Developing a strong sense of self-belief is a hallmark characteristic that distinguishes those that achieve great things from the rest of us. The starting point for self-development is a belief that your actions can contribute to improvement. Before we decide that we will do something, we first must believe that we can do it. In the first Chapter of Earn Everything, we’re introduced to several examples of individuals who have demonstrated high levels of self-belief which have fueled their remarkable achievements. We then learn more about what self-belief is and are provided with some practical approaches we can adopt in order to build our own or foster its development in others.
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” -Leonardo Da Vinci-
It may be easier to appreciate the idea when considering it from the opposite perspective. A mindset of victimhood is that displayed by those with little to no self-belief. Life is something that happens to them. If they encounter a hiccup like a flat tire, they wonder about why these sorts of things always happens to them. They bemoan the “fact” that bad luck follows them like a cumulonimbus cloud over their cranium. They don’t see their own ability to influence or shape their direction. They are leaves left to the whims of the wind. Those that believe that they are at the mercy of life inevitably give up. They relinquish their own right to self-fulfillment. Folk without self-belief may fret about unfairness. Life’s not fair they blubber. The self-talk of victims fosters their sense of futility. Why try? Why bother? What’s the point? Their greatest hope may be to be rescued by someone or hope that the fantasy of fate may drop some luck their way. They aren’t willing to work for things, take chances, or act to help themselves.
Contrast the sad state of affairs associated with being a victim with that of those demonstrating a strong self-belief.
Self-belief reflects a view that I can get better at things. Therefore, those strong in self-belief are willing to strive. They believe their actions matter. They believe their efforts make a difference. They are desperate to make an impact on the world. They aren’t blind to the fact that they can’t control everything, yet they don’t equate uncertainty with indecision. They work to control what they can which is themselves. They decide on a direction and take steady steps towards their determined outcome. They believe in self-determination. If it is to be, it is up to me. These individuals aren’t leaving things to chance, to providence, to fate. They realize they have one life to live and are intent on making the best of it. They act with intent. Self-believers see themselves as the primary actor in their own story whereas those without self-belief may be more like spectators in someone else’s story.
Self-belief isn’t something with which we’re born. It’s something we develop based on our experiences. It is something we can develop over time. It follows naturally from our innate curiosity and exploration of our world. As we develop skills like crawling, walking, and talking we learn that our actions make a difference. Our further experiences with parents, teachers, and peers can either further nurture or nullify our self-belief. It is something we ultimately become responsible for crafting for ourselves.
On the Canadian Comedy TV Show, Letterkenney, the characters have a motto they use in all kinds of funny circumstances: “Pitter Patter, Figure it Out.” This motto is the mantra for those with high self-belief. There is a strong correlation between those with high self-belief and their willingness to try to find a way through situations. Few things feel as good as solving a problem. Especially, when you realize that you were somehow, in some small way responsible for figuring it out. Struggle becomes something to seek out not shrink from. Your willingness to lean in and act grows. A virtuous cycle where confidence follows competence continues. By doing something successfully, you develop confidence. From this confidence comes additional motivation to try to develop additional competence. From the additional competence comes more confidence. The confidence to try to improve not just in the area where you’ve demonstrated competence already but in other areas as well.
Another way to evaluate where one is on the self-belief scale is to consider where one looks for answers to questions. Do they look outside of themselves to others? Are we trying to find an expert to provide the answer? Or, are we looking to ourselves? Are we taking responsibility to figure out the answer for ourselves? If the former, we’re more likely low in self-belief and closer to the victim end of the scale. If the latter, we have a healthy dose of self-belief.
In order to make progress at anything, we need to invest our attention and energy. The single greatest contributor any of us can bring to any endeavor is our effort. Where we believe that our efforts will make a difference and the subject is of some interest, we’ll bring more of our attention and energy. The quality of this effort drives our progress. Stronger effort, better progress. Progress follows our contribution. Our contribution is based on our self-belief. Our self-belief is the foundation, the bedrock, upon which we either crumble or develop.