What Is Holding You Back?

I’m not sure if we are officially in a “post-pandemic” world, but I do know that MANY people have used the pandemic experience to re-evaluate their lives. You may have been hearing news about “the Great Resignation” phenomenon. The reality is that people are considering how to make changes in their lives to be more fulfilling. That may not include changing jobs and starting new careers, but it will require some sort of change.

Much of my work in coaching executives and consulting with organizations focus on some sort of change. The book, How to Change by Katy Milkman naturally caught my attention. It approaches the process of making change happen from a scientific perspective. The author looks at the behaviors that often get in the way of making changes, like procrastination, forgetfulness, and lack of confidence. The use of scientific tests helped our understanding of how to overcome those behavioral tendencies.

One that stood out to me is around lack of confidence. Her recommendation is simple and may seem a bit counterintuitive – Asking people to offer advice to others.

Research supports the idea that low self-esteem or lack of confidence is a common factor in many who are considered to be underachievers. When those underachievers are asked to advise others, it conveys a message that their perspective matters; they are capable of helping others, are good role models, are successful, and are expected to have valuable insights. That idea boosts their motivation, and presumably, their confidence. 

Another interesting finding is that when someone asks for advice, the advice-giver shares what they find helpful. And, after offering that advice, the advice-giver can feel hypocritical if they don’t apply that same advice themselves. It’s the “saying-is-believing effect” in psychology. After saying something to someone else, we are more likely to believe ourselves to avoid cognitive dissonance.

Is lack of confidence holding you back?

What can you do if you see this as a factor in your own life or lead others who appear to lack confidence? Suggestions from the book include:

  1. Recognize that self-doubt can get in the way of making progress on our goals or prevent us from setting goals.
  2. Avoid offering unsolicited advice. This can send a deflating message to the person receiving the advice that they can’t handle the situation on their own. Instead, give others the chance to share tips.
  3. Ask those who you feel lack confidence for their advice on a particular topic.
  4. Consider forming advice clubs with friends or colleagues. By offering solicited feedback to others, you can boost your confidence and discover helpful ideas from others in the group.
  5. Turn advice-giving inside out when facing your own challenge. Ask yourself, “If a colleague was struggling with this same issue, what advice would I offer?”
  6. Your expectations shape your reality. Make sure you let others know you believe in them and their potential and be intentional about connecting with others who are positive role models and supportive of you.
  7. Reflect on personal experiences that are self-affirming. What did you accomplish today that made you feel good; what behaviors did you demonstrate that make you proud?
  8. Adopt a growth mindset. You can learn from any situation. A failure or setback is another learning opportunity.

What I’ve learned in my work related to change is that CONFIDENCE IS KEY. Setbacks and challenges are part of making a change. How we respond in those situations is what determines whether we are successful or not. Believing in yourself is what makes the difference.

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.