confidence? Fear of rejection?
Confidence is one of those things that’s hard to describe, it’s intangible so we can only realize it when we feel it or see it.
Confidence is what sets high performing individuals from the rest of the pack. People who have confidence reach for their goals, have the guts to approach anyone they want and are comfortable in their own skin.
Are you one of those people?
If not, chances are that you want to improve your confidence….but how exactly do you do that?! Because confidence is one of those things you can only sense or feel, it makes it really hard to improve it in a systematic way.
Well, you’re in luck today because I’m going to share four actionable strategies you can use to build unshakeable confidence.
This is a guest post by Katrina Razavi, founder of CommunicationforNerds.com. Sign up for a free three-video mini course called: How to Have Charismatic Conversations. It covers six secrets to social confidence, the #1 strategy to improve your life and how to have natural conversations even if you’re super awkward.
1. Get out of your comfort zone…safely
Do you ever have an urge to do something out of the ordinary but talk yourself out of it? It may be a bold idea you want to share with your CEO, a business idea you’ve been sitting on for years, or approaching a girl you’ve been wanting to talk to for months.
Here’s the problem with not acting on those desires: Sitting inside your comfort zone leads to stagnation.
When you’re not exploring new experiences, you’re further digging yourself into the comfortable “comfort hole” you’ve been sitting in for years or even decades!
Although it can be intimidating to approach your CEO or talk to someone you’re romantically interested in, you have to find a way to do it.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be scary, but it’s necessary because when you try new things you’ll improve your confidence by proving to yourself that you actually can do things you’ve always been afraid to do. Why?
Because the hippie self-affirmations of telling yourself that “you are confident” or “you are strong” won’t really do much. You need to prove to yourself that you actually are those things and when you can do that, you’ll have a collection of positive experiences that you can reference to show yourself that you’re awesome.
The secret of true confidence is that it starts with you.
Action Item: Set micro-goals
Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you the cliche advice of “just do it.” Instead, I want you to tackle getting out of your comfort zone in a totally different way, and you can do this by setting micro-goals.
Micro-goals are “chunks” of a larger goal that you can use to your advantage to get things done and build momentum to continue improving.
Let’s take the CEO example. You have a business idea that you want to share with the CEO but you just can’t get the guts to approach her in the office. Well, think about a smaller goal that you can achieve that has a similar outcome…lower the bar.
Here’s what I mean. You may be afraid to approach the CEO, but how about an email? You can take the time to craft the perfect message about your idea without getting nervous approaching her as she’s briskly walking down the hall. By making your audacious goal smaller and much more digestible you increase the odds of following through.
Let’s take another common example– getting a date with that girl you’ve been eyeing at the gym for the past few months. That’s a pretty aggressive goal. That girl may have a boyfriend or may not even be single!
How about setting a micro-goal of having a 5 minute conversation with her? You don’t need to get a “yes” to a date or even get her number, but you can establish some rapport and become friendly so that you can work your way up to asking if she’s up for a date. Doesn’t that sound better than continuing to stalk her by the treadmills until she says something to you?
Setting micro-goals allows you to step out of your comfort zone safely. As you achieve your micro-goals you’ll begin to see that you do have the confidence to step outside of your comfort zone so you can begin stepping out more often.
Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone at least once a week. It may be joining coworkers for happy hour for the first time, approaching that cute guy you’ve been eyeing or trying something totally new like improv!
Here are a few more tips on setting micro-goals:
- Write– physically writing down your goals will force you to think through the details and how you’ll actually accomplish the goal, it will also help you remember your goals since writing things down has been shown to increase retention
- Get specific- Select a specific day and time when you will work on your micro-goal. Make a calendar event or reminder on your phone so it “cues” your new behavior towards your goal
- Track your goals on a regular basis– I’d recommend tracking your goals on a daily or weekly basis. When you are tracking and eventually accomplishing your goals you’re priming your brain to focus in on what’s important to you– continuing to achieve more!
- Visualize– Visualize accomplishing your goals. Studies have shown that visualizing something activates the same motor parts of your brain that are activated when you physically do something. This remarkable Harvard study split subjects who were to practice piano in two groups. One group practiced the piano physically and another group of subjects played it mentally (by visualizing) What happened? Both groups had the same changes in the motor parts of the brain showing that visualizing playing was just as effective as physically playing it!
2. Know your Values
Do you ever notice that confident people are pretty decisive? They don’t take 10 minutes to order food at a restaurant or get bogged down in analysis paralysis. That’s because people who are truly confident know what they want.
How do you start to define what you want?
The first step is to define your values.
In Awaken the Giant, Tony Robbins writes about values in two distinct forms. There are “means” values and “end” values and they’re tied to the emotional states you’re looking to feel like happiness, pride, safety etc.
- Means Values- these are ways you can trigger the emotional states that you’re truly looking for. A prime example is money. Money is usually a means to something else. What you may actually be looking for is financial freedom, but money gets you there so it’s a “means value”
- Ends Values- these are the emotional states you desire like love, security, and happiness.They are the emotional states that your “means values” provide. Taking the money example, your end value may actually be security and wanting to feel financially stable
Note the distinction between the means and ends values here. The “means” values are basically the things you think you want in order to get to your “ends” values.
That being said, it’s time to get specific and figure out what your ends values are. “Means” values can be helpful in getting you to think about your “ends” values but the point of this strategy is to clearly define your “ends” values.
Getting clear on what you value will allow you to make better decisions faster and will give you a stronger sense of “self” which will give you everlasting confidence. This seems like a simple concept, but this is something most people rarely do.
Confident people take control of life, rather than letting life take control of them.
Action Item: Define your ends values
Block out one to two hours this week to sit down and write your top ten “ends” values. To get there, it may help to start with some of your “means” values that will help you arrive at the destination of “ends values” that you want to hone in on. Be honest with yourself and get clear on them.
Here are some questions that may help:
- What are the things that mean the most to me in life?
- What are the things that I do not care about in life?
- If I had to make a tough decision, what are a few values I MUST consider?
- If I had to make a tough decision, what are a few values I’d disregard?
- If I had kids (or if I have kids) what are the lessons I’d teach them? (This will help you define what truly matters to you)
3. Embrace change
Do you ever find yourself obsessing over the past or the future?
Perhaps you obsess over “wrong” decisions or where you’ll be three years from now.
Don’t worry, it’s something many of us do. But here’s the catch about obsessing over your past and future selves– the person you were five years ago is way different than the person you are today and the person you will be five years from now!
Five years ago you had different tastes, friends, and interests and who knows what those will be five years from now! Embrace the fact that “me” is constantly changing and evolving.
This is important to internalize because many times we say things like, “I can’t do that, that’s just not the way I am” or “Everyone thinks I’m shy, if I start talking to new people they’ll think something is off.” Thinking that our personalities are “fixed” will make it hard to grow.
Interesting research by Carol Dweck has shown that children thrive at school when they adopt a “growth” mindset. They had the belief that they could improve in a given area, opposed to students with a “fixed” mindset who believed that their skills couldn’t be changed and were permanent. She was able to show that this “growth” mindset improved performance.
So don’t fall for the notion that you have to be a certain way or that you can’t grow, that will only limit your confidence.
Action Item: No judgements for 24 hours
We’re constantly judging ourselves and those around us. Think about it, we’re out and about constantly “people watching” and judging what other people wear, how they act, etc. We’re also in our own heads judging ourselves about who we are and how we used to be.
In order to get out of the habit of making judgements about yourself, you have to develop the habit of making no judgements at all.
This is actually extremely difficult. When you attempt to cease all judgements in your mind you’ll realize how damn judgemental you are of yourself and others!
Simply choose one day per week to make no judgements whatsoever. You’ll notice that your mind defaults to judging events, people, and yourself instantly.
The goal here is to prime your brain to release all judgments and kill the habit of making automatic judgements. Not only will this help you become more present, but you will also find yourself being more accepting of others and most importantly, yourself.
4. Be present
This strategy may seem way too simple to be true, but it is absolutely necessary to build your own self-confidence.
Why? Because when you’re present you’re fully engaged.
Have you ever spoken to someone and felt like you were the only person in the room? Let me guess, that person made you feel super special.
They were able to do that because they were present in the moment and they could focus and feel the conversation on a much deeper level compared to someone who was in their own head.
Once you begin to develop presence you will find that you’ll be able to retain information better, you will have deeper conversations with others, and you will experience empathy on a much deeper level.
When you’re engaged in your own head or worried about what others think, you’re using up precious brain power in your prefrontal cortex which lowers executive functions (like decision making) and impairs your memory. Ever blanked in a conversation? You likely weren’t present and your prefrontal cortex was probably bogged down.
Living and experiencing life in the moment takes practice, but if you can make it a consistent habit you can transform your life.
Numerous books and studies have led us to understand the importance of presence. In Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, he divides time into two types:
- Clock time – is the practical matter of time including learning from the past, goal setting and doing our best to predict our future based on our experiences
- Psychological time – is the psychological construct of time that gets in the way of being in the now and turns into negative self-talk.
It’s the difference between using time practically (i.e. using time to be punctual for meetings) versus obsessing over the past and the future by worrying about psychological time. Focus on using “clock time” to live your life rather than “psychological time.”
Action Item: Mental Double Checks
A handy habit I constantly use to stay present is what I like to call “mental double checks.” It’s an easy way to mentally “check-in” with yourself regularly.
You simply develop a trigger (like a reminder on your phone or calendar) a few times a day with the following question “Where’s your head at?” and just like a lifeguard observing the pool, you simply observe what is going on in your mind.
Are you thinking about dinner plans while you’re’ in a work meeting? Are you telling yourself that you’re not good enough instead of listening to your conversation partner? The only way to truly call yourself out is to mentally double check yourself.
You can start by doing this a few times a day or hourly if you really want to realize how often your mind drifts away from the present moment. After you answer the question, get back to the moment at hand. Take three deep breaths to get you back into the present and re-focusing on what you’re currently doing.
Conclusion & free mini-course
Confidence may be one of those characteristics that ebbs and flows for you but by implementing these action items you can begin to build confidence that will last over the long-term.
By stepping outside of your comfort zone, defining your values, embracing change and being present, you will have the foundational confidence to make anything happen!
This is a guest post by Katrina Razavi, founder of CommunicationforNerds.com. If you liked this article, visit her site to sign up for a free three-video mini course called: How to Have Charismatic Conversations. It covers 6 secrets to social confidence, the #1 strategy to improve your life and how to have natural conversations….even if you’re socially awkward.