Sunday 2 June 2024

Courage beats confidence

Historically, we have always associated confidence with one’s abilities and the achievement of goals. This approach suggests that if we have the skills and abilities to do something, we will gain the expertise that leads to confidence. Similarly, if we have achieved our goals, it becomes a source of confidence.

There is nothing wrong with this. Experience that comes from skills and abilities is a natural source of confidence. You can channel your learning and past experiences to ensure that you do the right things in new challenges, thereby doing them better.

Similarly, if you have had past success in achieving some goals, it is only natural to draw from that and have confidence in doing it well the next time you face it. This is true in all domains of life: work, sport, relationships, mental, emotional, and physical.

However, I find it problematic when we look at it from a learner’s perspective. This approach does not enable a growth mindset.

In today’s world, where the pace of change has accelerated, skills and abilities are constantly on the verge of becoming obsolete. The contexts of our lives have changed, making it impossible to rely solely on past achievements.

In fact, even if we think of goals as forward plans for what we want to achieve and use them to gain confidence, it does not seem to work. Goals are constantly moving and changing, and plans need to adapt as well. Linking confidence to abilities and achievements is problematic because it creates a false sense of security that can be quickly undermined by changing circumstances.

So what is better? Firstly, courage is better than confidence. Confidence is overrated. If one waits to have confidence before taking action, it is usually too late. We should go ahead and have a bias for action. Confidence is an outcome of doing and learning, rather than learning everything before doing. Try more things to gain confidence. Courage makes us do things we might not know everything about and may not yet be good at. If we only do things we are already good at, we might not do anything at all. Prefer courage over confidence.

Secondly, instead of abilities and goals, link confidence to intent and process. This is a system for gaining confidence. If you have the right intent, but not all the abilities yet, that is enough to motivate you into action. If you focus on processes and systems, instead of goals and outcomes, you are setting yourself up for learning.

Confidence comes from falling in love with the process.

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