20 Powerful Strategies to Build Your Confidence & Boost Productivity
“Confidence creates a sense of security, triggers positive emotions and improved performance,” — Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project
We all want to be confident in ourselves.
No-one likes to feel insecure and uncertain about themselves and their abilities.
Self-confidence is defined as a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment, but it feels like more than that — its a sense of sureness in yourself — it’s comes with a sense of well-being.
This is exactly what I lacked. I lacked self-confidence. I did not have trust in my own abilities, qualities or judgement.
In my eBook, 7 Simple Ways to Beat Fear, I talk about this and how, for many years, the fear of failure prevented me from living a full life. Indeed, huge chunks of my life were limited by me, through self-defeating and self-limiting thoughts and behaviors. I often believed I would fail, so I didn’t even try.
I know how it feels to go through life without confidence — it sucks.
As I stumbled, fell and eventually broke, I’ve had opportunities to experience small wins, one after another.
I use the strategies described in this article to overcome debilitating insecurities, and to build confidence in myself to increase my productivity.
I’ve identified a direct correlation between my level of confidence, and productivity.
When I’m confident in myself — I’m more productive.
Confidence = Productivity
You may find that none, one, or many of them work for you too.
One key point I’ve discovered, is that there is no single strategy, or group of strategies that works for everyone. I try stuff, and if it works, I keep doing it until it no longer works. Sometimes, I steal ideas to modify them and make them my own — so they work for me.
Succeed at Stuff
Here’s the thing. If you’ve never accomplished anything its not likely you’re going to be confident.
Conversely, if you are wildly self-confident, but can’t seem to accomplish anything (i.e. cannot hold a job for longer than 3 months, can’t maintain stable residence, argue frequently with the world around you, everything because you think your lack of success is not your fault), you should take stock of the reality of your life’s output and take another measurement of your self-confidence, because its possible you’re delusional.
It’s hard to be confident in your ability, when you’ve never really seen it at work, or if you’ve never really put it to work. So, find some small things to accomplish. Cut the grass, clean the house, start small. These may seem like menial tasks, and they are, but they are tasks that require attention to detail and effort.
Chances are, you’re already gaining small wins all throughout your day. Even in the mundane tasks you do daily like check and respond to email, clean the dishes, iron clothes, greet your fellow workers with a “good morning” as you start your day. We often overlook these small wins, because they are things we do everyday, so they often lose the feeling of being accomplishments, and sort of fade into the background of white-noise “business” that is your life.
My days are often filled with so many of these mundane activities, it doesn’t seem like I’ve accomplished anything at all by noon. In times like these, I will pull out a pen and paper and write down every-single task I completed that day, taking a shower and getting dressed even makes the list. Do this sometime — you’ll be surprised at how much you actually do in a day.
Just because we didn’t finish writing our book today, doesn’t mean we haven’t accomplished anything. Maybe you identified a few research sources for the book. Maybe you thought of an idea for a new character, or enriched an existing role.
Don’t get caught up in only looking at your progress toward major accomplishments — you’re only setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment.
Focus on your small wins, meditate on them frequently.
Small wins is the kindling you need to stoke your confidence flame.
Talk to Yourself
Your lack of confidence is likely a result of your self-talk.
Whether you believe it or not — you’re constantly talking to yourself.
I read online that most people have between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. And since we are constantly talking to ourselves, it makes sense to keep it positive.
Most people never take time to identify their self-talk, therefore don’t fully understand their behaviors. This self-talk has formed your core beliefs (self-identifying beliefs), and you tell yourself these continually. Your self-talk creates emotions, and your emotions determine how you feel about yourself, and how you behave. You may not know this, but you have a choice in how you think, feel and live.
What’s more, you can identify negative self-talk, and eliminate it from your life, and change the trajectory of your life for the better. Begin by listening. Pay attention to your inner-voice.
Since we’re always talking to ourselves, you can start anytime. You don’t need to wait until you feel 100% great, or 100% terrible — just start. Remember, our self-talk is often subtle, and it may be hard to point out at first.
If you can’t identify your self-talk, start with your emotions, and follow the path to it’s origin. If you’re feeling insecure, do some digging within. Ask yourself why you feel this way, where did the feeling come from?
Once you’ve identified the thoughts that cause the emotions, you can swap the current (bad) thoughts with positive ones. Yes, I know it seems corny, but trust me — it works.
Throughout the day you’ll experience a plethora of feelings. Continue to practice the identification and replacement of negative thoughts.
Stop Caring What People Think
Have you ever found yourself compromising on personal preferences, to please others.
People who lack self-confidence often feel the need to adjust their preferences and opinions to align with others, in an attempt to be liked.
People pleasing is a self-defeating habit that leads to a further lack of confidence on one’s self.
Take time to identify and acknowledge your own likes and dislikes, accept and embrace them. As you begin to learn more about who you really are, take time to celebrate your individual and unique “you”.
Resist the urge to compromise your true preferences when you are tempted to, in order to be liked or accepted by others. Because while you may win temporary favor with some people, you will sacrifice much of yourself, of your “inner-integrity” and you’ll leave yourself feeling more insecure than before.
Prepare yourself for the challenge, and don’t give in to the temptation to “go along with the crowd” next time you’re faced with the temptation.
There may be an initial sting of perceived non-acceptance by others, but you’ll gain respect by the ones that matter anyway. If not, at least you will have gained confidence in yourself.
Basic Underwater Demolition /SEAL Training, is a six-month training course held at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, California. Where potential SEALS are tested beyond comprehension both physically and mentally, in an attempt to weed out the majority — so only the toughest, most capable men are left standing at the end of the six months.
Training consists of rigorous swims in very cold Pacific Ocean water, days without sleep and constant harassment.
While these men represent the worlds fiercest warriors, they start each day with the most simple, and mundane task — making their bed.
Starting the day with making the bed instills a sense of accomplishment. It’s one task that is complete, which encourages the completion of another task, and yet another. Accomplishments, no matter how insignificant they may seem, are often the bedrock of building self-confidence.
It doesn’t have to be making your bed, but find something that works for you. The bed thing doesn’t work for me during this season of life.
My wife and I have five kids, two of which normally end up sleeping in our bed before morning, and I wake up at 4:30am. Imagine what would happen if I told my wife that her and kids had to move to another bed at 4:30 in the morning, so I can make the bed. Ha.
I go to the gym nearly every morning during the week — the workouts center me. On the weekends, I normally fly by the seat of my pants, the five little ones keep me on my toes, and typically don’t allow for much quiet time. Sometimes I hide in the bathroom with a book for ten minutes to get away and find my center.
Your center may be cleaning your desk, taking out the trash, going for a jog, writing in your journal, catching fireflies, or some other task.
The point is to find something small and seemingly insignificant that you can do quickly, and which gives you a sense of accomplishment and centered-ness.
Research shows that good grooming habits are linked to elevated self-confidence levels, improving our ability to build social capital and produce at high-levels.
Another, double-blind, study indicates women are more attracted to self-confident men.
In this study, a group of men participated in a video shoot. Some were sprayed with cologne, some were not. A group of women were shown the video, and noted a stronger attraction to the men who displayed a greater sense of self-confidence. The men wearing the cologne were the more confident ones.
Since something as simple as a fresh haircut, or a splash of cologne can act as an instant confidence booster, we should never forget to practice grooming.
People who are well-groomed, simply feel better about themselves.
“Believe in your flyness, conquer your shyness”
- Kanye West
My last job required employees to wear “business professional” attire. I usually wore a button-down shirt, tie, slacks and “dress shoes” every-day. Dressing nicely absolutely boosted my confidence level.
Today I own my own company, where we have no dress-code. Our only dress-code, is that you actually wear clothes. While I appreciate the psychological effects of wearing a shirt and tie every day, I don’t feel comfortable wearing a tie, and as funny I remember how liberating my shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops always felt at the end of the day. What’s more, I live in Phoenix, and neckties aren’t ideal attire for 115-degree temperatures.
While we don’t have a dress code at the office I run now, I personally like to wear clothes that feel comfortable, but look somewhat professional. For example, I’ll wear jeans, flops and a nice polo. Or shorts, vans and a nice polo. In my mind, the polo is nice enough and it often gives me the little confidence boost necessary.
Whether its a tuxedo, or shinny jeans, v-neck t-shirts with a pair of Toms or Red Wing work boots, wear what makes you feel your best. Whatever you wear, just make sure that its ironed. Wearing wrinkle laden outfits wont do anything positive for your self-image, no matter how fancy the garments.
Stop compromising on your principles.
This is an easy one to get snagged by, but the trade off isn’t worth the sacrifice. This is an elusive swap, which promises instant-gratification but only steals your identity and self-esteem. Bending on your firmly held beliefs, will leave you feeling deflated, and will trigger a cycle of looking outside yourself for contentment.
Everyone has a worldview, and a set of principles they believe people should live by, such as don’t lie, be good, don’t steal and the list goes on. Not everyone believes the same way, obviously — that is part of what makes you so unique. We are often tempted to waver on our principles, because having integrity is hard, our brains are wired to avoid pain.
Think back to the last time you didn’t fully abide by your principles, maybe you kept the extra change at Starbucks, or you forgot to pay for something at the self-checkout; how’d it make you feel?
Eliminate Negative People
We all have negative people in our lives.
Whether its a distant relative, someone at work, family members or the rude clerk at the super-market; negative people are everywhere and they will often pull you down without you even noticing.
You know who they are.
The ones constantly complaining, gossiping and blaming other people, institutions and situations for their own.
What someone says, speaks more to their character, than the character of the whom they are speaking about. Their negative thoughts and comments are not yours, so don’t own them. Don’t think about them.
Run away from these people as fast as you can. Run as far away as you can, and don’t look back.
Continue to concentrate on you as a person
Always Be Learning
“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” — Winston Churchill
Have you ever considered leaving a dinner party because the discussion centered around politics or sports, or some topic you knew nothing about?
Embarrassing isn’t it?
Reading, research and study is the answer.
I prefer reading books, but I soak up information from anywhere. Google, Wikipedia, Books, Articles, Youtube, Study.com and any other medium.
I’ve heard of some people who claim to read a book/day. I don’t have that much time between raising five children and running a business. However, I do take every opportunity, every minute of free-time to read. I currently read about one book each week. I typically read non-fiction material, but I also enjoy a good Grisham novel.
I always keep at least one book with me, but I read two or three books simultaneously. For example, I am currently on the last chapter of Ego Is The Enemy, by Ryan Holiday, Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson and Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. I’ve also recently begun reading Letters from a Stoic by Seneca (recommendation from Ryan Holiday).
There is no rule, really. I may be so engaged in one book, that I don’t touch the others for a few days, but overall I try to read two or three different types of writing each day.
It takes me longer to finish a single book this way, but my goal is to diversify my input to become more intellectually-rounded.
Aside from what I already mentioned here are a few other advantages I gain from reading lots:
• Reading improves my communication skills, which makes me confident
• I gain subject knowledge, which builds confidence in said topic
• Reading soothes me. It’s calming effects always leave me feeling refreshed and more balanced within.
• Reading gives me a sense of accomplishment, unlike watching television, or aimless online browsing
• Reading makes me feel more intelligent, even if I can’t perfectly recall what I’ve read.
• Reading increases my ability to make educated choices. I always feel more confident after making a wise decision.
• Reading inspires my writing. And while writing does not yet increase my confidence, I thoroughly enjoy it.
Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy claims “your body language may shape who you are”, in her TED talk discussing the benefits of practicing good posture.
In her research-backed presentation, she points to evidence that good posture and power-poses, used frequently, will quickly increase testosterone levels, leading to higher confidence.
Sure, slouching is great for some things, like Netflix binges, falling asleep at work, and causing a backache, but if you want to look and feel more confident in yourself — sit up straight.
And, even if you don’t gain confidence at least your back will thank you!
Monitor and Celebrate Goal Progress Frequently
“Writing a book is a long hard slog that can be incredibly discouraging. Progress is in short supply — the end seeming very far away. By breaking the book up in small pieces you create the illusion of progress, a sense that I am crossing stuff off the list.”
Our big goals are necessary, but they can be overwhelming when we don’t see progress. Instead of being motivating, big goals can be discouraging.
You sit down at the beginning of a new project to outline your goal. Excited for the journey, you charge ahead.
After a couple of months, reality sets in and the excitement wanes. You don’t see progress quickly enough, and you start to feel as if you may never reach the finish line. Negative thoughts creep in, and you consider giving up.
If this describes you — you’re not looking at your small wins.
The Ryan Holiday quote above is from an article he recently published on Medium entitled Here (with 2 Years of Exhausting Photographic Detail) Is How To Write A Book, in which he shares photographs of his computer screen, showing the long list of revisions for his book Perennial Seller.
In this article, he describes the process he uses to write a book. In short, it’s a moiling commitment, and its easy to get discouraged. He frequently reflects on the long list of document revisions saved within the Dropbox folder; each document represents a new manuscript revision, and another step closer to the finish line.
Find ways to track, record and monitor the progress you make toward your larger goals. Look at them daily, weekly or monthly if necessary.
Seeing the small wins will increase your confidence every-time.
You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
- Winston Churchill
Volunteering doesn’t have to be this huge event, helping others can be as simple as sending someone a useful web-link related to a current project their working on. If you read a book, or an article that may be helpful to someone you know — send them a copy, or email them a link to the article. Take a trip to your local Rescue Mission to help prepare meals, or head over to a nearby homeless shelter and ask how you can help serve.
According to the AARP write-up referenced above, volunteering has various mental and physical health benefits:
• Volunteers gain a sense of meaning, purpose and accomplishment
• Helps to identify a source of strength that’s greater than your own
• Release of dopamine
• Decrease depression
• Increase self-confidence
You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas to serve, begin today by helping someone nearby.
Transfer Your Focus
I know some people who have something negative to say about nearly every situation they encounter. The cook didn’t prepare the food exactly as they envisioned, so they send it back and scold the server. A friend or family member doesn’t behave the way they think they ought, they gossip. It’s too hot outside. It’s too cold outside. No matter what the situation — they find a way to focus on the negative.
These people will never find freedom and peace, until they re-train their mind(s) to ignore the negative and focus on the positive.
Try to see the positive in every situation. When negative thoughts surface, push them aside and concentrate on the positive aspects. If you can’t see any positive aspects, look harder, look closer, think outside the box.
Since building self-confidence requires you to change the way you see yourself, you need to completely eliminate negative. Negative thinking in one single area of life, will eventually seep over into all areas of life, until all you can see is negativity and darkness.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self- confidence is preparation.”
- Arthur Ashe
Do you remember how you felt when you had a high-school test you weren’t prepared for? Instead of studying and reviewing and practicing the material, you spent your time watching television, or hanging out with your friends. How confident were you about taking that test?
Practicing, over and over again augments the personal growth process as you persist. As you become more prepared, and more experienced in one area, you self-confidence is straightened. Make an endeavor of practicing new things. Perhaps you’ve never been very good with Microsoft Word. Take an online class, and begin to practice until you’ve gotten proficient. Now do this with MS Excel, then Powerpoint and again something else.
The more small things you become good at, the better you will feel overall. There is a compound effect at work here.
Sure, it’s just one small thing you’re getting good at. But do that every month. In a year, you’ve become good at twelve things.
The more diverse your portfolio of skill(s), the better you’ll feel about yourself, and the more confident you’ll become overall.
Your self-confidence will increase with each new accomplishment.
Pick up Heavy Stuff
It’s no surprise that working out comes with a multitude of benefits, but how does that effect self-confidence?
Our list of personal development strategies for building self-confidence wouldn’t be complete without looking at the ways exercise contributes to the equation. Exercising helps us experience a sense of achievement provides enhanced well-being, improved physical health, more desirable physical appearance, change of mindset, increased physical and psychological performance, and improved concentration and focus.
However, if you can’t make a long-term commitment to exercise, you’re probably going to walk away feeling less confident that when you began. Sure you may hit the weights hard for a week or maybe a month, but if you don’t commit — you’ll walk away feeling like you’ve failed at something else.
Here are a couple of tips that will help you stay focused and stay committed to your workout routine:
1. Decide that you want to get fit more than you want to keep making excuses
2. Find a workout plan online and stick to it. If you miss a day, pick up where you left off. I like this one because it gets me moving six days a week and hits every muscle group at least once each week.
3. Don’t worry about finding a great diet right away. Just start going to the gym, and keep going — you’ll eventually develop a strong desire to eat more healthy.
4. You can ask for an “accountability partner” if that works for you, but its been my experience that if you don’t want to get fit, no amount of “accountability” is going to help.
5. Don’t compare yourself to the super-fit people there. When you see these people in the gym, remind yourself that you’re headed for that level of fitness if you stay committed.
6. Don’t let excuses keep you away from the gym. Make the commitment and stick to it. Sick? So what — go anyway, just take it a little easier than normal. Sure, your cold may last longer, but your muscles and your body will still benefit from the exercise.
I made a commitment to exercise regularly one and a half years ago, and I still go to the gym every morning. I’m tons more confident now than when I started over a year ago.
Ask for Help Always
Stop pretending to know more than you do, and be honest. You’ll find immediate freedom by saying “I don’t know, but I will find out”.
Wait, confident people don’t need to ask for help, do they?
Yes they do. In fact, the more confident a person — the more questions they ask. Confident people ask alot of questions because they understand that asking for help is a chance to learn something.
It’s an opportunity to become a better version of your self. They value the knowledge, experience and education of others, because they know success is not possible without input from others.
When you lack self-confidence, asking for help is the last thing you feel like doing, it feels contrary to every thought racing through your mind.
So, the next time you’re tempted to hide your lack of knowledge — ask someone for help, and experience the freedom of humility.
For it is by humility that we discover our true abilities; and by the understanding of our true self - that we gain self-confidence.
Stephen King, Oprah Winfrey, Albert Einstein, Vincent Van Gogh, Elvis Presley, Michael Jordan, Steven Spielberg, Thomas Edison, J.K. Rowling; aside from being wildly famous, what do all these people have in common?
Yep, they all failed. Epically, even — at some point along the road to greatness. So, don’t feel too bad if you don’t succeed on your first try. In fact, expect it and embrace it. As crazy as it sounds, failure may actually lead to some of your greatest moments of success.
“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”
- Elbert Hubbard
We allow our lack of confidence to prevent us from trying, but avoiding a challenge can be worse than failing.
Think about how good it feels to do something you’re good at. You walk away feeling a little taller, a little stronger, a little smarter and a little better looking right?
That’s the feeling of confidence.
That’s what you want to replicate. Start by tackling some small challenges.
Accomplishing the smaller challenges will make you feel good. You’ll want to experience that strong and confident feeling again, so you’ll attempt an even bigger challenge.
Each success will increase your confidence a bit more. Sure, you’re not going to succeed at every new challenge on the first try, but the more you try — the more confident and more productive you’ll become.
Live Your Way into Good Thinking
“You can’t think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking.”
- Bill Wilson, Co-Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous
I’m not saying you should forsake positive self-talk. In fact, I’d suggest using your inner dialogue, in conjunction with your actions — to create a more confident you.
If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just can’t muster enough positive thoughts to thrust yourself from the mire of self-doubt. Sometimes your inner-critic talks too loud, and you simply cannot seem to cut through the noise thats bouncing around in your head.
It feels like there is a traffic jam in your brain, and there’s a semi truck closing in on your bumper.
The only way to feel better about yourself is to break free from the noise.
This is when you need to take positive action. This is precisely when you need to do something good. It works best when you do something to help someone else.
The volunteering we talked about earlier works great in these situations. However, humanitarian efforts aren’t your only way out.
Get up, do something, anything that’s productive will work. It doesn’t have to be something huge. Simple tasks are the best place to start:
- Walk your dog.
- Sit down with a pen and paper and prepare a hand-written letter to someone.
- Send out Thank You cards to everyone who came to your kid’s graduation.
- Go buy some ingredients and bake brownies for a neighbor.
- Go get your haircut.
- Trim your nails.
- Jog a mile.
- Walk a mile.
- Iron clothes.
- Read a book.
- Write in a journal.
- Find an old piece of furniture, sand it down and repaint it.
Do something productive, no matter how small and, you’ll walk away feeling better about yourself, every time.
It’s true — there is no distinct connection between self-confidence and success. Scores of successful people are insecure, and an even greater number of confident people, are not even close to being successful. However, confidence portrayed does tend to increase your chances of acceptance.
Expect and Give Acceptance to Maintain Esteem, is the title of the second chapter in Debra Benton’s book Executive Charisma, where she explains the benefits of portraying confidence in order to gain acceptance.
In other words: Act the part. Fake it til’ you make it.
Just because you don’t feel 100% confident 100% of the time, doesn’t mean you have to walk around with your face to the ground, like a chump.
Practice being confident by “playing the part”. Try walking and sitting with good posture, looking people in the eye and giving a firm handshake when you meet.
Portraying confidence may increase your chances of being successful and if you are successful — you’ll feel more confident.
Others will see your “confidence” and automatically think you have good reasons to be so sure of yourself. It’s likely they’ll be confident in you too.
Stop Blaming Others
“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”
— George Washington Carver
There is one thing that will stunt your self-confidence, more than anything else — being irresponsible.
When instinct drives you to search out a resting place for blame, look within.
We can’t control many of our circumstances. We can’t control the outcomes of our choices. We can’t control how people will view us.
But we can control our choices and our actions.
There is freedom in taking responsibility. Not just in the big things, but in the small ones as well.
Don’t pretend its the GPS’s fault. Maybe you just didn’t follow the directions well.
Don’t blame your overgrown lawn on a broken mower, take responsibility and correct the problem.
Having the humility and courage to admit when you’re wrong, or when you need help is a sign of confidence - and the act will work to strengthen your self-worth even more as you grow.
Building healthy, core-confidence can take time. We become more sure of our abilities as we experience successes. It builds over time, little by little. One small win builds on the next and it continues. This is how confidence is built.
While it cannot be proven that success is a direct result of confidence, self-confidence has been linked to increased performance, happiness, social ease, good health and overall well-being.
In my world, confidence equals productivity. Therefore, I try to build confidence in myself, or in my ability to get the right help — always.
Here’s the deal. Everyone is different, and there is no single formula for success. Try tons of stuff, do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
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