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Building self confidence provides resources in the face of adversity

Self confidence in the face of adversity is an admirable trait many of us would probably like to have and not many probably possess. How often do you find something difficult happens and you are consumed by anxiety, self doubt, anger or upset? Do you not wish you had that inner strength that will carry you through, or at least worry that if something unpleasant happens you won’t be able to cope?

Yet in history when certain nations have been beset by adversity, a leader has emerged to carry them through, one who held an aura of confidence that inspired others. It is a much valued leadership trait, and perhaps rare. Winston Churchill comes to my mind as regards the UK, or perhaps Roosevelt for the USA in the 2nd World War. In the UK’s situation it was when facing seemingly inevitable invasion and then through the long, difficult years of bombing until the tide turned. Churchill, himself a depressive, nevertheless had the strength within him to inspire a nation. You could probably think of others.

Looking at one’s own personal situation, self confidence and self belief give an anchor, an inner knowing that enables us to meet our challenges. It is that inner knowledge that you can do it, you have what it takes and that you will come through and all will be well. It’s a kind of trust of self. This is not necessarily an outward show, and that helps, but more a certainty within.

So the value of building self confidence and self belief is that it gives you an invaluable resource for any challenges that may come. So, when times are good, and things are going OK, this is every bit as important in terms of self development as the tougher times. This is when it pays to work on those areas where we are prone to self doubt and turn them to our advantage. This will depend on the individual, but you could for example choose where to challenge yourself in order to increase your confidence. One friend asked me to show him how to climb trees to help him overcome a fear of heights. He only told me he has this fear when we got to the top! He had in past avoided doing this. Another I know does a lot of public speaking and yet I know that historically he’s a shy person. He has learned to confront his fears and knows he can now achieve a lot more. It’s like his comfort boundary has massively expanded. What the resource is you have to ask, but I suspect it is an inner knowing that’s he’s OK in any situation. Doing such things equips you with additional skills and this in itself means there’s more you can do. When you know you can do it, and know you can find a way to do it, you have gained a level in confidence you didn’t previously possess.

This is the sort of resource acquistion I’m thinking of, giving yourself more skills that adds to your belief in your capability. In turn it rubs off on your confidence levels in general and you come across accordingly as more impactful and as one who can inspire others in some way. Study the careers of successful people and you will find some adversity they had to overcome to be as they became, and they needed to equip themselves with particular resources to do this.

I help people in building self confidence so that they can accomplish what they really want to do. To learn more, click here.

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Recovery from adversity can be a painful journey

I found the recent interview of Dame Kelly Holmes, the double Olympic gold winner, by Piers Morgan very moving. I’ve alluded to her earlier this week on a different matter but want to devote this post to her. What was so inspiring for me in what happened? Firstly it was how much she as a quite private person allowed us into her life, secondly it was how she shared about her challenges that she had had to overcome on her journey to success, and of course it was thirdly our being able to share her triumph once again at the Athens Olympics.

Behind many a successful person there’s a story and a journey, and it’s good for others to witness what she faced in that it helps others to potentially feel differently and perhaps encouraged by what they learn from a well-known person’s own struggles. For example, it can be helpful for those that suffer from depression to hear about the struggles of celebrities like Ruby Wax or Stephen Fry. Thus in different ways Dame Kelly serves as a role model for us.

Dame Kelly spoke about how hard it was for her when her mother gave her up to a children’s home when she was very small, and how she wanted her mother to be there on the program and show she’s proud of her. She came over as very understanding and supportive of the fact that her mother had to give her up because she could not support her, how she stayed nearby, refused to have her adopted and eventually came back for her. Such a moving story, all the more so I suspect because many of us have that child inside us who fears for our parents leaving us and fears that they may not come back. Kelly admitted that even now she doesn’t like others leaving. It was hard for Kelly to speak of these things and yet she went ahead, overcoming what is presumably a habitual reticence behind a very determined facade, as one might expect of one who has been through a lot when very young.

We also heard about how she battled with repeated injuries in her competitive life leading up to the Athens Olympics, and even took to self-harm, at one stage cutting herself for days on end. We really got how much she took out on herself her frustrations with her body and her anger with herself. Apart from being a very honest account of what it can take for a very successful person to get there and overcome their obstacles, it was also I thought admirable to hear this for the not-a-few who also self-harm, and give them courage that they can get through this.

Then finally she accomplishes her goal, victory in the 800 and 1500 metres events, which of course is what she is remembered for. No wonder the audience stood for her at the end of the program. It was all the more poignant and joyful when you now knew what she had gone through to get there, a true triumph over adversity. I for one loved the interview and the program, so sensitively led by Piers Morgan. What an inspiration for others!

I coach people to recover from adversity and be successful in their careers. Click here.

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In adversity it’s time to get resourceful

With lots of change going on in the work-place, people will very likely be finding things difficult, especially as for lots of people at present the workplace is very stressful, along with financial cutbacks. As we’ve discussed in this blog, change often comes to people in bunches. They’ve got lets say a change at work when parallel to this is a lot happening on the home front too. Or a parent dies and you’ve just split up with a partner and been told you’ve got a serious illness.

Flexibility is a hard one if you’re confronted with a change you don’t like and don’t want. This is when people can dig in their heals and resist like mad. The trouble is that the change ends up happening and the only ones who seem to be suffering in the end is us.

When we get scared, we tend to put up the barriers. Too much of our energy is invested in holding on and surviving. Thus we don’t have the openness to alternative possibilities. We’ve shut down on our right-brain thinking and our creativity. So we don’t necessarily see the options in a situation. We also fear for the future and don’t always think that things could work out as we want.

If we went into a situation imagining we had multiple possibilities, we might then be able to work out different ways of dealing with it. We might see alternative scenarios working out for us, and can plan alternative strategies, each for a different eventuality.

Flexibility is a crucial change management skill. With flexibility, your beliefs are more open to things working out. You may be more positive in your outlook towards life and other people. You might be more optimistic, and believe that whatever happens will be for the best. I’ve always been struck how things work out well for people with this orientation to life. They tend to be more resourceful and have ideas to deal with situations. They are less invested in the fear of things going wrong and more in what they might do and how it will benefit them.

Flexibility can be cultivated. One might for example deliberately teach oneself to breathe and let go of fear, and deliberately have the intention that things will work out. One can teach oneself to think in terms of developing options. One can train oneself to challenge the negative, doubting, fearful side.

More is possible than we might think. So, if you’re feeling up against it at the moment, maybe this is the universe telling you to get resourceful.

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What happens can be a product of what we think to be so

Thinking that you are experiencing adversity or difficulty is of course a mindset in itself. Not of course that is how it seems. To one who’s business is going pear-shaped or has lost his job, or his or her partner has left, or has just learned she or her has a serious illness, that’s very likely be feel very real. For anybody who has seen the cash drain out of their business in 2008 or even today will say, they will have felt it big-time. So, how do you respond? How do you shift this thinking, that you are up against it at some level, that things are going against you?

I was running a workshop for a business on the day in 2008 right after the Lehman Bros crash, when the former’s stock price hit the floor. For people who were generally used to things going their way, it was a huge shock. I remember that they just sat stunned in the break, staring at a TV screen. I also remember also running a workshop on the day of the attack on the Twin Towers and that same shock in the group when the news broke. We don’t forget these things. It sticks in the mind.

Adversity can drive you to the wall, but there comes a point for many people, it’s like a kind of turning point, when they decide they’ve had enough of being in the hole, wallowing (so it seems to them) in feeling sorry for themselves for their situation. They decide things must change and it starts with themselves and their mindset.

This is what is so crucial, how we think about what appears to be happening. It can be very hard to get in the midst of difficulty that at some level we are making all this up, that what we experience is a function of perception and that what we need to change is how we think.

It is very often not easy for people. Many say to me that they find it very hard, especially if they’ve never done this stuff before. What we are doing is changing the way our minds work, which means changing how our brains are wired, so to speak, undoing old habits and learning new ones. And it requires effort and persistence. And lots of challenging the mind when it slides back into its habitual ways.

This is why I so often recommend to people that they adopt a practice or set of practices that they will keep to every day, to re-mind themselves, to maintain their focus. There’s nothing new in this. It’s ancient. Novelty is not the point here: it’s about doing something that changes our thinking.

New lines of thinking, new neural pathways in the brain, create new possibilities, ones we didn’t see when stuck in our hole of negativity. Thinking differently means we feel different and we see new perspectives, new possibilities that weren’t evident when in the hole. Then we attract new possibilities to us, which can change our lives.

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Seeing the benefits in adversity

It can be hard to get that when you’ve hit difficult times there’s very likely something in it all that you’ll benefit from long-term. Of course it can seem like a wind-up likely to be met with expletives. However, in all that might be going on, there might be some insight or learning that you need to get, maybe one you’ve not got till now, and which will prove a major gain for you in some way. The trouble is that this can be very hard to see at the time.

When difficult times come, what we can so easily do is focus in on the difficulty. From a pain/pleasure perspective, we want to avoid the pain and get more pleasure. So we’re struggling to avoid something. We’re also likely to want to restore the old situation, which is presumed to be OK in some way, even though things are probably changing and we can’t have it back. So we’re likely to be grieving for what we’ve lost. In what is called the Change Curve, we first have to feel the pain, reach the “pits” and find a way to accept what has happened, what the lessons are and what the new way forward is, before building the new life. There’s probably a letting go somewhere too. Many people are unable to make this transition and stay stuck somewhere before acceptance, for example feeling upset, angry or depressed about what has happened or attached to the old ways. The adversity may go on a long time and we need to find the endurance to see it through, even when we can’t see the end point. People can so easily give up along the way. There may be false dawns, when it looks like it’s working out but then things fall back to the default phase of difficulty.

People who have lost their job and have found it has taken them a long time to get back on their feet will know this one, as might people who have had business or financial difficulty or a major illness or bereavement or a disaster, among some typical examples.

It can be as though the hardship itself obscures the awarenes, the insight into the situation that’s needed for learning to take place. Energy is more invested in survival than creativity. However, many who’ve written about these situations say that it is when we start to make choices about we will manage the situation and ourselves that’s different that we start to make the learnings. Many would probably say it’s when we “take responsibility” in effect. We start to apply our will to what’s happening. Determination gets involved. It’s like we decide we’re going to deal with things differently. This too can be a “false dawn” and we can slide back, but if the process is repeated and we are able once again to re-focus, we find the inner strength and will to move forward.

What that is varies massively but I would say that this is where the benefit can truly come, when we find our own way forward, our own coping mechanism, and our own ideas about what we can do, and start to implement them. What has so often struck me is that there’s some very important personal insight involved, about how we operate as persons, how we think and feel, our patterns and attitudes, how we do things, something that needs to change or be done differently. If we make this learning, which is all about self-awareness, we are somehow stronger and wiser for it, perhaps even a breakthrough that can be life-changing and life-enhancing.