Which is more important, courage or confidence?

coaching mindset May 16, 2017

The other day, someone posed to me the question: which is more important, courage or confidence?

At first, it sounded like a chicken-or-egg question, one of those deep philosophical things you’d ask a guru on a mountaintop. But in the past week, it gave way to some great conversations, and lots of personal exploration. And it turns out it has a really useful, practical application in my daily life.

Constantly, people tell me, “I wish I had more confidence.” That sentence is forever stopping people from doing things they really want to do. I know for me personal, it’s responsible for almost everything I ever procrastinate on.

During the Twitter chat last week, the group unanimously agreed that courage comes before confidence. And that made me think: maybe confidence is the wrong target. Maybe we should aim for courage instead.

As usual, when I’m mulling over a phenomenon like this one, I decided to try it out on myself.

I’ve been doing more live events on social media lately (Facebook and Periscope, to be precise). And while it’s fun, and there’s a lot that I like about, I find it really scary. People think it’d be easy for me, since my background is in acting, but it’s unnerving. It’s hard. And now (today!) we have this special guest coming on, the extremely knowledgeable Dr. Scott Schreiber, so the stakes are even higher.

The truth is, I wish I had more confidence about going live on social media.

There’s this unwritten rule around confidence. It implies that you know what you’re doing, that you’re an expert, that you’ve done this a million times before. That expectation was throwing me off – mostly because my inner monologue was saying, I don’t know what I’m doing! I’ve never done this before! So I couldn’t quite make the leap to “Look at me! See my unshakable confidence!”

Instead, I decided to try the “courage comes first” approach. I thought, what would happen if I chose to be courageous instead?

Immediately, I felt different. I felt like it was okay that I was nervous. Nervous people can have courage; people who don’t know what they’re doing can still have courage. You don’t have to be perfect to be courageous; you just have to be willing to step into the unknown, and hope that you fly instead of fall. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m willing to give it a shot – now that was a mindset I could step into.

At about this point, some people might be saying “But I don’t have courage, either!” But think about it. We’ve all done things that show courage – stepping into our first classroom, going on our first date, breaking up from a bad relationship, quitting a job, having a hard conversation, asking for a raise. We didn’t always have confidence when we did those things, but we sure had courage – that’s how we did them. Nervous, uncertain, scared – we still found courage to do what we had to do.

My Twitter chatters were right: courage comes first.

So the first step is to shift your focus away from “I need confidence,” and toward “I have courage.” Think of all the times in your life you’ve mustered up the courage to do something. I promise you, there are more than you think.

Then, ask yourself these three questions to help you build up your courage, and then your confidence:

1) What’s the worst that could happen?

(When I answered this around the social media events, my answer was, “I’m probably not gonna die, even if I make a total fool of myself. At least my family will still love me.” That gave me some perspective.)

2) What do I have to gain?

(For me, it was “Experience. The potential to reach a lot of people, to share something I’m passionate about, to impact somebody. The chance that somebody will benefit, and maybe even share that with somebody else – so, I have the potential to create a domino effect. That’s worth taking the risk.”)

3) What do I have, that prepares me for this?

What skills, background, life experience, resources? When have you done anything like this before?

(“All my acting experience. The past few live events I’ve done. All the practice and rehearsal time I’ve ever put in. Plus, I have my fabulous support staff. And I have courage. And maybe even a little wisp of confidence.”)

Courage is like a seed. If you shine a little light on it, and help it grow, soon you’ll find it blossoming bigger than you thought possible. And the fruit of that will be confidence.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this. Feel free to share them below, and tune in to the live events today! (Wish me luck!)

Go out and shine.

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