Habit and confidence.
These are the friends of anyone who wants to do something extraordinary. They are also the most high-maintenance friends you could ever imagine having.
Neither of them simply appear out of thin air. If they did, we wouldn’t be so interested in exceptional people. Even those we know who seem to naturally burst with confidence need to foster that. Disciplined people with habits we admire have those habits and that discipline because they practice it regularly.
It’s the practice piece that is difficult. It takes energy and mindfulness to do, and it takes time to see the results. Believe me, I know – habit and confidence are two things I’ve struggled with all my life.
The practice that most helps me maintain both is that of taking small risks on a daily basis. Risks don’t have to be foolish or grandiose or even overly risky. Actually, they shouldn’t be. The key word here is small. Do something that makes you a bit nervous, that puts you at risk of rejection, that brings the chance of failure. Maybe that’s picking up the phone and calling someone you haven’t seen in ages. Maybe it’s submitting your photograph to that local contest. Maybe it’s trying to make a souffle. Maybe it’s stepping up and offering to give the presentation at the next team meeting.
If you succeed at any of those, you’ll feel great. Your confidence will go up, and you’ll want to repeat the things that led you to the victory. If you fail, you might feel some discomfort or disappointment, but it won’t be crushing. You can feed the souffle to the dog and try making another one tomorrow. Thus begins the rinse-wash-repeat cycle of habit forming.
For me, the risk factor is the key. Taking risks requires taking action, which is a key component of both habit and confidence. And the little touch of riskiness makes the process more interesting and fun. It’s hard to become confident when we stick to things that are boring, easy, routine. It’s easier to establish a habit when we can look forward to some part of the habitual activity.