15 years ago, I took the brave decision to turn my life upside down. I changed jobs, moved to Africa (Egypt, to be precise), and developed new personal relationships.
Even today, a question I get asked is: “how did you gain the confidence to do it”?
Here’s my answer: “Of course I was afraid! My inner dialogue was going crazy. What’s going to happen? What if I’m wrong? What if I lose… something?” (in reality, the only thing I lost was my fear).
It’s normal to feel nervous when exploring new territories. Here are my little-known ways to gain confidence when stepping in the unknown.
Allow yourself to explore the boundaries of your comfort zone
In my years of helping other people change, I’ve seen their plans fall apart because of one simple thing: they go straight into action, without taking the time to prep themselves for it (i.e. gain confidence). It gets tough, they freak out, retreat back into safety, and never dare to do it again.
This makes sense; your brain always sees discomfort as a threat. In response, it sends you such a strong signal to defend yourself that… you just can’t repress it.
But you can hack your brain and stop just before you trigger a “fight or flight” response.
You don’t like to speak publicly? There’s a middle-ground between the bathroom mirror and Toastmasters! Why not tell a story to some friends? Why not ask a question in a meeting? Why not volunteer to make a presentation on something you know well, and love?
Moving into new territories can be the first step on your journey to achieve your development plans for good. So…how far can you go until you feel a bit of discomfort?
Frustrated because you have everything to be a successful leader, but lack the confidence to step up?
Don’t push it if you’re not ready. Instead, plan carefully
One of my friends doesn’t like traveling (which makes for interesting conversations, as I myself can’t envision a life without exploring the world around me).
One day (and to my astonishment), he announced that he’s going to take a trip overseas with his family. As we discussed how he felt about it, he acknowledged that he wasn’t really looking forward to it.
So we came up with a plan for him to gain confidence and feel ready; we went through the whole trip in great detail. What places would he visit? What medicines would he need to bring? What might be the worst case scenario (and what should he do about it)?
A week before the big day, he told me: “I’m ready. I’m sure I’ll have a great time.”
Getting familiar with your destination (for a trip, or for your next life challenge) will transform you from shy to confident.
- Related: How to change your mindset
Know the level of risk involved
One of the reasons why we lack the confidence to try something new is our natural tendency to envision worst case scenarios – without taking the time to think about the probability of them happening.
This is where risk management can help you. Confident people take risks that succeed almost every time because they anticipate potential problems, and work at reducing them. When you find yourself exploring what could go wrong, go through this simple assessment: what is the probability? And what could be the impact?
When we deconstructed my friend’s trip, we discovered that food was a concern. So he went to his doc and asked for basic medication to take with him. This reduced his anxiety massively.
What part of it can you do?
Do you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
If you’re tempted to quit your next big goal because it doesn’t feel achievable, remind yourself that the whole is a sum of its parts. You might not be able to do everything now, but you can certainly start somewhere.
You can only gain confidence one step at a time, with patience and humility. Start where you are, and be smart with your progress. You finish a marathon by running at consistent pace, not by running for the first hour and walking the next two.
Ask for help or accountability buddy or mentor
In the literature of exploration, you have two schools: people who do incredible things solo, and those who do it as a group. But all acknowledge that even lone wolves spend time with the pack first!
On your journey to gain confidence, your worst enemy is right between your two ears. Why do you think athletes have coaches? To push them past their limitations, and to hold them accountable.
Find someone you trust, who knows you and can help you go deeper (or call me!). An external perspective will always put a different shade of light on the obstacles you face. To gain confidence, you need support. So go and get it.
Are you old or new you? The old surely can’t, what about the new?
Last year, I came across a (heart-breaking) story about how elephants are tamed. When they’re babies, they’re tied to a heavy piece of wood or concrete. As they grow up, they develop the strength to free themselves, but they still think the drag is far too heavy for them. So they stay.
What piece of concrete do you hold on to? Is your confident self still attached to outdated beliefs? Do you work to break through self limiting beliefs?
If you keep on telling yourself the same stories, you have little chance of clearing space for new ones. Change your mindset. Doubt your doubts!
On the 13th of June, 2003, I landed in Cairo, Egypt, for what would become one of the most important times of my life.
It taught me to relax about basic frustrations (will I ever get electricity and tap water at the same time?), make space for wonder (passing by the Pyramids on my way to work), and laugh every day (while attempting to talk with other people in the street).
To gain confidence for good is a process of paying less attention to what’s going on in your mind, and setting your focus on what’s happening now, and what you can do about it. By being pragmatic and doubting your doubts, you can surely get yourself into places you’ve never dreamt of before!
What is the personal achievement you’re the most proud of? Tell us in the comments below!