I once had a post-game discussion with my basketball team about areas we needed to improve and what we needed to do differently. One player suggested it would help if at certain points of the game, like in a time out, I told the team, “We ARE going to win this game!” He felt that me saying that would give them confidence.
Confidence is something we all want, but it seems to be so elusive, inconsistent, and fleeting.
Like the player in the locker room, many people want to gain confidence based on results and achievement. They feel they have to prove themselves first and then once they do they can swell with pride. They think they need to win in order to gain confidence. But if that is true, then how do you ever win in the first place?
So maybe confidence comes from preparation and all the hard work you put in to get ready for your opportunity?
I played four years of college basketball as a walk-on and over the course of those four years my playing time fluctuated greatly. Many games I didn’t play at all, some games I was in the normal rotation as a sub, and I was a starter for about five or six games. One of those games I started was my sophomore year. It was the middle of the year and Coach was trying to find a lineup that worked well. On the bus ride home from a game we lost, he brought each player up individually and asked who they believed should be the starting five. As the result of my teammates’ recommendations, I was chosen to start the next game.
To say I was nervous would be a slight understatement. I had worked really hard to make the team as a walk-on my freshmen year and the next summer not only did I work hard, but I was able to work smarter because I knew exactly what I needed to do and what to expect from the entire process. So although I was nervous, I was prepared to make the most of my opportunity.
First 3-point attempt...swish!
Second 3-point attempt...good!
Third 3-point attempt...nothing but net!
Although we made a valiant effort to come back in the second half, we ended up losing the game. But I played well and scored a career-high nine points. So I started the next game, right? Nope! Was that the right decision or the wrong decision? It doesn’t even matter.
The principle is that confidence based on results and achievement is very fragile and it can be taken away at anytime. Although I gave my best and even produced good results, I had no control over whether I was in the starting lineup. That was the coach’s decision. If my confidence was based on being a starter, then I lost that even though it was out of my control.
Confidence based on results is really cockiness or arrogance that we are better than someone else. If we need to defeat someone or put someone down in order to gain confidence, then we are creating a toxic situation not only for ourselves, but for those around us. According to Jamie Gilbert, comparing is about being better than, but competing is about getting better...and we can always get better.
I would like to suggest that confidence comes from possibility, courage, and resilience. Possibility that we can accomplish our dreams and visions in life. Courage to take action toward those dreams and visions and overcome obstacles that we encounter along the way. Resilience to keep giving our best shot no matter what the results are because we know that those results do not give us value or take our value away. That comes from who we are as a person.
As Inky Johnson so eloquently asks, “Can you be committed to the process without being emotionally attached to the results?” Confidence based on results is centered on the put-down game. People who play this game use criticism and fear to try to intimidate others, tell them what not to do, and put them down. They believe if they blow out others’ candles then theirs will shine brighter.
Confidence based on possibility, courage, and resilience plays the put-up game. People who play this game use affirmations and encouragement to produce optimism. They understand that by lighting other people’s candles we all shine brighter. Confidence is an inside game. You don’t gain it from any external results and you don’t need to put anyone else down in order to lift yourself up.
So when I didn’t start the next game after having a career-high in college was it still possible for me to accomplish my dreams and visions? Could I still have courage to take action and overcome obstacles? Could I have resilience to keep giving my best shot and understand the coach’s decision did not take away my value as a person?
Confidence comes from possibility, courage, and resilience. And we can always have those three things if we are playing for the love of the game!
Burn Your Goals by Joshua Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert
Inky Johnson: https://twitter.com/InkyJohnson/status/949400968621383682
The put-down game and put-up games are taken from The Strange Secret of the Big Time by Frosty Westering
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