This is the final blog in my Zest series where we have been discussing this high performance mindset and what it can deliver for you and your organisation.
Confidence is one of the most universally sort after improvements in individual mindset that we come across.
Faith in Ourselves
There are three aspects of confidence I want to draw your attention to. The first is perhaps what we think about most often: our faith in ourselves. Confidence is our belief in our ability to be the person we want to be, to achieve the things we’ve set ourselves to achieve, to deliver the things for other people we have chosen to seek in our lives. It is our belief in our ability to handle all of our responsibilities in any situation we are likely to meet. In particular our certainty that we can handle the situation we find ourselves in RIGHT NOW.
People who have enormous faith in their ability to deal with those things spend little time being distracted by worrying about whether they’re going to be able to pull "this thing" off. Whether or not they’re going to be comfortable, effective, pleasant, likeable, or make a positive contribution in this situation. People with the right level of confidence simply get on with doing what needs to be done and their attention is focussed outwards towards other people rather than on themselves.
We think less often about the mutually dependent relationship between confidence and self esteem, being more used to thinking of confidence as one of the expressions of self esteem. We know high self esteem drives high levels of confidence, and low self esteem undermines confidence and drives compensation behaviours like defensive aggression and arrogance. But confidence also plays a big role in building our own self esteem. If you like it’s like one of those positively reinforcing virtuous circles that we talk about when we’re looking at how human behaviour and mindset are conditioned into us. A confident person is generating conditioning which is building their self esteem throughout. Which is why confident people are much more open to hearing and accepting corrective feedback on the merit of the argument. It’s why people who have high levels of confidence are open - their faith in themselves makes them happy to expose themselves to other people’s scrutiny. It’s why people of great confidence are much better judges of what they are capable of, and what they are not, when considering putting themselves forward for roles, projects, relationships.
One of the ways of assessing our own confidence is to look at how we approach situations that we would like to get involved with. Do you delay getting involved or do you have faith in yourself that you will be well received and effective?
That brings me very naturally to the third aspect of confidence which is bravery and courage. In particular being brave enough to push back appropriately. In personal relationships as well as with our boss or colleagues. How often do we hear about people who don’t feel able to do stand up for themselves? Or who say “I can’t handle conflict” or “I’m not comfortable with conflict”?
“Conflict” is a very interesting word. Conflict primes us for negative outcomes. Not every situation where a human being has something to say which is corrective, or seeks to change opinions, or puts forward a different point of view, is about conflict. One of the dangers in telling yourself that you don’t handle conflict well is that you start to think of any interaction with another human being which is not about agreement, so any form of debate, as conflict or potential conflict so you move away from it.
Furthermore, leaders reading this will be very aware that the people you value most include those who are brave enough to tell you the stuff you need to be told. The absence of such courage damages organisations, and leads to the cliché Chief Executives’ disease: only being given information that’s good or exciting, distorting your view of what’s going on, depriving you of the chance to be as effective a leader as you’re able to and contribute fully towards the organisation’s goals. Leaders need members of the team to have the confidence to tell you what’s actually going on without demurring from it.
So confidence then is a combination of three things: faith in oneself, self esteem and courage.
To come back to where we started this series of blogs about expanding our ideas and understanding of what we mean when we talk about Zest. Zest is a combination of positivity, resilience and confidence. And that means positive, optimistic, motivated emotionally stable people with grit and resilience who are brave, have high self esteem, faith in themselves, and consequently a lot of confidence. That’s a wonderful mindset and behaviour-set which has been shown time and again to deliver multiple positive outcomes.
The question then becomes how do we do that?
Quite simply by focussing on the inputs. Zest is not something you can fake, feign or put on in the hope that it will become real. You cannot fake it till you make it. This is a situation where we need to let go of the outcome, Zest itself, and focus entirely on the inputs that deliver the outcome.
It’s very straightforward: if you want to have more Zest, you need to make sure that the balance of your conditioning is positive. Everything that you experience in life, read, listen to, watch, your conversations people. Ideally arrange for it to be 75% positive.
I recognise that’s not automatic and easy to achieve. Of course not. Like many things that are well worth having there’s a lot of effort required to achieve that balance. But Zest is totally about PIPO: Positives In, Positives Out. When you make sure that the vast majority of conditioning you allow into your brain is positive, your Zest will build and grow and manifest in all aspects of your life.