This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers.
Your experiences, education, talents, and skills will take you far in life. They'll help you build an impressive resumé and open doors to opportunities. But what's the one quality that will get you even further and help you capitalize on whatever life presents you? Confidence.
Confidence is absolutely essential.
Confidence is your belief in your abilities. It's the feeling that you can rise to the occasion when the pressure is on. It not only fuels your ambition but encourages you to set stretch goals. It even has a powerful influence on the results you experience. As the great Henry Ford once said, "If you think you can, or think you can't, you're right."
We all want confidence, especially during those critically important moments when we feel like so much is on the line and our actions will make or break our future – for instance, during an interview for our ideal job, or a meeting with a client to close a deal. But to have confidence in these clutch moments, we must recognize and manage the confidence-killing emotions – fear, worry, and insecurity – that can sink in and make you question yourself and doubt your true abilities.
We have been coaching executives for many years and have concluded that no one is immune to fear, worry, and insecurity. These strong emotions often emerge when we feel we don't have a choice in our circumstances and we're incredibly uncertain about how we're ever going to come out on top again.
Each of these confidence-killing emotions has an antidote. While they're not easy to implement, they have to be administered when you're experiencing these emotions at their peak and your mental agility isn't the strongest.
One of our colleagues talks openly about fear, which can seem a bit taboo considering his background. Alex has served on the most elite Navy SEAL teams, has led countless combat operations, and has trained future SEAL officers at the Naval Academy. We like to think of our warriors as fearless, but Alex is quick to remind anyone that fears are natural and that they're driven by our instincts. We need to pay attention to them– not succumb to them – because they're telling us we need to take action in order to stay alive. So when Alex feels a pit in his stomach, he doesn't ignore it. To him, it's an important alert, like a pink flag that's about to turn red. He knows that this is the time when he needs to demonstrate courage, which isn't action in the absence of fear – it's action in the face of it.
Courage can be either physical or moral, but however it's manifested, it needs to be evoked and executed, because it's the only way to positively influence your circumstances.
We all have our own internal signals when we're experiencing fear. Though our survival might not be threatened, our security, stability, and long-term success could very well be. When we have these fear responses, we need to tune in to them. By paying attention to our emotions, we can identify when we're feeling anxious. When we do, we can't ignore that emotion. We have to confront it. Sometimes asking ourselves a simple question (What can I do about this right now?) is enough to propel us toward action.
To combat worry, another confidence-killing emotion that is often induced by stress, it's important to determine whether your concerns are real or manufactured. Our brains, even as brilliant as they can be, often have a hard time distinguishing between the two. Sometimes, when left unattended, your imagination can run wild, and what you're worrying about is neither logical nor rational. You can quickly find yourself worrying about things that can't possibly happen, or that are even well beyond your ability to influence.
When you find yourself in a worried state, ask yourself, Is this real? If so, can I solve it? The answers to these questions should help you figure out what actions – if any – you can take to manage your worries. And if you can't affect the situation you're in, tell yourself, I'm not worried. I'm just concerned. Being concerned about something is an acknowledgment that you're aware of the predicament but there's little you can do to influence it. So rather than worry about whether it will rain on your friend's wedding day, or whether your child will get accepted into the college of her choice, remind yourself that you're merely concerned and that there's nothing you can do to change the outcome. Maintaining your perspective is key.
To deal with the confidence-killing emotion of insecurity, it's time to develop positive self-appraisals. Whenever you experience insecurity, you need to tame and quiet your inner critic. You need to flip your criticisms of yourself and offer yourself praise instead. Rather than beat yourself down, pause in the moment and recall all the things you've done, all the milestones you've achieved, and say to yourself, I can do this. This mental reminder can often be enough to get you back on the confidence– building track that gets your head back in the game.
We all experience difficult times in our lives. When these times are upon us, we need to face the fear, worry, and insecurity that will accompany them. By understanding how these natural emotions affect our ability to move forward confidently in the face of crisis, we are better prepared to respond to them. And while we won't come through hardship unscathed, we can come out more resilient and better prepared for the next inevitable challenge on the horizon.
Excerpted from the New York Times best seller SPARK: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, and Sean Lynch. Copyright © 2017 by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, and Sean Lynch. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.