Is it true that confidence is the key to success?
Well, let me ask you a quick question -
What's the most powerful predictor of success? Is it:
a. Intelligence (what you know)
b. Connections (who you know)
c. Work Ethic (how hard you work/how productive you are)
d. None of the above
If you answered d, some leading psychology experts would agree with you!
While intelligence, connections and work ethic are certainly helpful, confidence – or more accurately, self-efficacy - is actually the most powerful predictor of success.
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What Is Self-Efficacy? (This type of confidence is the key to success)
Before we get started, it’s worth noting the subtle distinction between self-confidence and self-efficacy.
Self-confidence refers to the assuredness in oneself regarding physical appearance, intelligence, skills, or myriad other characteristics.
It boils down to one general question: “Do you believe in yourself?”
Self-efficacy asks a more specific question: “Do you believe in your ability to achieve your goals?”
Do you believe you can reach your goals?
According to Psychologist Albert Bandura, people with high self-efficacy are more likely to succeed.
He defines self-efficacy as, “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations."
Author and Stanford d. School creator David Kelley actually met with Bandura to discuss his high success rate with curing phobias ... check out his TED Talk on Confidence (along with 4 other best TED Talks on confidence).
Now, here's why this particular type of confidence is the key to success:
1. You expect success
Expecting success is a habit of highly successful people.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you expect success, success is exactly what you will get.
beliefs become your thoughts,
thoughts become your words,
words become your actions
actions become your habits,
habits become your values,
values become your destiny.”
People who are generally optimistic tend to be more successful and live longer, healthier lives.
They believe they will succeed, and that belief gives them that extra boost they need to achieve their big goals despite the obstacles.
Optimism helps you to deal with the adversity that you will inevitably encounter while pursuing your big goals in life.
Because you’re focused on the positive, you’re able to see the silver lining in bad situations.
You’re able to learn from your mistakes instead of letting them stop you from trying again (a huge goal setting mistake). This type of humble self confidence is the key to success.
It allows you to keep learning and adapting in order to create a life you don't need a vacation from.
Don't let your mistakes stop you from trying again.
Expecting success typically comes from an abundance mindset, one that is premised upon the belief that there is more than enough of everything for everyone …
as opposed to the scarcity mentality, which is based on the view that opportunities in life are few and far between.
An abundance mindset unshackles one from all the stress and anxiety that comes with thinking, “This is my only shot”, “I blew my only chance", or “There’s not enough of this to go around”.
When you have an abundance mindset, it’s win-win, not zero-sum.
Think win-win, not zero-sum
You know there will be more opportunities.
You embrace the art of surrender, releasing things that are out of your control and allowing things to unfold naturally.
Free from the burdens of scarcity, you’re able to perform better, thus increasing your chances of success.
2. You take risks
When you have confidence that your unique strengths will facilitate your success, you are able to step outside of your comfort zone and do the scary things necessary to succeed.
Taking risks is yet another habit of the highly successful.
“If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done.” -Thomas Jefferson
It’s not that people with high self-efficacy aren’t scared to take risks, they just don’t let fear hold them back.
Instead, they turn it into fuel for success.
They trust that they will be able to face challenges and prevail – this is precisely the type of self- confidence that is key to success.
Those with low self-efficacy, on the other hand, doubt their capabilities and view challenges as threats to be avoided.
They therefore tend to shy away from pursuing big goals ... No risk=no reward.
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. -Wayne Gretzky
In some of my other articles, I reference the BHAG – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.
It’s a term created by two Stanford professors when they discovered that highly successful, enduring companies had something in common – they all set big, ambitious, long-term goals.
When you have assurance in your capabilities, you have the confidence to set the BHAGs necessary for extraordinary success.
You don’t set small goals that sell yourself short. You dream big.
And as they say, fortune favors the bold.
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. But rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, 'Wow! What a ride!'” - Hunter S. Thompson
3. You persevere through adversity
The final reason why this type of confidence is the key to success is that when you have high self-efficacy, you persevere.
Success is not often easily achieved – it’s usually preceded by lots of failures.
The ability to bounce back from those setbacks is what sets successful people apart.
Many highly successful people say perseverance is what got them to where they are today.
“I always say perseverance is going to edge you out. If you can hang on and you can be the one who's just saying, ‘no I'm going to last,’ that'll be the edge for sure.” – Kate Bosworth
People with high perceived self-efficacy are not easily discouraged by failure.
They believe that the difference between success and failure is one more try.
The difference between success and failure is one more try.
When you have a strong sense of efficacy, you have the grit, determination and resilience to keep going in the face of adversity because you believe that you will eventually prevail.
You understand that your failures are not reflections of your self-worth and capabilities, but rather learning opportunities that only increase your chances of success in the future.
This is where having a growth mindset goes hand in hand with self-efficacy – it’s all about taking advantage of learning opportunities.
When you believe that your talents can be developed (rather than that your talents are innate), you work on developing them – which makes you more likely to achieve your goal.
Confidence is the key to success because your mind is a powerful thing. Your beliefs and expectations can have more of an impact on the outcome than your aptitude.
“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something inside them- a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
– Muhammad Ali
How to Improve Your Self-Efficacy (this type of confidence is the key to success)
Don’t worry if your level of self-efficacy is not as high as you’d like it to be.
As with any type of confidence, it’s a skill that can be learned, practiced and improved.
Bandura identifies four sources of self-efficacy:
The first and most effective way to boost self-efficacy is through mastery experiences.
The more goals you achieve, the more your perceived self-efficacy will improve.
When you perform tasks successfully, especially in the face of adversity, you prove to yourself that you are capable of succeeding.
That’s why it’s so important to chunk your BHAG down into manageable tasks – it gives you the opportunity to have more mastery experiences.
You don’t need to “master” (don’t let that word intimidate you!) anything monumental; even small accomplishments are powerful motivators.
Mastery experiences, however small, help to improve your perceived self-efficacy.
The more small wins you accumulate, the more you will believe in your ability to succeed in whatever you set out to accomplish.
Small wins = BIG success.
It’s important to note that pursuing a big goal is an inherently unpredictable quest.
But, one thing that’s almost guaranteed at some point, on some level, is – failure.
Failures do undermine self-efficacy, especially in the beginning.
But, if you can just plug through some tough times, you’ll emerge stronger … and more successful.
By putting in sustained effort despite setbacks, you build resilience and perseverance, the very skills you need to succeed.
2. Vicarious experiences
Bandura’s social learning theory posits that people learn through observation (otherwise known as vicarious reinforcement).
When you see other people similar to you succeeding, you experience their success vicariously. Seeing them succeed makes you think, “If they can do it, so can I!”
The more similar the person is to you, the more they influence your self-efficacy – for better or worse.
If you see someone similar to you putting in sustained effort and succeeding, it raises your perceived self-efficacy.
But, if you see them failing, you doubt your ability to accomplish what they could not.
Therefore, you should be selective when it comes to who you choose to surround yourself with.
Positive role models can help you develop the type of confidence that is key to your success, whereas negative ones can bring you down and stunt your growth.
According to Bandura, social models not only provide a standard by which to measure your own success, but they can also impart hard-won knowledge upon those who are willing to study their methods.
So, not only do positive social models help to increase your perceived self-efficacy, they also help you to actually be more effective.
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too can become great.”- Mark Twain
3. Social persuasion
Verbal encouragement goes a long way when it comes to developing the type of confidence that’s key to success.
When you’re trying to reach your goals, especially as an entrepreneur, you need a support system.
To increase your chances of success, surround yourself with like-minded peers with a “rising tide raises all ships” mentality.
These people will be there to motivate you. They’ll persuade you that you do in fact possess what it takes to succeed.
That social persuasion may be just the boost you need to keep going when times get tough.
And when you succeed in the face of adversity, you’ll have more faith in your abilities in the future.
More success = More confidence (increased perceived self-efficacy).
But while highly successful people have role models and support systems, they do not measure their success by comparing themselves to others.
They understand the importance of setting intrinsic goals – ones that align with their true purpose, rather than ones that seek external validation.
To effectively increase your perceived self-efficacy, avoid comparing yourself to others or measuring success in terms of triumphs over others.
Rather, measure success in terms of self-improvement.
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ― Henry David Thoreau
4. Emotional control
Stress plays an important role when it comes to perceived self-efficacy.
But, it’s not the stressful experiences themselves that’s harmful to our confidence. It’s the perception of those stressful experiences.
Negative circumstances befall us all – how you perceive and respond to those circumstances is what’s important.
If you can control the emotions that drive your decisions, you’ll have an advantage when it comes to reaching your goals.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Max Planck, Nobel Prize Winner (physics)
If you perceive your stress reaction as your body’s way of preparing you to perform well rather than as an indication that you will perform poorly, you will be more likely to perform well and, consequently, more likely to succeed.
Reframing is therefore one way to develop the type of confidence that’s imperative for success. If you get butterflies in your stomach before public speaking, choose to perceive that as excitement rather than nervousness.
You can control your emotions and change your brain through your thoughts and actions – it’s called neuroplasticity.
According to a study on lottery winners and paraplegics, extreme events (positive or negative) only temporarily affect happiness.
We all eventually return to our genetic “happiness set point” and the rest is pretty much up to you.
Happy people choose to focus on the good, no matter what happens.
According to Bandura, simply being in a good mood can increase perceived self-efficacy. So, do things that make you happy!
Do things that make you happy --> Your perceived self-efficacy increases --> You are more likely to succeed.
Conclusion: Developing a strong sense of self-efficacy is key to success because when you are confident in your abilities, you:
- expect success
- take risks, and
- persevere through adversity
Self-efficacy is a type of confidence – a skill that can be learned and developed through:
- vicarious experiences
- social persuasion, and
- emotional control
Over to you – do you think confidence is the key to success? Or, what has been the key to your success? Let me know in the comments!
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