Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, July 17, 2016.
Question: I have a lot of big dreams for my business, but I end up getting scared out of them. On paper my plans make sense to me, but I keep worrying about all the “what ifs.” Where do I find the confidence to move forward?
Answer: You don’t. It usually finds you. But by then, it’s too late.
Confidence is most often a result rather than a resource you can obtain. I am highly confident in my ability to drive a car because I have done it so many times. I don’t need to give myself a rah-rah speech before my morning commute. I just get in the car and go, unconsciously confident that I can drive myself to work.
Speaking of driving, I heard Mark Schatzman talk about teaching his daughter to drive. At first she was extremely focused on where not to drive – don’t cross the middle line and for sure don’t drift off into the ditch. So, white knuckled and furrow browed, she drove as if she’d had too much to drink, weaving from one extreme to the other.
Then Schatzman suggested, “Try lifting your vision from right in front of the car and focus further down the road. Set your sights on where you are going, rather than where you are.”
The car magically seemed to straighten out more.
Mark’s a bright guy. He saw a parallel to life. In driver’s ed, it’s called “high-aim driving.” In life, it’s called “high-aim living.” “It keeps us from overcorrecting with white-knuckles and a furrowed brow,” he says. “We need to focus more on where we’re going, than where we are.”
So I think you may be starting at the wrong end of the chain in your search for confidence. See for yourself if the process doesn’t work more like this:
Consideration. You get an idea and begin to roll it around in your head. You weigh pros and cons and decide if this idea has merit. If so, you upgrade this thought from a daydream to a plan.
Conviction. As you develop your plan with greater depth, you begin building the necessary steps for positive and negative contingencies. What if the plan works better than I’d thought. What if things don’t work out so well? How will I adapt the plan? Is there a bail-out provision?
Courage. But there comes a time when you have to make the transition from a plan you believe in (conviction) to a plan you live in (courage). You actually step out on faith and begin executing your plan.
It sounds to me that you are nearing this stage. I don’t believe you need to (or even can) find confidence. I think you need to find courage. Back to this point in a moment.
Consummation. You’ve planned, revised and then planned some more. Then you stepped out on faith (you had courage) and did the thing. Now, things are either going to go better than expected, as expected or worse than expected. Or perhaps some confusing combination of all of the above. But you will have done it.
And based on how it all turns out, you will either decide to never do that again, or you will have…
Confidence. Confidence is the natural result of doing something successfully. Not perfectly, but successfully enough that you would do it again if you either needed to or wanted to.
Make-believe confidence is usually the blustery bravado of someone trying to fake courage. Confidence need not be seen or known by anyone else. In fact, I believe quiet, humble confidence is the most powerful confidence of all.
So let’s go back to courage for just a moment. That, I think, is what you are really asking for. And that’s where Mark Schatzman’s advice to “set your sights on where you are going, rather than where you are” comes in. That focus is the first step to finding courage.
Fear is useful for avoiding immediate dangers (like ditches and center lines), but it is highly carcinogenic. Fear is the cancer of motivation. Desire is its cure. Focus on the object of your desire, not the details of your despair.
Courage will not just happen to you or be left under your pillow by the courage fairy. And courage may be accompanied by much trembling. That’s OK.
Because courage is not how you feel. It is what you do.
So think hard and plan well. But at some point in time, you’ll have to make a choice.
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