By Créde Sheehy-Kelly, High Performance Psychologist
October 14th 2019
In over ten years of performance coaching, confidence is the one attribute that almost every single client has wanted to improve. Confidence is a central cog in the peak-performance engine. Research shows that people who have high levels of confidence are more likely to persist in the face of challenges, cope better with stress and adversity and recover motivation quickly after setbacks.
Luckily, confidence is not a personality trait we are born with, but a skill which can be cultivated with practice. Just as we train our muscles in the gym, we can increase our self-belief through using different mental tools and techniques on a regular basis. Similarly, when we fail to proactively work on our confidence we can find that it atrophies, just as our muscles would if we neglected to exercise over an extended period of time.
One of the finest examples of confidence in action is Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger’s spectacular feat of landing a powerless Airbus A320 in the Hudson River in New York, saving all 155 passengers on board. Captain Sully’s quick thinking and supreme confidence in his vast experience, training and decision-making led to him opting to land the plane in the Hudson River, despite receiving instruction from Air Traffic Control to return to LaGuardia or land it at Teterboro Airport nearby.
A subsequent investigation revealed that if Sully had followed instructions, the odds of all passengers surviving would not have been as high. Crucially, this life-saving level of confidence was not something that Sully had been born with, but had developed and refined over time.
“I knew the fundamental things I would have to do, and I was
confident that I could do them. I knew I had to focus on the
flight path, keep the airplane from hitting too hard, keep the
wings level, have the nose up.”
This was a display of confidence under extreme pressure, however it is equally as relevant and beneficial to cultivate confidence in our daily lives. Whether you want to increase your belief in your ability to successfully kick the last point in a tight football match or your confidence in presenting in front of a large audience, the following tips may help:
Confidence grows when we see ourselves succeed. Set challenging but achievable daily, weekly and monthly goals to break down even the most aspirational ambitions into concrete steps. Track your progress in a diary so that you can give yourself acknowledgement for progress made every step of the way.
Mental imagery is an effective tool to increase confidence, even for tasks that we have not yet achieved or currently lack the skill or ability to perform. Visualise the desired outcome in vivid detail in your mind, aiming to engage every sense in the image. Allow yourself to feel the confidence and the other positive emotions that would be elicited as you achieve your goal. Replay the image often for maximum effectiveness.
TALK YOURSELF INTO IT
Create self-talk cues that specifically address the area where you would like to increase your confidence and then repeat them either out loud or in your mind as you are preparing for or completing a task (e.g., ‘I can do this’ or ‘through the posts’). Use affirmations – positive statements about the self, expressed in the present tense. Write your favourite affirmations on post-its and stick them on your wall or mirror. Repeat them out loud every time you pass them to programme your subconscious with positive self-belief.
BE INSPIRED BY OTHERS
Seek inspiration from people you admire. Look for examples of people who are similar to you succeeding in the areas you also want to achieve in. Your confidence in your ability to achieve the same feat will increase as a result.
REVIEW YOUR PREVIOUS ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Seek inspiration from yourself! Watch YouTube clips of your great performances or write yourself a ‘confidence’ CV where you list all of your most meaningful achievements. Review these repeatedly before a performance or when you need to boost your self-belief.
Try this confidence guided visualisation exercise from the resources section of the website to enhance your self-belief: https://credeperformance/resources/confidence-visualisation/