Confidence is a heavily misunderstood concept.
Confidence cannot be faked.
You can fake and manufacture motivation, excitement, or even passion at the moment.
Unlike motivation and other emotional states which are more surface level, confidence is deeper and more subconscious.
In this article, I’m going to breakdown what confidence is and why most people don’t have much of it.
What Is Confidence?
The notable psychologist, Albert Bandura, provided the initial definition which has persisted and been the basis of research on confidence (self-efficacy) until even now.
According to Bandura: Self-efﬁcacy is deﬁned as people’s beliefs regarding their capacity 1) to succeed and 2) to attain a given level of performance.
For a long time, psychologists believed that confidence was reflected in one’s future performance. Recent research has called that assumption to question. Instead, the belief has shifted for many researchers — confidence is reflected in one’s past performance.
Here’s the simple idea:
- Your confidence is based on what you’ve done
- What you’ve done, in addition to the situation your prior performance has created, shapes your belief about your future
Confidence is for sure your belief in your capability to succeed. It is also reflected in the level of performance and mastery you can develop. In other words, your imagination and mindset are based on your confidence.
You can fake imagination and mindset for a short period of time. But at your core, you won’t really believe what you conjure up in your mind without the confidence to support it. For example, a person who has never made 6-figures may imagine they are making tens of millions.
But they don't really believe it to the level of conviction.
In the book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill stated, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”
A lot of people take that quote out of context. Or, they downplay what is actually being said.
It’s much, much easier to conceive of something than to really believe it. It’s actually very easy to think you believe something when you really don’t.
A lot of people think they believe in God, for instance, but don’t really believe.
True belief is like confidence. It cannot be faked.
Your perspective of your future and your past is based on what you really believe. You can fake positive and powerful beliefs in the short-term. But what you really believe is more consistent with your recent past and current situation.
Your future can be measured in your confidence. The more confident you are, the bigger your future. The more confident you are, the more you believe and know that you have the capability to transform yourself into your imagined goals. The more confident you are, the more you believe and know that you can and will succeed.
Breaking this down even further:
- Confidence comes from past performance
- Recent past performance is more important than the stuff you did 5–10 years ago
- You can’t ride the wave of old confidence for too long
- Who you were isn’t who you are
- You may have had huge confidence, faith, and imagination a few years ago but not have huge confidence now
- Your belief, level of imagination, and faith in your future are based on your confidence
- The bigger your confidence, the bigger your future
- The bigger your confidence, the better you are at learning
- The bigger your confidence, the less rigid and chaotic your emotional state
- The bigger your confidence, the less tied you are to the past, even though your confidence is based on your recent past and present circumstances
- The bigger your confidence, the more willing you become to transform yourself into what you truly believe and want
- The bigger your confidence, the less you identify with who you were and the more you identify with who you intend to be
Confidence very much is future-facing.
Many people’s mindset is past-facing because they are, quite literally, living in their past. People get stuck in their past for a number of reasons. The primary reasons include:
- Traumatic experiences that continue to be avoided and unconscious rather than processed, integrated, and made conscious
- A personal narrative and story that is based on past events (including traumatic experiences, prior successes, beliefs about themselves and life in general)
- A lack of decision about what they will do/be and what they won’t do/be
- An environment that resonates and reinforces their past rather than their future
- A lack of completion of desired goals
People want clarity about their future before they take action. However, clarity comes from action.
You can’t become clear on something without moving your life forward.
You don’t need the entire picture painted. You need to take the first step in the right direction. This first step often comes from eliminating the stuff in your life that you clearly know you don’t want.
Start removing a bunch of stuff from your life, calendar, and environment that you already know doesn’t match the future you want.
That single act will ignite your confidence while simultaneously decreasing your need for willpower.
But you won’t get that confidence-ignition UNTIL after you do something powerful.
Once you ignite your confidence, then more clarity immediately comes.
Clarity about your future and the belief that you have the capacity to create it are based on your confidence.
The more you organize your life and behavior to match your desired future, the more confidence you will have. As your confidence increases, your imagination for the future will expand, as will your belief that you can create that future — no matter how big it is.
Eventually, your confidence can reach a place where you know, deep in your soul, that whatever goal you set, you’re going to figure out a way to make it happen.
You’re completely committed to specific results. You don’t care how long it takes. You don’t obsess or attach to specific outcomes along the way. In the words of mindset coach, Carrie Campbell, you come to “Expect everything and attach to nothing.”
You expect success because success is what your recent past reflects. You expect success because you truly believe in what you’re doing. You expect success because increasingly the world and universe become a friendly and encouraging place for you.
You truly believe in what your mind has conceived. That belief is faith — as Florence Shinn said, “Faith knows it has already received and acts accordingly.”
Confidence and faith, then, become very much the same thing.
Confidence knows it will succeed and acts accordingly.
Confidence knows it will succeed BECAUSE it acts accordingly.
Faith without works is dead.
Confidence without action doesn’t exist.
Performance boosts confidence. Confidence then creates a future worth pursuing. Continuing to pursue that future boosts confidence, faith, and your future.
It’s a powerful feedback loop.
You confidence keeps the score. It’s either growing or disappearing. At the razor’s edge, you come to realize that every choice matters.
You must become more intentional.
Allowing little distractions in is alright. But you have to own that everything you do is impacting your confidence and thus, your identity.
Every little choice you engage in shapes who you are. Who you are shapes your future. Every choice, then, has an enormous cost.
You really need to weigh the cost of hopping on Facebook and turning your brain off. It may just be 5 minutes. But those 5 minutes reflect something much deeper — your future confidence.
When you watch yourself make a more congruent choice, that choice signals back to yourself who you are as a person.
Rather than watching that 5 minute YouTube video, you do what you really want to do. You make a decision based on your intended future rather than the dopamine of the moment.
It doesn’t take willpower to build confidence. It takes decision to build confidence. You make a decision and you own that decision.
Willpower, from a psychological standpoint, is often called “ego depletion” or “decision fatigue.” The reason it is called decision fatigue is that, the more decisions you make, the less willpower you have. Put another way, the more decisions your mind has to weigh, the less likely you are to make good choices over the long-haul.
Willpower, in reality, reflects an undecided mind. For instance, when your alarm goes off in the morning, if you haven’t made the decision about what you’re going to do in advance, then you’ll need to exert willpower in the present to do it.
You’ll need to exert willpower because you didn’t already decide. Thus, it takes willpower to weigh the decision. This is decision fatigue. It’s exhausting and usually ends in failure.
You will fatigue yourself emotionally and motivationally by being indecisive. Instead, you make one choice that eliminates other options. By removing options, you no longer have to think about it. 100% commitment is easier than 98% commitment.
Hence, decision isn’t just about making a choice, but also about designing your life to facilitate that choice. As Stanford psychologist, BJ Fogg has said, “Design crushes willpower.” James Clear has said, “In the long-run (and often in the short-run), your willpower will never beat your environment.”
Make a decision. Design your life to match that decision. Eliminate decision fatigue from your life. Hence, Napoleon Hill further had it right in Think and Grow Rich when he said, “Definiteness of Purpose is that starting point of all achievement.”
The more definite you become in what you’re doing, the more confidence you will build. This doesn’t mean you can’t pivot. But it does mean you’re committed, have direction, and will fight until you succeed. The word “until” is very important, and is fundamental to Hal Elrod’s new book, The Miracle Equation.
You’re committed to what you want.
Your faith and confidence increase as you continue pursuing what you genuinely desire and value, regardless of the outcomes along the way. You will continue forward until you succeed.
2 Reasons People Don’t Have It
If you’ve read thus far, you now have an educated perspective of confidence.
So, put simply, what are the two reasons people don’t have confidence?
The truth is, you cannot have confidence if you’re not congruent about what you’re doing. Many people succeed at the wrong things, only to find that they’ve been pursuing the wrong goals all along (deep down they knew all along — but they persisted, willpower and all).
It’s easy to get caught in the thick of thin things.
Confidence requires that you pursue and succeed at the right things. In order to determine the right things to pursue, you need to be connected to your deeper more intuitive self.
You need to give yourself time and space for reflection, prayer, meditation. The reason “meditation” is considered a key to success is because those who take the time to do it are simply more connected to themselves. They’ve given themselves space and time to connect. Meditation is sharpening the saw, rather than continuing to cut with a dull saw. Meditation is also clarity about which tree to cut down. You may just be cutting the wrong tree or climbing the wrong ladder.
Hence, congruence is key to confidence.
This became very clear to me recently. I was the keynote speaker at an event I really wanted to attend. However, unexpectedly, the biological mother of our three adoptive kids died and her funeral was during the conference.
I was torn.
I could get to the funeral and even get my family situated, and then take a red-eye to make the event and my speech.
But then I thought about my highest values and my highest vision of myself. My family needed to come first. I canceled the event.
Immediately after making that decision — which I must emphasize was very hard to make — I became a different person. I was totally aligned internally. I made a higher-level decision based on the future-self I intended to become. That single decision concurred with my values and future self.
I then showed up way differently for my family. I was way more attentive to their needs. Way more mindful of each of my children and their emotional state.
That one decision built huge confidence in myself. It also built the confidence of those most important to me.
That confidence will propel my future 1 million times further than had I gone to that event. Therefore, you shouldn’t be afraid to miss opportunities. You need to make sure they are the right ones.
You could spend all of your time working and hustling, but without confidence and congruence, your efforts will be minuscule. You can’t fake confidence. Moreover, you cannot be truly inspired as a person without confidence and congruence.
It’s not about how hard you can work, even though hard work is obviously involved.
It’s about doing the right work, cutting down the right tree with a sharp saw. Increasingly, it’s about doing inspired and truly profound work. In relationships and opportunities and experiences, it’s about being really connected to yourself, the moment, and the right people. That’s when 100X success happens. It doesn’t just happen by putting in the time.
You need to put in the right time and know when at what to say no to because you’re so clear on your why.
When you make powerful decisions, your future immediately changes because your confidence changes. Your future is based on your confidence; your confidence is based on your recent past. When you increase your confidence through powerful decisions, a lid is lifted and a new future presents itself in your mind.
Your future will continually expand, shift, and upgrade as your confidence changes. Your confidence is your subconscious belief system.
You cannot be confident if you have a lot of unfinished projects sitting on the shelf.
You cannot be confident if you aren’t a finisher.
Starting is easy. Finishing is hard.
How well do you finish each day? If you haven’t made a decision and designed your life, then chances are, the end of your days are probably lackluster and filled with distraction and binge eating. That’s because your decision fatigue has set in and you’re relying on willpower. Good luck.
Congruence allows you to know what to complete and what to drop.
But if there are things that are unfinished in your life, then your confidence is lacking. You need to finish. You need to put first things first.
This was another hard lesson for me. My wife, Lauren, and I have been doing therapy lately, which has been extremely helpful. In one of the sessions, Lauren became vulnerable and told me that my confidence levels were much lower than usual, and lower than they needed to be to create the future she knew I wanted.
She told me my confidence was low.
“Your confidence is low because you haven’t finished your PhD,” she told me. “You’ve been doing all sorts of other things, but you haven’t finished that. Once you finish that, everything you’re doing will explode 100X.”
She was right.
She gave me permission to basically drop everything and put in the 3–4 weeks needed to finish my dissertation and put my PhD behind me.
Here’s the thing, that 100X explosion of confidence, imagination, and success isn’t the byproduct of the PhD itself. Instead, that 100X increase in confidence is based on 1) congruence and 2) completion.
This PhD is congruent FOR ME, and for what I want to do with my own life and future.
It’s not about the goal itself. It’s about the goal in relation to the specific person. This is why congruence is so important.
When you become congruent and eliminate everything in your life that doesn’t match, and when you become a powerful finisher of everything you believe you should do, then your confidence and your future are like a rocket-ship.
Nothing can stop you.
What do you need to eliminate?
Are you congruent?
What do you need to complete?
How confident will you become?
What decisions do you need to make?
How can you better design your life to match your decisions?
How big will your future be?