Anyone can acquire confidence. Not many people are born with confidence in everything they do – and even if they are, that confidence rarely lasts a lifetime. I’ve worked with remarkably gifted athletes who were turning into nervous little pussy cats whenever they played a recreational round of golf. Luckily, we can all learn to be more confident.
The New York Giants once asked me to help them. Their quarterback was Eli Manning, a no. 1 draft pick who wasn’t quite living up to the overwhelming hype that surrounded him. We worked on removing some mental habits around worrying, doubting and second-guessing that we all have. By removing them, you can reach that unconscious level of execution I spoke about. Eli went on to win a couple of Super Bowls and reach the very top of his game.
We are socialised to emphasise our shortcomings and discount our successes. To be confident you need to overcome this negativity bias and do the opposite. Have you ever heard somebody say it’s the memory of a crushing disappointment that motivates them to work harder at achieving their goals? That memory might give them a surge of anger that focuses them for a while, but that’s not something you can sustain over the course of, say, a career or even a season in professional sport. You’re going to run out of energy.
Confident people are much better at recalling their best moments. They use the memories of those moments to talk to themselves in the present in a much more optimistic way. So they are their own best friend – but they are also a helpful and honest critic of themselves. Rather than being consumed by crushing failures, they are able to reflect on things that have gone wrong and work out what they need to work on.