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Courage before confidence

How many times have you told yourself, 'I'd love to get a better job, but I'm just not confident enough,' or 'I've always wanted to write a novel – I wish I had the confidence.' So you put it off, dreams going unfulfilled as you build up the confidence to go after them. But this is a fallacy – where does that confidence come from? Can you buy it somewhere? Read about and magically absorb it from a self-help book? Ask an extrovert friend to borrow a little – since they clearly have confidence to spare? Sadly, no.

There are things you can do to boost your confidence, like going back to school and expanding your knowledge/skillset. Growing older tends to bring more confidence, as we become seasoned parents, providers, employees – by learning to navigate life it becomes less daunting to us, and this confidence can be applied in other areas. Being loved is another great way to boost confidence. That feeling of having someone at your back, ready to help you weather life's storms, is a tremendous source of strength when times are hard.

But if you want to do something scary and new – write that novel, ask for a promotion, start your own business – the best way to do it... is to go ahead and do it. There's a saying in personal development circles that 'courage comes before confidence'. That means the best way to bolster your self-belief is by doing something, however small, succeeding at it and moving on to the next thing, then conquering that. Gradually, your confidence will grow.

'If you hear a voice within you say, "You cannot paint," then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.'
Vincent Van Gogh

And this approach – taking a big, daunting goal and breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks, is a great way to achieve things in life. If you do want to write a novel, start by writing something – anything – every day. Give yourself a target word count, starting at 200 a day and building until you reach a comfortable limit. Write short stories, letters to imaginary friends, character sketches, stream-of-consciousness stuff, just write! As your skill and literary dexterity grows, so will your confidence. Try it and see.

As for the courage before confidence approach, think of it like this. Remember when you learned to drive? How scary was that first lesson? Terrifying, I'll bet. But, slowly, slowly, you got the hang of steering, and accelerating, and changing gear, and using the mirrors, and all the other stuff you have to do to become a competent driver. Then one day, bang! Everything just flowed and you did it instinctively, without thought or fear. First the courage: to make mistakes, get frustrated, have the instructor yell at you, bump a few kerbs... then gradually the confidence, until you had perfectly mastered a fiendishly difficult new skill.

Next time you're facing a scary new challenge, remember this analogy. Who could possibly step into a car and drive off, perfectly, first time? No-one. But with time, effort and persistence we can all master even the most complex skills. If you would like some help from me you can contact my assistant, Dawn Cope, on 0208 318 5735 or info@danroberts.com