Confidence comes from having favorable expectations for achieving positive outcomes. Our every action is affected by the extent to which we feel we can count on ourselves and others to deliver what’s expected. When we feel confident, we’re willing to fully commit our time, energy, and money – and when we’re not feeling it, we hold back. Our degree of commitment determines our level of performance and the probability of success.
“Confidence is the sweet spot between arrogance and despair,” writes Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her book, Confidence. “Arrogance involves the failure to see any flaws or weaknesses, despair the failure to acknowledge any strengths. Overconfidence leads people to overshoot, to overbuild, to become irrationally exuberant or delusionally optimistic, and to assume they are invulnerable. But under confidence is just as bad, and perhaps worse. It leads people to under invest, to under innovate, and to assume that everything is stacked against them, so there’s no point in trying.”
Building self-confidence requires managing both expectations and performance. Expectations arise when we create a positive vision of our future and then go on to generate encouraging self-talk that supports our belief that we’ll be able to achieve our goals. Although positive images and emotions have been shown to be the necessary starting point, achieving success isn’t just a mental exercise. Performance must produce results that reinforce our expectations in order for confidence to continue to build.
After creating an inner desire to succeed, we need training, feedback, coaching, and supportive coworkers to insure that we’ll flourish in our initial efforts. It’s crucial that the first steps that we take toward our goals be successful since the subsequent emotions will be contagious.
The positive or negative feelings associated with experiencing success or failure has a powerful influence on subsequent expectations and performance. Positivity pulls people together, while negativity pushes them apart. Positive emotion boosts cooperation, decreases conflict, and enhances people’s perceptions that everyone will perform well. Negative emotion has just the opposite effect.
Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor, conducts research on high performing individuals. She discovered a consistent pattern in people’s performance that predicts success.
First, they are accountable. They take responsibility for their performance by seeking feedback that will help them to improve. Rather than making excuses or blaming others, they engage in self-scrutiny in order to learn how to make better decisions in the future.
Second, successful people collaborate well with others. Their relationships are characterized by an overwhelming number of positive interactions, which leads to a strong bond as they develop an ever-deepening understanding and mutual respect for each another.
Third, high-functioning individuals achieve that status through constant innovation and improvement. They want to make a significant difference, so they frequently suggest solutions to problems, consistently make measurable progress toward positive outcomes, and generate possibilities for building and broadening on their achievements.
Fourth, successful people develop discipline and establish routines in order to build their ability to be accountable, collaborative, and initiatory. Instead of whining, they work hard. They choose to think of the positive possibilities and are committed to doing something extraordinary every day to move toward those outcomes. They schedule and structure their lives so they have a well-established pattern to fall back on to prevent being derailed by the negative reactions that accompany problems.
As their success accumulates, so does their freedom from the distractions of having to react to the criticism of other people. Rather than having to direct their time and energy fighting with naysayers, being successful builds confidence and allows high-performers to focus on improving collaboration in order to achieve even more.
Incremental improvement builds people’s belief in their ability to make to make a meaningful difference in the world. As we learn to succeed, we start expecting to succeed, which increases our determination to succeed. That gives us the passion to put in extra effort, the key ingredient that produces an upward spiral of good performance and great results. Achieving positive outcomes produces the positive emotions for fueling even better performance and substantially higher levels of success. Initial success encourages us, consistent success empowers us.
Sustained success supplies two sources of satisfaction. We’re not only able to savor the fruits of our success, we benefit from a strengthened sense of confidence that we’ll be able to continue to generate outstanding outcomes. We develop a self-fulfilling prophecy that we can be the masters of our own fate. This sense of self-efficacy, of being in control of ourselves, forms the core of self-confidence.