By Lucy Gower, director at Lucidity.
Have you ever put off making a job application and deliberately missed the deadline? Maybe you didn’t go for the job even though you really wanted it? Or perhaps you’ve talked about stepping up but convinced yourself you’re not ready or thought about changing career direction but decided that it’s too difficult?
Have you ever discovered who got the role and thought ‘hang on a minute I’m better than them’ and regretted not applying after all?
If you nodded to any of the above, you’re not on your own. These sort of situations are a regular occurrence.
I believe, the reason that we procrastinate over applications, the reason we don’t step up or forward or sideways is because fundamentally, changing anything scares us. We need a dose of extra confidence to make change happen and sometimes, because in our day-to-day life we don’t necessarily replenish us our confidence reserves, our ability to step out of our comfort zone is reduced.
It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on. It’s part of the human condition that we’d sooner put up with the devil we know than risk the devil we don’t. This is true even if the devil we know is unpleasant because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might leave us worse off.
Economists might explain this reluctance to change as ‘sunk costs’ – because you’ve invested so much time and energy into a role, you don’t want to leave until you’ve achieved what you set out to do.
Anthropologists would say that reluctance to change is a basic survival instinct. Hark back to the days before we were all super connected 24/7 to when we lived in small communities. You could choose to stay in your village where you felt safe or head into the unknown to search for something better. The fear of encountering a frightening unknown, for example a sabre-toothed tiger is greater than the desire to change. So we stay put because it’s in our nature to defer to the devil we know.
Me? I think not seizing opportunities all boils down to dips in confidence. I don’t believe that some people are confident and others are not. It’s simply that the successful people work harder at, and are therefore more accomplished at managing their confidence.
From working with hundreds of people over the last seven years, here are my top three tips to help you have more confidence so the next time that dream job crosses your path you seize the opportunity and go for it.
- Shift your mindset and focus on the positive opportunities that a change might present and don’t let the negative fearful thoughts take hold. Throw away the ‘better the devil you know’ approach in favour of a ‘better the devil you don’t’ one.
- Shut down the nagging voice that tells you you’re not good enough. It turns out that the little nagging voice is a thing. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. It’s a term first coined in 1978 by psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. It describes the psychological phenomenon which is characterised by intense feelings of not being good enough, being a fraud and that you are going to get found out – even though all the evidence suggests otherwise. It’s actually rather common. 70% of people have had feelings of being inadequate and getting found out at one time or another. When that little nagging voice tells you that you’re not good enough and anything good that happens to you is luck – call it out. For example, I acknowledge that it’s happening and disconnect that annoying voice from the real me and tell it to pipe down. Your task is to find your own way to change the negative story that your inner critic is telling you. Look for evidence to deny the things that your inner critic is saying. For example, if you’re inner critic is telling you that you’re a failure, ask yourself, “What evidence is there to support the thought that I’m a failure?” and “What evidence is there that doesn’t support the thought that I’m a failure?”
- Ask why? Get to the root cause of your lack of confidence by asking ‘Why?’ ‘What is causing it?’ When you have identified the ‘why?’ you can start to tackle it. Often, lack of confidence connects to a lack of or perceived lack of knowledge, so stop focusing on what you don’t know and concentrate on the things you do know and the value you bring.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie
This is your year. Next time that job opportunity comes across your path take action and just go for it.
Lucy Gower is director at Lucidity. She is a trainer, coach, author and consultant giving individuals, teams and organsiations the confidence to think differently and get the results they want. www.lucidity.org.uk
I am recruiting is a team of dedicated, professional recruiters, united in our values and passionate about connecting people. Our mission is to combine our expertise and integrity to deliver an unrivalled recruitment service for candidates and clients within professional associations, membership organisations and the wider not-for-profit sector. Email Director, Julian Smith for a confidential chat.