Why it’s important to fuel your self-belief before you set goals for 2021 – how to learn what to pay attention to
Looking into a new year we naturally set intentions for the year ahead. While you are doing that ask yourself ‘How strongly do I believe in my abilities?‘. I recommend you do this because if you doubt yourself you will minimise the goals you set yourself. And if you throttle back your goals and ambitions, you throttle back your life.
Spend time checking in with your self-belief and self-doubt, don’t be afraid of it and don’t beat yourself up about it. Self-doubt is okay if it prompts us to take stock and to improve. Doubt causes us to question what we are doing and sets us up for change and that can be a good thing. Everyone’s self-belief will get shaken from time to time. Yes it’s uncomfortable, but it can be temporary and useful if we simply use it as a signal to do something with, as opposed to baking it into our fundamental belief about ourselves.
We focus on the negative
I notice each year that many of the women I work with as they look back over the year, reviewing their achievements and their learning, tend to over focus on the negative. This can negatively affect their belief in themselves. We know we all pay more attention to negative feedback than positive feedback which is why we need to be aware of what we pay attention to.
We hear so many exhortations to women to build their confidence, if only women were more confident they would progress further. So I was interested in the research Bain and Co did in 2014 that asked 1,000 men and women in a mix of US companies about their aspirations and their confidence. Women and men entered their executive careers with the same level of confidence yet after two years 34% of the men still aspired to the top job and only 16% of women did and this was not connected to their marital or parental status. The study’s conclusion was that as women gain experience women’s confidence drops to half that of men.
Self-belief, self-esteem and confidence It is natural that the more often you feel challenged in an area of your life the more likely this is to affect your self-esteem. In the Bain research there were three critical areas where women in the middle of their careers reported more negative experiences and perceptions than those who have just entered the workforce.
1. A clash with the stereotype of the ideal worker
2. A lack of supervisory support, and
3. Too few role models in senior-level positions
No surprises there (sadly) in terms of experience but it is how we interpret the experience we have about our particular situation that informs our beliefs about ourselves. Life tests us and organisational life does too. If you find your self-belief waning remind yourself doubt serves a purpose if it triggers you to reflect, to take stock.
How do we do this well?
How do we pay attention to what self-doubt is telling us in a way that is learning and future-focused? How do we interpret our experience in a way that supports the bloom of our leadership identity and capabilities and vanquishes our self-doubt?
– Start off with reminding yourself that you get to choose what you believe about yourself.
– Failures are essential to achieving anything important in life so change your belief about failure, focus on what you have learned, hold onto that and let the fear of future failure go.
– Ask yourself has this experience made my world smaller or bigger? What do I need to do to make it bigger?’
– Monitor your thoughts and when you catch yourself having negative thoughts come up with the opposite.
– Being around people who believe in us is important, who do you need/not need to be around?
– Write down the list of all the thoughts and beliefs that limit you, then think of a time in your life when these were not true. From this memory create positive affirmations reminding yourself of that person with those attributes and capabilities.
– Remember what you are a leader for. Knowing the purpose of your leadership will fuel your confidence and your courage.
So in the spirit of ‘our inner worlds create our outer worlds‘, as you look into 2021 check in with what ‘stories’ you are telling yourself about last year and your learning. You are the author of all of those beliefs, if you want to change them you can. This will make your goals bigger and more connected to the difference you want to make. It will help ensure you bring those unique and valuable leadership gifts you have, to a world that needs them so badly.
As always thanks for reading this and sharing it. Feel free to read more on my blog page.