Self-confidence goes hand in hand with winning, with self-esteem, with the success and happiness in everything you do. The more self-confidence you have, the more things you’ll try and, by the law of averages, the more things you’re likely to achieve. The more self-confidence you have, the less you’ll be affected by temporary setbacks and disappointments. The more self-confidence you have, the more likely it is that you will have a long, exciting life full of riches, rewards, and self-satisfaction.
One of the starting points of self-confidence is for you to recognize that you have tremendous strengths of ability and character that you can bring to bear to accomplish almost anything you want. You are extraordinary. The odds are more than 50 billion to 1 against there ever being anyone with the unique combination of talents, skills, and abilities that you bring to your life and to your world. And the incredible things that you can do and be no one knows, not even you. But the one thing we do know is that virtually everything noteworthy that you will ever achieve will come from your ability to identify your areas of greatest strength and then to capitalize on them in every situation.
Each person has one or more areas of excellence that if properly exploited would enable the person to be and have and do almost anything he or she could possibly want. Each person, as the result of years of education and experience, has developed possibilities that make him or her different from all other people. And the men and women who are achieving the most in every field are invariably those who have taken the time to identify their areas of greatest strength and then to capitalize on them continuously.
Life is the study of attention. Where your attention goes, there will your heart be also. The people, things, and events that hold your attention are indicative of your entire mental makeup. The things you are interested in are an indication of what you should be doing more of. In one longitudinal study examining 1,500 men and women who started out eager and ambitious at the beginning of their careers, the examiners found that only 83 of them over the course of 20 years became millionaires.
When they went back and studied the attitudes and decisions of these people as they had evolved over the 20 years, they found that every millionaire had one thing in common. Every one of them had chosen a field he or she enjoyed. They had all gone to work in an area of endeavor in which they were extremely interested and which held their entire attention. They had been throwing their whole hearts into becoming very good, developing the strength necessary to succeed in that area, and then capitalized on those strengths by becoming better and better progressively over time.
The conclusion of the study was that success, wealth, and happiness seemed to occur when a person was completely preoccupied doing something else. The wealthy people in this study never set out to make a lot of money. Instead they set out to find a field that they really enjoyed, and then they devoted themselves to it. The money came as an afterthought.
The flip side of this equation is that you will never really be happy or satisfied until you have found a way to apply your unique human capabilities to your life and to your work. I call this the feeling of divine discontent. It’s a feeling of uneasiness and dissatisfaction that arises whenever you’re not fully challenged by what you’re doing.
To enjoy high levels of self-confidence and self-esteem, you must be working at the outer edge of your envelope. You must be stretching your capabilities continually. You must have the feeling that you are growing day by day with the challenges that your work is putting on you. Without that feeling of challenge and growth, you’ll experience discontent, and this is a good sign. Discontent and dissatisfaction almost always precede a constructive change that puts you onto the fast track and starts you growing once more.
Values are important to your self-confidence. Men and women with clear values who are living their lives consistent with their highest aspirations are those who have a deep sense of self-confidence and well-being. The most important value you can have is the value of integrity. Integrity is the value that guarantees all the others. Having integrity means that you will not compromise on what you believe to be right in any area.
Integrity is absolutely essential if you want to capitalize on your strengths. It means, more than anything, looking at yourself honestly and making your decisions based on the fact that you are an extraordinary human being. Your feelings are very valuable clues to your choices and behavior. Your peace of mind and personal satisfaction are perhaps the most accurate guide you will ever have to doing what is right for you.
In addition to integrity, courage is the most important single quality you can have if you want to be happy and self-confident. If integrity means being honest with yourself, then courage means having the ability to follow where your heart leads you. It means having the ability to push aside all other considerations in order to remain true to the very best that is in you.
Fear is the greatest single enemy of self-confidence and self-fulfillment. It’s not that people don’t know what to do; it’s usually that they’re afraid to do what their hearts tell them to do. But when you build yourself up step by step and gradually overcome the influence of fear, your whole world opens up before you. Your self-confidence rises so high that there are no longer any limitations on what you will attempt or what you’ll commit yourself to.
One of greatest of all impressionist painters was a man named Paul Gauguin. He had a family and worked in the post office in Paris for many years. But in the evenings he visited the cafés frequented by the painters of Paris, getting to know them and asking them questions. He was fascinated by painting. The whole idea of painting absorbed his attention. It was all he thought about, and yet with a family and a full-time job, there was no way that he could devote himself to the painting he wanted so badly to do.
One day after the age of 40, in a move that shocked everybody, he gave up his job as a postal inspector, left his family, and moved to the South Sea Island of Tahiti. There he began painting. His paintings now are worth hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars, and hang in the finest museums in the world. He is considered by many to be one of the most important painters of the last 300 years. In a way he was like Grandma Moses in that he finally decided to follow his heart and concentrate on what he had been interested in for all those years.
Now, to follow your heart, you don’t necessarily need to make dramatic changes in your life or your relationships. What you do need to do is see yourself honestly as you really are and have the courage to channel your energies and focus your strengths into your areas of greatest potential. And I promise you, when you do this, you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have made one of the best decisions of your life.
Each person has great strengths and potentialities, and each person is put in this world to harness those strengths and apply them to benefiting himself or herself and humankind. The life stories of all the great men and women are simply stories of people who discovered their strengths and utilized them to the fullest degree. Churchill was a great statesman and orator. Florence Nightingale was a tremendous organizer. Florence Chadwick was an incredibly strong swimmer. Abraham Lincoln was a far-sighted and compassionate politician and president. Mother Teresa was a truly loving human being with an infinite capacity to care for and support the sick and dying people of Calcutta. Joe Montana was a quarterback with an incredible throwing arm with the San Francisco 49ers. All around you, you see men and women who have grabbed their major talents, like catching a pass in a football game, and are running for the goal posts. And you can do the same if you have the courage to follow your heart.
The law of concentration has an inordinate impact on the person you become. Whatever you dwell upon grows. Strong people are those who dwell upon their strengths and abilities. Weak people are those who dwell upon their weaknesses and their inabilities. But to develop and maintain high levels of self-confidence and the success and happiness that go with it, you must consciously choose to dwell upon your strengths most of the time.
One of the best questions you can ask yourself over and over is, What can I and only I do that if done well will make an extraordinary difference in my situation? Every great human achievement is preceded by extended periods of dedicated concentrated effort. Success comes from staying at a particular thing, the most valuable and important thing you could be doing, until you succeed.