In my 18 years experience as a martial artist, confidence is something I’ve definitely come into contact with and learned a lot about.
I haven’t always been confident and it was only when I started martial arts in my early twenties that I started learning about confidence. What I learned was that it’s really about pushing yourself to the edge of your comfort-zone and operating there, then stepping beyond, and when you do it your comfort zone gets bigger.
We often avoid this in everyday life though. When we live, we live safe, we live to protect ourselves and we live inside our comfort zone – we typically do the things that feel comfortable for us every day and avoid doing the less comfortable things.
Pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone is important and there are different levels of things we can do to push ourselves.
The first are the things we do daily. Whether it’s just eating food that’s really healthy for us or doing a workout that’s a bit challenging, daily actions like this are great to build habits around as they elevate us.
Then there’s less frequent but bigger things like going for a new job or having a difficult conversation with somebody – this isn’t the kind of stuff that we tend to do every day but things like this are important to schedule in at the right time.
Then there’s the really big stuff – things that could potentially change our life and where there’s a lot on the line. Exams in school are one of first times you might experience this, then your driving test. Then your first job interview – this one’s massively out of your comfort zone because you’ve never had one before.
It’s really about finding the things that are in alignment with what you want in life and pushing yourself as much as you need to to achieve them.
When you’re focused on achieving what you want there comes a point where you have to step up and work to the edge of your ability and perform under pressure and it’s only when we test ourselves under pressure like this that we start to build confidence.
You can read as much stuff as you want about confidence, but it’s only when you do the thing that creates it that you get it. You can’t read about exercise and get fit, you have to go and do it. You can’t read about confidence and become confident. You have to go and do things that push you to the edge of your comfort zone and then operate at that point and get proficient in performing there. When you do that, then confidence becomes part of you – you gain that new level of comfort and your comfort zone gets bigger. Then of course it’s about finding the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing.
Think about something that you do that is really comfortable for you – something that you do every day that’s really comfortable, doesn’t require any level of confidence that you don’t currently have – something that’s super-easy.
Then think of something that that’s on the edge of your comfort zone. Something that’s a little bit more stressful, a little more anxiety and fear producing and makes you think about, but ultimately you know you could do it if you put your mind to it.
Then think about something that’s way outside your comfort zone. Something that would be properly fear inducing, sweaty palms, sleepless nights beforehand, and so on.
Now go back and pick the thing that’s on the edge of your comfort zone – the thing that’s a little bit of a push but you know you could do you. Make a habit of doing things like this more often.
You don’t have to put yourself under a load of stress and get yourself way out of your comfort zone every day – that would probably create more stress than is good for you, especially in the short term – but do more of the things that test you a bit.
Get yourself operating in this area every week. Perform something at the edge of your comfort zone that is in line with what you want, that you know is going to be good for you to do and that you probably avoid if you got the chance.
If you do this over time you’ll see that your confidence will slowly grow and your comfort zone will gradually increase. You’ll just be able to operate at that higher level where you know that you can operate, but you don’t perhaps go there all the time.
So let’s just get you into the habit of going there all the time and operating right on the edge of your comfort zone – a little bit inside – but right near that edge and then we’ll see how we go.