I tend not to be an evangelist for ‘everyone should feel happy and then great things will happen’. For me it requires more than that to be successful and get outstanding results. Self-confidence is an area which I do believe is important. Not because everyone should feel overly good about themselves (there’s a lot of people who don’t and are very successful) but that it gives you power in the situation. Confidence can give you the ability to influence the result and stay in the game when the going gets tough. It is critical to leverage and to being successful.

Here’s the best ways I’ve seen to threaten your own confidence and limit your success.

Take on a goal which is too big – we’ve been hearing for a while that taking on a really big, out of the box goal is the best thing to do. Jim Collins quotes this as one of the most important things successful companies do, having a BEHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Something so far out there you’re not even sure it can happen. The problem with big goals is that the moment you lose connection, commitment and strong belief you’re likely to stop the action towards the goal and then the BEHAG can become a reminder of what you can’t do, what you can’t achieve and how you have failed. Here’s the problem with self-confidence, we want to limit the elements which remind us of what we can’t do. Sure we need some stretch but when we can’t stay connected to the stretch it goes from a positive to a negative very quickly.

Expectations too high – getting ahead of yourself is a sure way to ensure that you’re disappointed. Having your expectations too high of yourself and others leads to disappointment. Now I’m not talking about settling for or not striving for success. I’m talking about building up your emotional expectations to the point where you get; extremely disappointed, emotionally fall off the cliff and disengage from what you’re working on or with the individual who’s disappointed you. The problem here is that it takes you time to recover and during that time you’ve missed opportunities and not been at your most effective. If this happens to you often, this can create a real problem in ‘getting yourself up’ for the next opportunity. Be grounded and realistic with what you expect – be surprised to the upside.

Worried about the future – projecting into the future about the negative consequences of what may happen is a certain way to shoot yourself in the foot. Now I’m not suggesting that you should be blissfully happy in the face of direr circumstances, but projecting forward about what may happen can totally dis-empower you. It saps your influence and drains your confidence because you have no control or influence over what may happen in the future. By all means take the risks into account but living in fear of the future and nullifying the power that you have in the now is a fool proof way to limit your success.

Draining your own pond – it can be seen as a sign of humility to talk openly about your failings. There is the practice though of always seeing the piece that is missing, always jumping to what didn’t work or what you should have done even when you have been successful. Very often you may find yourself down playing success and elevating short comings, this can be tiring for others who find its’ their job to “pump your tyres”. In cases like this I’d recommend you stop draining your own confidence, be balanced and fair about what’s working as well as what’s not and start being the leader of your own cheer squad.

Guilty and regretful of the past – looking back at the past and learning from your mistakes can definitely make you smarter moving forward. Taking this to the extreme can be personally debilitating especially when you’re looking back with a focus on what went wrong in the past. There are two problems with this approach; firstly you’re looking back on a situation that you can’t change or control and secondly you’re focusing on what didn’t work from a fear based perspective. Focusing on the negative which you have no way to control leads you straight to threatening your own confidence and can easily become a pattern of behaviour.

Fail to follow through
– losing interest and not completing things is a guaranteed way to undermine your confidence. Not only does unfinished work create a feeling of being overwhelmed it also leaves you with little to look back at with satisfaction – you’re limiting the markers that show you are powerful and have the right to be confident. This can lead to a ‘I can’t do this mindset” as you surround yourself with all the evidence to support that position.

Buckle under the challenge – being smart and looking for simple and clever ways to get things done is an important skill. There are times when you’ll need to dig deep, take on the challenge, fight your way through and grind out the results. At times there can be nothing more satisfying then overcoming the challenges and beating the odds. If your style is to play ‘smart rather than hard’ you may want to look at ways of bulldozing through rather than going around. If you continue to take the easy way, you’ll miss opportunities and limit your confidence when things are not coming easily.

These are the top seven ways I’ve seen people shoot themselves in foot. How many do you have? What drains your confidence? Is confidence important to your success?

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