Building a Confident Mindset

A long while back when I was a junior Intensive care nurse (ICU) I had the mindset of ‘I could never…’ ‘I could never coordinate the intensive care unit’, ‘I could never educate people ’, ‘I could never jump from a helicopter into the ocean’ (as a critical care flight nurse), ‘I could never get up on stage and deliver a speech’ and the list goes on. More recently, my inner dialogue was, ‘I could never start my own business…’ And yet here I am doing, and having done all of those things. What drives confidence? What gets us beyond that fused self identity of our ‘I could never’ thinking?

Human nature is to focus on the thing you feel most comfortable with. Some will work on their website, but avoid starting the health coaching itself. Others will be proactive in the health coaching gym, however be reluctant to charge for their health coaching, telling themselves ‘I will charge once… has happened.’ Moreover, others get frozen in the ‘I am too busy right now to make a start’ or ‘I don’t have the right background/ credentials/ set-up…’ It is pertinent for all of us to stop, and consider, what is the story I am telling myself right now?

The comparison trap is one we all often fall into. As humans we are hardwired to default to comparing to others. Ruminating over how much better other students/ colleagues are in the breakout practice coaching sessions. How much faster they have completed the course, started their business, got a health coaching position. This dissonant frame tells us they are better because they have health experience, more life experience, are calmer, more financially secure, more charming… and the list goes on. In reality, we can only see things on the surface. We see what people want us to see above the iceberg and not the whole picture. We don’t know what they wish they had, or what they are lacking in their life. Professor Brene Brown names it:

The curse of modern life; ‘the crush between conformity and competition’.

She describes comparison as a creativity killer. Defining comparison as: Trying to simultaneously fit in and stand out. Comparison says: ‘be like everyone else, but better’. Competition is healthy on many levels, however, If we don’t want this constant automatic ranking to negatively shape our lives, our relationships and our future. We need to stay aware enough to observe our thoughts and recognise when it’s happening. To take charge and explore what emotions our ‘comparing’ is driving.

Research into ‘professional confidence’ within the healthcare disciplines tends to be situated mostly in the nursing arena and observational in nature. For health coaches the confidence to learn the tools of the trade, then transition into the business or health care setting in the climate of an emerging discipline, there is an extra layer of grit required. Saying that, there is much advice in the literature on building confidence. It is not made up of any one secret formula, rather many ingredients:

Ingredients for confidence:

  • Know your ‘why’, re-visit it regularly and enjoy the journey.
  • Recognise & emphasise your strengths – celebrate the wins and create rewards. Ask yourself ‘what are the things that I have that make me uniquely me?’
  • When you stumble on an obstacle, treat yourself with kindness and compassion, don’t dwell on failure.
  • Set realistic and achievable goals. Do not expect perfection: Let go, it is impossible! My own mantra here is ‘practice makes better, perfect is not required’.
  • Slow down when you are feeling intense emotions, name the emotion and separate it from the inner you. ‘I am hopeless’ vs. ‘I notice that I am having the thought that I am hopeless’ – don’t let those thoughts boss you around!
  • Challenge making assumptions about yourself, people and situations: Recognise your inner judge saboteur and kick him/her/it to the curb.
  • Recognise that past negative life experiences do not dictate your future, breath and breath again!
  • Express your feelings, beliefs and needs directly and respectfully. Walk towards your values & unhook from unhelpful thoughts.
  • Learn to say no to unreasonable requests: Ask yourself ‘will this do me harm or will this do me good ?’ Lucy Hone (TED Talk – 2019).

Work on the following 5 Self-Confidence Levers:

  1. Treat confidence like a muscle: Build actions & strength.
  2. Change your story: You can change your story and start thinking differently. You don’t have to carry the same old sad story around. Taking the time to examine your story can help you understand it and move beyond it. ‘I am confident’, ‘what would a confident person do?’
  3. Break big goals into small chunks: Shift mindset to one day at a time, 1% change is a step forward, do something positive for a couple of minutes and build.
  4. Find & benefit from the collective knowledge of your support crew: Know that being vulnerable is ok, ask for help when you need it. Seek a new perspective and a reframe.
  5. Practice 2 minutes of mindfulness: Commit to being in the now and celebrate 2 things with 2 deep breaths. Channel your calm, parasympathetic response.

    Daily confidence (self awareness) exercises:

    The following are two exercises you can explore by yourself, with your colleagues, and your clients to raise self awareness and and develop a ‘confidence muscle’ building accountability action plan:

    Exercise part 1:

    Break your day into 4 parts: Early morning, late morning, afternoon & evening. Write down your daily habits of thought and action that are helpful & unhelpful towards your confidence in these time slots?

    Exercise part 2:

    Be the curious scientist: Explore the how, when, who & what of your confidence – how do you disable/ enable your own confidence, when do you feel most confident? Who are you around when you feel most/ least confident? What gives you confidence?

    Once you have found more clarity on your own confidence habits, build an action plan towards a more confident you. Find an accountability buddy and/ or support crew. To be confident is to be kind to ourselves, to show-up, to be brave, and to be consistent in our intentions. As you walk along the journey towards becoming the health coach of your dreams, remember:

    “A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” — Zen Shin