“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Performance improves when self-image improves. But you must take the initiative. No one can do this for you. The first thing you need to do is want to change. The second is that you must expect to improve. Listening to people who want to tear you down is not worthy of you. So, take inventory of who you are. (And if you think you are a quitter, channel that energy into something worth quitting, like smoking or drugs).
Remember that lots of successful people were failures at some point in their lives. Here is a very short list that ranges from a revered scientist to an athlete regarded as one of the greatest to a musician who is recognized as one of the finest.
Albert Einstein was less than a stellar student. Not only was he expelled from school as a youngster (he was quite the rebel plus he was regarded as “slow”); the Zurich Polytechnic School rejected him. He did make it into a university, but upon graduation he couldn’t get a teaching position because not one of his professors would give him a recommendation. He ended up in a government patent office. Nonetheless, he labored over his mathematical formulas and changed the laws of physics.
Michael Jordan lived through the humiliation of not making varsity on his high school basketball team the first try. And consider some of his less than stellar career statistics: he missed more than 9,000 shots and on more than two dozen occasions he took what was supposed to be the winning shot and missed it. He has said, “I have failed over and over and over in my life. And that is why I succeed.” (Credit: www.creativity post.com/psychology/famous_failures)
The story goes that Enrico Caruso was told numerous times by his voice instructor that he would never make it on the opera stage. The instructor thought that Caruso’s voice gave out on the high notes and advised him to quit. Caruso had other ideas. He practiced and pushed himself until he walked onto a world stage and was able to move audiences with his extraordinary voice.
And in the pantheon of people who could have been regarded as likely to not succeed was Helen Keller. You probably know her story: as a very young child a fever left her blind, deaf, and mute. Anne Sullivan, a teacher, believed in her abilities and helped her to receive an education and become a citizen of the world. Helen Keller said: “We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough.”
Take the lessons about attitude that these people, and so many others, learned and apply them to your life. Read books about and by them. I guarantee that many people you admire and regard as winners felt wrenching disappointment in their lives. Yet one theme appears in all their stories: They never gave up, no matter what anyone else told them. They saw themselves as successful long before it became so. Their image of the achieving person that they were to be came before reality and the evidence thereof.
As a student, you spend many hours studying. Would you rather be hanging out with your friends at a pizza joint? Sure, you would. But if you discipline yourself, you will be motivated by the pleasing results of a stellar grade. This will contrast to the pleasing methods of giving half the effort to earn a middling grade. The result is a feeling of enhanced satisfaction.
Another way to bolster your confidence is to listen to recordings of motivational speakers. If you can, attend one, or more, of their presentations. You might not agree with all their messages, but the takeaway is certain to contain positive reinforcement. After all, their job is to encourage people to take action. They wouldn’t still be on global stages, speaking to many thousands of people a year, if their insights weren’t needed and heeded. My short list includes the time-tested motivational speakers like Wayne Dyer, Zig Ziglar, and Joel Weldon.
There are other actions you can take that you might think sound silly, but trust me, they are anything but. Here’s an important one: Shake hands with authority, and look the person in the eye. Nothing says someone lacks confidence as much as a limp handshake and a reluctance to make eye contact. And don’t forget to smile. Don’t people with sour expressions turn you off? A smile, at the very least, says that you are glad to meet the other person. It’s a symbolic door opener.
The preceding is adapted from The Winning Advantage: Tap into Your Richest Resources by Raymond Houser ©2018 Raymond D. Houser and published with permission of the author.