• David Strittmatter

Self-belief — how to strengthen it [3 tips]

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty - Winston Churchill
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Summary:

  • A strong self-belief is when we're truly convinced that we will achieve a certain goal

  • Almost every person who achieved something exceptional had a strong self-belief

  • Without a strong self-belief, we often don't even start the journey - abandoning our dreams and aspirations

Practical advice:

  • First, every day you have to make a conscious decision to believe in your goals

  • Second, set little goals first. To build strong self-belief, you need to have these little successes

  • Third, get inspired by people with strong self-belief


Dear friend,


I've just finished my recent reading "Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It". It's a book about positioning yourself for "success" and the key ingredients that all "unreasonably" successful people - think of Albert Einstein, Jeff Bezos, Marie Curie, Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs - have in common.


I really liked the content because it wasn't about the classical "work hard", "stay consistent", "be patient" mentality but rather about how to set oneself up for success. For instance, according to the author, it's vital to "find and drive our personal vehicle", i.e. that we find a kind of platform we can use to multiply our impact. For Churchill that was his party, for Jeff his former employer and later his venture Amazon, for Marie Curie it was her Radium Institute and her husband that helped her to gain status when she moved to early 20th century France.


Another key ingredient we have to attain is a "strong self-belief", which implies starting the journey, building up the confidence that we will find our way to success even if we don’t yet know the route or the destination.


Strong self-belief is the ingredient that is the most crucial one. Only a few people really have a strong self-belief. But it's not that is "hard" to attain it. It's rather a conscious decision and a series of key experiences we can set ourselves up for that will make us attain it. I used to have no self-belief, I was a very doubtful person. Today, though, pretty much the opposite is true: I strongly believe nothing can stop me from making my dreams become reality.


In today's blog article, I will zoom in on this "success ingredient": What is self-belief? Why is it so important? How can we attain a strong self-belief? And tell you how my self-belief became so strong.


Self-belief - what does it mean?


A strong self-belief is when we're truly convinced that we will achieve a certain goal. It implies working towards the goal even if the route or final destination is unclear. For instance, Jeff Bezos wanted to build an "everything" store in the late 90s. He started with selling books, and today, we've got Amazon - the store with by far the largest assortment.

I've already observed many times what it looks like if someone lacks a strong self-belief. It's the moments when someone says "Yeah, achieving x might be cool, but I don't really want it", "..., but I think there are already too many people doing x", "..., but I think I'm not y enough", "..., but person z is much better than me", "..., but I don't have enough time"...


When we lack self-belief, we try to find excuses and arguments why our goal isn't a good idea or not attainable. Having great self-belief is rather the opposite: Even if someone discourages our goal, we find reasons why it'll work out anyway. As Winston Churchill once said: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty". It's not that we have to be an optimist to have strong self-belief, but we've to find opportunities in every difficulty that might prevent us from achieving our goals.


Further, people with a strong self-belief tend to have a strong "internal locus of control". Locus of control refers to our perception of the underlying main causes of events in our lives. Someone with a strong internal locus of control believes that his/her destiny is controlled by him/herself. Contrarily, someone with a strong external locus of control believes that his/her destiny is controlled by external forces, such as fate, god, or powerful others.


Self-belief - why so important?


The author of the book wrote: "If we don’t have strong self-belief, it’s almost impossible to become unreasonably successful". Almost every person who achieved something exceptional had a strong self-belief. And that makes perfect sense. We need to have this strong inner conviction that we can achieve a goal. The more ambitious the goal, the less other people will believe this goal is attainable. And if we don't believe it will work out, probably no one will do so.


Going for something many people believe won't work out is rough. People will laugh at us, people will discourage us, people will be skeptical, or people will even put obstacles in our way.


I really don't like Trump because of his moral and political views, but this guy has an absolutely astonishing self-belief. He received so much hate, resistance, laughter, and still kept going. His life is a series of goals accompanied by failure, discouragement, and resistance. And still, he eventually achieved many of them. I think this guy isn't good for our world, and it sucks to see that he is a role model for so many people. However, we cannot deny that his strong self-belief literally distorted reality and made things that seemed totally unrealistic true.


Even if we don't aim for world domination or building an everything store, self-belief is a prerequisite to achieving our goals. For instance, it's hard to put in the consistent work needed to reach any worthwhile goal, such as losing weight, achieving certain grades, or getting a promotion, if we don’t have self-belief. Having strong self-belief helps us to see setbacks as a part of the process and keep on going, reinforcing our self-belief, whereas a lack of self-belief will make failure reinforce our insecurities.


Even worse, without a strong self-belief, we often don't start the journey. So many people have great aspirations, desires, or dreams, but due to their lack of self-belief, they don't take their shot. People who don't try a new hobby, who don't change their job, who don't start their business, who don't leave a toxic partner, ... clearly lack self-belief.


How to attain a strong self-belief


What allowed me to attain a strong self-belief were 2 major factors: (1) Goals (2) little experience of success.


(1) Setting goals was key since it allowed me to test my abilities. I set myself minor goals, such as getting an A in my German class in the 10th grade, asking that girl for her number at a party, reading a book in 15 days, or not skipping leg day for 1 month.


(2) In following my minor goals, I experienced from time to time little successes. I got that A in my German class and I asked that girl for her number. These little successes allowed me to build confidence in my abilities and the confidence that I can achieve the goals I set for myself.


If I had to teach my younger self how to strengthen his self-belief, I would tell him 3 things:

First, every day you have to make a conscious decision to believe in your goals. You are the only person who is in charge and if you don't believe in your goals, nobody will do.


Second, set little goals first. To build strong self-belief, you need to have these little successes. They build the momentum that will carry you through the failures, setbacks, and rejection that more ambitious goals will force you to overcome. Setting unrealistically high goals and not meeting them is detrimental to self-belief. If you demand too much, too fast, it will backfire. So set realistic smaller goals, with easy steps to achieve them. When you reach a goal, set a higher one. Gradually aim higher as you achieve them. And with each step forward, you'll build more and more self-belief.


Third, get inspired by people with strong self-belief. When I was a teenager I read a lot about Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Particularly the latter one was talked down for years. Millions of people believed that he and his companies will fail. And indeed, so many times, Elon Musk was at the brink of failure, but he kept going and kept believing. Today, his technology companies bring Elon Musk's dreams and vision alive, and the number of disbelievers has shrunk. By reading the biographies of these people, you will get inspired and receive the necessary amount of energy you need to make your dreams and goals become true.

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