In my last post, I asked whether feelings follow action, or if we’re better off waiting to act until we feel confident. To explore the matter, I talked to friends and family, reached out to mentors, read a small library’s worth of HuffPost articles, and even consulted some medical research.
The verdict is in: people’s attitudes change after their behavior changes.
It’s an aspirational conclusion, but no matter how convinced of it we are, we’re all still likely to experience uncertainty and self-doubt on the regular. To overcome those emotional roadblocks, I’m sharing eight secrets for quick-starting confident action — even when you feel dubious.
SECRET #1: Ignore the who, what, when and where.
Few of us take the time to really understand what’s holding us back — in other words, why we don’t feel confident. This is probably the case because, in order to understand that “why,” we first need to sort through the very fears and feelings of discomfort that we’re avoiding by deferring action in the first place.
Save yourself the anguish. Ask yourself, WHY don’t I feel confident? Ask this question again… and again… and again, until you run out of answers. Only then have you gotten to the core of the matter. Now it’s time to get excited; this is your money moment!
When you tease out and understand your emotional roadblocks, you’ve essentially eliminated them. You’ve primed yourself to deal with them proactively instead of reactively — with a positive, goal-oriented self-awareness instead of a fear-ridden, fraidy-cat mentality. Congratulations, you are now able to drive looking through your windshield. It’s so much easier than maneuvering through your rear view.
SECRET #2: Invest in knock-offs.
Yep. You’ve heard the classic entrepreneurial mantra: fake it ‘til you make it. I’ve heard it a million times, but in a world where perception is reality, faux is only a faux pas if you let someone close enough to paw for the label on your masquerading mink. Let me be more clear: No one leaps onto a sinking ship, and people believe what they see. Hell, they believe what they feel. Act like you’ve got it together, and they’ll think you do. (You will, too.)
SECRET #3: Have sex every day for a year.
Didn’t believe me about faking it? Believe the woman who “after a lot of crying and shrimp curry, came up with the plan to fake confidence and have sex every day for a year.” Read for yourself how worthwhile the exercise was — but don’t you dare mistake what I just wrote as encouragement to fake an orgasm. This is most definitely not the point.
SECRET #4: Get to the gym.
This example functions as a microcosm for the topic at hand. How often have you not wanted to work out, but felt amazing after you start? Like feelings, endorphins come after we get moving. In other words, even from a biological standpoint, feelings following behavior. I’ve learned this lesson time and again myself: that the way I want to feel, let alone the way I want to look, very often comes only after I start acting like I feel that way already.
But learning that lesson isn’t the only reason to hit the treadmill for some sweat-dripping intervals — and please note I did NOT say elliptical; you and I both know exertion is not involved when you’re reading Vogue at the same time. In addition to boosting your serotonin levels and significantly reducing your stress levels, the gym is also a hot-house for “Aha” moments. Don’t believe me; consult the research: More often than not, your best ideas happen in unusual places. Think about what those’ll do for your confidence.
SECRET #5: Envision the 26k.
One of my mentors consistently tells me to remember that life’s a marathon, not a sprint. As a raging perfectionist and headed-for-the-psych-ward Type A, I mostly want to shoot him when he says this. (There’s also the fact that I love sprinting and hate distance running.) Other times, I feel like he’s funneling me endorphins. It just depends on the day.
Luckily, he’s only right on days that end in -y.
SECRET #6: Get someone else to do it.
It’s been said that there’s an art to delegation, and I’m convinced that part of this art is knowing when to inspire others to act in ways that inspire you to action yourself. Overwhelming feelings often keep us from culling facts, which are part of action’s fuel. And since knowing what we actually want to do is as critical, if not more so, than doing it — the more facts you can gather, the more likely you are to leapfrog your self doubt and act in ways you’ll like. Case in point: I’ve delayed acting on an idea for an event I want to host for months. So, I asked my admin to call a dozen local venues to get pricing for room rentals. Armed with that data, I finally felt like I had enough tangible information to take tangible action.
SECRET #7: Skip the rapture, and take a public stand.
In his stellar book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini elucidates the mind’s superglue-like psychological commitment to public declarations when he shares an example of a cult that predicted the end of the world on a specific day. While you might think the cult members would have wanted to garner converts prior to their appointed doomsday, the group denied all media requests, no questions asked. But then Armageddon didn’t show, and their behavior shifted dramatically — immediately. Within hours of the failed rapture, the cult had accepted and completed countless interviews. According to Cialdini, this example demonstrates our vise-like need to appear consistent, particularly in a social context.
Now, back to you. You’re stuck with all these damn feelings, and you want to get rid of them. So, ask yourself: Is there any way I can attract or create (a reasonable amount of) public awareness around what I want to do, as a way to publicly commit to that action? Do it, and you’ll succeed in harnessing the collective power of a social community to inspire yourself to get there.
SECRET #8: Have someone you can be real with.
A lot of us, particularly entrepreneurs, struggle with anxiety and despair, at least according to this fantastic Inc.com article: The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship. The problem is, there’s been a social stigma attached to admitting it, which is very often the gateway to getting through those sensations, whether by collaboration with or reassurance from others, or simply airing out what’s going on to alleviate internal pressure. All are key to getting from feeling to action, and all involve having quality people in your life. Put these friends and colleagues on speed dial, and then touch that button. (Just be sure to pick-up when they do the same.) Having people you can be real with will accelerate your ability to get real results.
The truth is, we often don’t know how action is going to play out. How will it impact our feelings? How will others react to what we do, and how will we feel about that? Those questions none of us know, but we do know that action is iterative. One action leads to more action, and so life goes.
So make like Nike, and Just. Do. It.