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February 25, 2020 • Coaching

3 steps to building greater confidence

dayton basketball celebrating
Photo: Chad Cooper

Confidence is everything.

Renowned social psychologist Albert Bandura said that self-confidence is one of the most influential motivators and regulators of behavior in our everyday lives. Another famous researcher, Anders Ericsson, and his colleagues have taken the position that the major influence in the acquisition of expert performance is the confidence and motivation to persist in deliberate practice for a minimum of 10 years.

When it comes to performance, confidence is everything.

Study after study shows that beliefs impact actions, which in turn impact beliefs, and those further impact your actions — around and around we go. If someone believes they can do something, chances are higher that they will do it successfully. And when they succeed, their confidence grows, as does their motivation for continuing to improve. That’s a recipe for success.

The smallest hint of self-doubt is a weed in a garden, and weeds spread quickly.

But which comes first: confidence or success?

Most of us cannot simply talk ourselves into feeling more confident. For coaches who have tried to plead with a struggling athlete to be more confident, they know it never works. The words are superficial, and deep down they feel inadequate. The foundation needs to be set before coaches ever get to that point.

Individuals with a strong sense of self-confidence train their minds differently. They engage in more positive self-talk. They are better able to recognize small victories along the way. They’ll allow themselves to be proud of their performances, but they stop short of becoming arrogant and overconfident. They prepare better and get excited about the future. They obsess over achieving more success. This mindset breeds positivity, which leads to greater confidence, which leads to greater success.

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The point is that confidence is not a trait — it’s a judgment. And how you judge your actions or ability to perform a task can and will greatly influence performance.

If you try to fake it, your brain knows. The smallest hint of self-doubt is a weed in a garden, and weeds spread quickly. Start by recognizing the small victories along the way, and celebrate the small steps of success. Be proud of all that you’re doing, and confidence will continue to grow. Remember, beliefs impact actions, which impact beliefs, which further impact actions. Do you want those beliefs to be positive or negative? Your beliefs in your ability will determine your future.

If you struggle with self-confidence, are a self-doubter, or engage in negative self-talk, then it’s time to take some practical steps toward breaking this vicious cycle. Designed by psychologist Ruth Kanfer, here is a simplified mental framework to help change a negative mindset, train the brain, and develop more self-confidence.

Once you’ve set your target goals, you need to manage your mind and regulate your emotions. “Monitor, Evaluate, React” is a three-step action plan that guarantees you aren’t leaving confidence to chance.

Monitor

The key to changing any behavior is awareness. Without self-awareness you cannot make progress or realize you’re even making progress. By having more self-awareness of specific failures and achievements, you’re in a better position to take the next step toward evaluating, and more importantly, labeling what has just happened. Most of us skip this step and go straight to judgment. We judge our performances as generally “bad” or “good.” That gets us nowhere.

By skipping the “monitor” step, we relinquish control over the label we give our performance. Think of this as a mental pause, albeit brief, that can have an enormous long-term impact. If we’re able to take a breath and monitor our actions, we can apply a more positive and constructive label to it, leading to a more precise evaluation of our performance. Now we can recognize the things we are doing well and target specific areas for improvement. This is more manageable for our brains and less overwhelming. As a result, we feel more confident about what we’re able to do.

Throughout the day — in practices and games — take some time to monitor your behavior and become more aware of your thoughts, especially after experiencing small levels of success or failure.

Evaluate

When we don’t train our minds with intention, this is typically the first step in our mental framework. We skip awareness and make an instant judgment on our performance. We become results-oriented, which is a dangerous and limiting mindset. However, when we stop to monitor our behavior, we can evaluate our performance much more accurately.

waunakee football team cultureThe key is being specific when evaluating. The more specific the label, the more effective the evaluation. Now, instead of being a “failure” at something, we can evaluate the specific reasons that we failed. Instead of feeling helpless, we feel empowered and are more likely to take action. We’ve made failure tangible, manageable and less intimidating. Similarly, we won’t merely be great when we succeed, instead recognizing the reasons why we were great. Instead of success happening by chance, we will be able to identify the actions we took to be successful. We then can repeat these actions through intentional practice, gaining more confidence as we improve.

Evaluation after monitoring allows you to compare your performance more specifically and accurately with your target goal. This is a more productive way of evaluating your performance, which leads to better habits, higher self-confidence and more consistent success.

React

Once we can better monitor our behavior and more accurately evaluate it, we need to control our reaction. There are two general ways in which we react to our performance: satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The higher the expectations, the more powerful our response will be when we succeed or fail. If we succeed under high expectations, we will react with higher satisfaction, and vice versa. Based on this reaction, we then formulate expectations and judgments about our ability to attain our goal, which ultimately affects our self-confidence. Simply put, how we feel about what’s just happened affects how confident we feel about succeeding in the future.

It’s no secret why the best athletes in the world, regardless of their performance, have the most consistent body language and exhibit almost no emotion. They’re always in control.

You can’t always control your results. You certainly can never change the past. But you can control how you react. Furthermore, if you are consistently monitoring and effectively evaluating your behavior, you will have greater control over your reaction. With a greater sense of control over your fate, your confidence will soar. If you cannot effectively control your reaction to things that happen in your life, you feel helpless to make changes and your confidence will suffer.

Each of us has a unique set of personality traits and a distinct mindset, which impacts our confidence levels. Some of us have a high self-confidence, while others low. However, we can all take more control over our self-confidence by implementing the “Monitor, Evaluate, React” framework into our daily lives and routines. By taking control of this powerful motivator, we are well on our way to reaching our full potential.


Vito Chiaravalloti is a former Division I college All-American and professional baseball player who played in the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles organizations. He is now a high school coach and athletic director at Christian Brothers Academy (New Jersey), where in 2011 he was named NFHS Coach of the Year. Find him on Instagram and Twitter at @CoachVito44.