"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation." ~Arthur Ashe

"Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong." ~Peter T. Mcintyre

One of the things that all great leaders have is confidence. It speeds decision making, makes you a better risk taker, and builds trust among your employees, peers and boss. Some people naturally have tons of it (too much in some cases), while others have always struggled with it. Whether you have a little or a lot, a boost in your confidence often coincides with an uptick in productivity and effectiveness.

So like everything that effects performance, if you want to improve you’ll need to take action. I wanted to go over some of the best ways to boost that confidence when you’re in a “lull” or if you build it from scratch.

Have goals – How confident are you when you don’t know where you’re going? One of the basics of having confidence is direction towards and through something. Progress towards a goal builds momentum in energy, in focus and in confidence. If you aren’t clear on the outcome you are looking for, not only in the specific task, but how everything fits into larger goals and your purpose, you’ll be more apt to struggle moving forward. A strong sense of purpose gives great leaders confidence as they move through their days.

Reflect on success – We all tend to obsess about our failures. Part of that is the healthy learning that comes from it, but if our mistakes take up too much space in our internal monologue it can become debilitating to our confidence. I’m quite positive that you have successes flowing from you on a daily basis, it’s just that we pay little attention to them for a variety of reasons. It is never more important to be able to refer to your success than when you are questioning whether you have what it takes to succeed in the next endeavor.

Do this little exercise once a week to give your confidence a boost and over time to create a strong foundation of confidence. Take out a sheet of paper and write down any successes that you had last month. Anything at all, no matter how small. If you’re a leader, you can put down team successes where you had some input. Once you have 5-10 things from last month, write down 5-10 successes you had last week. Again, it can be small and somewhat routine things like handling a difficult customer interaction or cleaning out your Inbox (I realize that’s a BIG thing to many). Once you have that 5-10 down, write down 3-5 successes you had yesterday. We want to push you in this exercise to see all of the little things you do right on a regular basis. Look to do this exercise once a week and you’ll give yourself the ammunition to boldly move through your days.

Be thankful – Gratitude has a number of benefits and one of them is freeing you from many of the false perceptions that build up in your mind. Human nature dictates that we rarely stay satisfied with our present situation for very long, which causes us to create concerns where there shouldn’t necessarily be any. Being thankful for those things we take for granted resets our equilibrium, brings to light our successes, and provides us with strength and confidence to move forward.

Prepare – The best way to be confident is to prepare rigorously for everything that you may face. While preparing for EVERYTHING is somewhat ridiculous and counter-productive, great preparation makes things not only easier for you, but ensures that you and everyone get as much out of the interaction, project or task as possible. When all else fails in confidence, make preparations towards your goals.

Mind your body – There is a lot to be said for the bond between our physical and mental well-being. Getting exercise, standing up straighter, deep breathing and dressing in our best outfit all help with our sense of confidence. And they are all tools you can pull out at any time to use to boost your confidence. If you see any on the list above that you are neglecting or that you could improve, that makes for a great place to start.

Get out – I don’t just mean getting a breath of fresh air in the middle of your day, I mean getting out of the house on the weekends or in the evenings. Fill your days interacting with people and things. The more isolated and routine you make your days, the more of a strain you’ll have on confidence. Heading out with friends is great. Even movies, shopping, browsing bookstores, heading to a park, anything at all that keeps you from isolation and increases the chance of interaction.

Also, the simple act of talking to people when you have regular interactions can affect the ease (confidence) you have in interacting with everyone. So chat with the cashier at the convenience store, the waitress at the restaurant. It’s polite, and you’ll get something out of it.

Challenge yourself – Challenges encourage us to bring out our best and discover things about ourselves. If you haven’t challenged yourself to do more, even with your current tasks and projects, you’re selling yourself and your confidence short. Try reaching for a new record in daily sales, in calls answered, invoices processed, people trained, whatever it may be. Where challenges get kicked into high gear is when they are coupled with challenges to utilize skills you never have before. When you can overcome the fear of tackling something new and different, the by-product is a huge boost to your confidence.

Smile – A smile conveys confidence better than anything and lifts your mood. When others see you smiling they will be more apt to TREAT you like a confident person. Our surroundings can have a profound impact on us. Think about that time your boss gave you the “look” of disapproval? Were you confident in that moment? The same works in reverse. When you get the positive feedback from your coworkers you are far more empowered.

Compliment others – If you want to “get” something, one of the best ways to do so is to “give” it freely. Compliments on anything make people feel better about themselves. Of course, what science will tell you is that happier people are more generous than those who aren’t. So you feel better about yourself, are more apt to get compliments in return, and you reciprocally feel the power you have to influence others in a positive way

If you want more of something you need to spend the effort to focus on it. Your confidence touches almost every aspect of your work life, so it makes sense to take a few of the above concepts above where you feel you could improve and integrate them into your week. Even just one step forward can mean a huge difference.