Our beliefs are what determine the action we do or don’t take. Our brains are not concerned with the accuracy of our beliefs. Only that we BELIEVE them. So, when we hold limiting beliefs about our abilities, worthiness or destiny, we ensure our continued frustration and unhappiness. The really awesome news is that our brains are very elastic and can be reprogrammed to be more confidence-prone. So, what does THAT mean and how difficult is it?
Confidence is what turns thoughts into judgments about what we are capable of and THAT transforms judgments into action “Confidence is NOT just feeling good about ourselves,” Richard Petty, psychology professor at Ohio State University says.
“Confidence is what turns our thoughts into actions”. So THIS is why just thinking about what we want to be when we grow up and working hard to achieve are not enough to turn our dreams into our reality.
Taking Action Builds Confidence
Petty observed that for us to realize our dreams, we need the courage to take action, even when it’s scary and to have a strong will, even when it is difficult. The natural result of low confidence is inaction. When we hesitate, we don’t act because we are unsure. The interrelationship between confidence and action is compellingly simple. Confidence is a belief in our ability to succeed and it is a belief that stimulates us to take action. Taking action enforces our beliefs in our abilities to succeed. Confidence accumulates through the experiences of hard work, successes as well as failures.
Zachary Estes, a research psychologist who studies the confidence and the disparity of it between the genders conducted a test a few years ago. He conducted an interesting test where he asked all participants to answer every question. The women and men got 80% correct, suggesting identical ability levels. That’s not surprising. The results of the next test are surprising though. This time, he asked each person to report their confidence in their answer. Simply having to think about how well they did on the test impacted their performance. The women’s scores dipped to 75%, while the men’s increased to 93%. What?!!? One little nudge to ask how sure the women were of their answer reduced their confidence, while the same question boosted the confidence that the men had in their answers.
Beliefs and Confidence Are Self-Perpetuating
In the final test, Estes told some men and women that they were doing very well. Both genders enjoyed a dramatic increase in performance. Their scores went up on the next tests they took. Self-confidence can be self-perpetuating – regardless of whether it is good or bad.
If we have the abilities, and we do, then the only thing holding us back is taking action, which will make us feel more confident, which will improve our performance, which will perpetuate the cycle of success and confidence boosting. But how do we overcome a lifetime of limiting beliefs, playing it safe and being risk averse? How do we move past being held back by our own low confidence, of underestimating our abilities, skills and talents?
Push Through Even Though It’s Uncomfortable
Research in neuroscience emerges almost weekly that shows how elastic our brains are and that they can and do change over our lives. If we keep at it, stay with the discomfort to act and push through, we improve our confidence level AND our performance. We need to stop thinking and just act! If we can channel our talents for hard work, we can make our brains more confidence prone. There’s the hope and the promise.
Think about a time when you’ve persevered through something difficult. And no negative self-talk about how you had no choice in the matter etc. Perseverance of any sort counts and it is worth counting. Think about how you felt as you experienced the adversity. It was hard and you didn’t like it, right? AND, you made it through. How did it feel when you survived that difficult time? What was it like to look back and realize what you had overcome? Give yourself the respect and appreciation you’d give your closest friends and family members. Applaud your accomplishment! Relish the character you developed! Embrace the truth that you are someone who can and did overcome! Invite that belief to settle into your soul! Nurture that belief, compliment yourself on the perseverance you showed. Journal how good it feels to think back on how you’ve weathered this storm. Write down every detail you can think of and read it often.
This, is how you retrain your brain to have beliefs that will lead to your happiness.