Believing in yourself is more than half the battle

When I am interviewing potential employees, one of the traits that I look for is confidence. I'm not referring to hubris or arrogance, but someone who understands his or her ability and is not afraid to use it.

With the college football season just starting, it reminds me of a revealing story my good friend Lou Holtz told me when I helped bring him in to coach the Gophers football team back in 1984.

"I was at a convention just after taking the job at North Carolina State," Lou said, "and I was talking to Wayne Hardin, who was coach at Temple."

Hardin asked, "Lou, do you think you're the best coach in the country?"

Lou answered, "No way. I'm not even in the top 10."

"Well," Hardin said, "North Carolina State hired you because they think you are. If you don't act like you are, you shouldn't even be coaching."

According to First Draft, a newsletter by Ragan Communications: "Confidence doesn't come naturally to most people. Even the most successful people have struggled with it in their careers.

The good news is that you can develop it, just like any muscle or character trait, if you're willing to work hard at it. The better news: These tips can help you strengthen your confidence. Here's what to try:

• "Don't compare yourself to others. Focus on your own achievements and ambitions, not anyone else's. Other people will always be more successful than you at different stages of your life and career, and obsessing about them will only send your confidence plunging. Concentrate on identifying and improving your own unique strengths and skills.

• "Track your success. Keep a log of your accomplishments, large and small. Recording victories on a daily basis will make you feel more successful, and looking over your progress will boost your self-esteem. In addition, reviewing your achievements should give you some good ideas for what to work on next.

• "Practice being assertive. Take an active role in pursuing success, no matter how anxious you feel. Start by visualizing situations where you feel nervous, and picture yourself being assertive. Make these scenarios as vivid as you can so you'll be ready for them in real life.

Check your body language in a mirror, and practice good posture and a self-assured expression. Then go out and take a few chances, starting with low-risk situations. Once you've survived those, you can move on to bigger personal challenges. You may be surprised by how well practice makes perfect."

A few more tips I'd like to add:

• Accept that failure is not the end of the world. Learn from your mistakes. Understand that the pursuit of perfection often limits your accomplishments. Many great achievements have been far from perfect, but were more than good enough to be proud of.

• Step out of your comfort zone. Push yourself beyond your known limits, and see how successful you can be. When you realize what you can accomplish, your confidence soars. Your potential is unlimited. You are the only one who can limit it.

• Set goals. Decide what you want to accomplish, both in your career and personal life. Reaching goals is a tremendous confidence builder. It also spurs you to set higher goals.

• Prepare to succeed. Keep improving your skills and you will build confidence. Knowing that you are capable is central to a positive self-image. Take care of both your body and your mind.

Mackay's Moral: Your mind is your most powerful ally in developing confidence.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.

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