Overcome the Eight Barriers to Confidence

By: Jim Bruce
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Today’s Tuesday Reading turns to the subject of confidence by considering Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s essay “Overcome the Eight Barriers to Confidence”.  Professor Kanter is Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor at the Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence:  How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End.

Kanter notes that to be a more confident you, you have to stick to what you have set out to do.  She sees confidence as an expectation of a positive outcome.  It is not a personality trait.  Rather it is an assessment of a situation that results in motivation.  In her words, “If you have confidence, you are motivated to put in the effort, to invest the time and resources, and to persist in reaching the goal.”  Success is not produced by confidence, but rather by the investment and the effort.  Without confidence it is too easy to not get started or to give up early in the journey.

Her research has led to defining eight traps that can keep you from having the confidence to work toward your goals:

  • Self-defeating assumptions.  You think you can’t, so you don’t.  It’s one thing to be realistic and something entirely different to behave like a loser before entering the game.
  • Goals that are too big or too distant.  Confidence comes from repeated small wins where each step brings you closer to the big goal.  Take the bigger goal, break it into a set of smaller linked goals that are meaningful and valued.
  • Declaring victory too soon.  After taking the first successful step, you still have to complete the next one, and the next one, andthe rest of the journey.  Step-by-step discipline builds confidence.
  • Do-it-yourself-ing.  You cannot do it alone.  Or, without a support system.  Or, without the support of others.  To build your confidence, work to build the confidence of others creating a culture in which everyone is more likely to succeed.
  • Blaming someone else.  Confidence is about taking responsibility for your own behavior.  Whining reduces confidence about future possibilities.  “Confidence is the art of moving on.”
  • Defensiveness.  Don’t defend yourself when you are not being attached.  Apologize for your mistakes but not for who or what you are.  Lead with your strengths.
  • Neglecting to anticipate setbacks.  Confidence always requires a healthy does of reality.  It is not blind optimism.  There will be problems along the way to the win.  Be prepared for whatever might happen.
  • Over-confidence.  Don’t let your confidence slip beyond the sweet spot between despair and arrogance to the arrogance end.  Arrogance and complacency easily lead to neglect of the basics, deaf ears to the critics, and blindness to the forces of change.

It’s not enough to feel confident, you have to also do the work.  Kanter says that with an expectation of success, you can try new things, have new relationships, contribute to shared success, and have great small wins that move you toward the bigger goals.

Have a great week as you approach your work in confidence.  .  .  .   jim

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