How to get more confidence in your personal and professional life

A guide to controlling negative thoughts and overcoming fear and self doubt

Image The confidence gap

photo by Joshua Earle via Unsplash

“What if you had all the confidence in the world, how would you behave differently? What sort of person would you be? What sort of things would you do?”

These are absolutely critical questions asked by Dr. Russ Harris in the first pages of his important and excellent book, The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt.

This is vital because, believe it or not, the truth is that the biggest hurdles that we must overcome in life are often self-imposed. Though we are quick to blame the environment—an underprivileged childhood, chronic poverty, bad parents, crazy bosses, demanding customers, the great recession, corrupt politicians, disruptive innovations, unfavorable market forces or any other external force you can think of—often we are the ones who construct the barriers, obstacles and limitations to achieving what we want.

Even if the environment isn’t cooperative, as is often the case, it is we who are sometimes our own worse enemy.

That’s why the great danger today is not that you will have the temerity to dream big,”unachievable” dreams, but that you will sadly limit yourself, stay in your comfort zone and dream too little, or not at all.

Indeed, many of us are not setting our sights too high, we’re setting them way too low!

And the reason is fear and self doubt.

So here comes Dr. Russ Harris to the rescue, along with a growing stack of empirical evidence that supports a tried and true approach to combat the destructive scourge that is fear, self doubt and a general lack of confidence.

The approach is known by many names but is commonly referred to as ACT—Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It is a values-based form of psychotherapy that utilizes mindfulness techniques to help you take control of your negative thoughts. Contrary to conventional “fake it till you make it” or “think positive” self-help advice, this approach encourages you to accept yourself, and any negative thoughts that you may experience, while you commit to work on taking control of your actions by unhooking from negative emotions, memories, images, thoughts or sensations that may be stopping you from achieving what you desire.

Dr. Harris’ book might have been titled, “Your Mind: The Missing Manual” because your brain often acts like a double-edged sword that you would do well to learn how to handle. That’s because millions of years of evolution have sharpened your mind’s keen problem solving capacities—the ability to scan the environment, identify threats and devise strategies to avoid injury or death—but that doesn’t help you when you want to move towards achieving ambitious and sometimes risky goals. An inherent conflict emerges when you want to stretch and move beyond the cozy confines of your comfort zone.

Just as you’re getting ready to do something exciting and important in your personal or professional life, your mind serves up heaping spoonfuls of resistance in the guise of excuses, negative predictions, prognostications of doom and gloom and other destructive self-talk. And if worse comes to worse, it’ll activate its oldest and most powerful trick: the famous fight, flight (or freeze) response.

Lucky for us, Dr. Harris’ book describes, in detail, the specific techniques you need to unhook from these mental traps.

That’s an invaluable contribution, if you ask me.

This book is worth it’s weight in gold because it teaches you how to accept and deal with your thoughts and emotions; it instructs you on how to plan a course to realize your dreams and achieve true success. And perhaps, lasting happiness to boot!

How’s that for a return on investment?

That’s why this book is an important addition to my personal success library, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you include it in yours.

I encourage you to order the physical book along with the audio version from Audible. This way, the book can serve as a reference guide to the ACT framework while the audio recording will have Dr. Harris talking and coaching you himself. Using both formats will be remarkably effective in helping you learn and apply this life-changing information.

Now, let’s return to the beginning.

What if you had all the confidence in the world, how would you behave differently? What sort of person would you be? What sort of things would you do?