Packing a punch in personal and professional development
It’s all a matter of belief – belief in yourself. Ask Rocky. Yeah, Rocky Balboa. He learned the hard way in the ring back in 1982. There he was, cruising along, all beer and skittles, living off the fat of the land, the riches of previous successes, when he leapt into a new challenge. Without taking it seriously, committing his heart to it, he found himself KO’ed, yes, knocked out by none other than Clubber Lang (Mr T is Clubbers name in real life – that’s real life?). Anyway, who’d have predicted that?
You know, working on your personal and professional development is a little like watching your diet.
We need to balance out our intake of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. And it’s an ongoing cyclical process, so don’t be surprised to see the same old items coming up on the menu. If you’re focused on muscle building, eating a gargantuan sirloin steak twice a day for a week and then turning to salads thereafter isn’t going to leave you with bulging biceps for the next six months. Personal and professional development actions are the same. We need to continuously read and remind ourselves of what we should be doing in order to stay fit for the challenge. Imagine yourself at the table with a Lazy Susan revolving, with a stack of bowls full of development ideas. They’ll keep coming round and round again and again, and you need to keep selecting them, tasting them, and adding them to your menu depending on what you need and where your diet is deficient. Now, eat up, there’s plenty more where that came from.
In this post I want to talk about self-belief and the crucial link it plays in your success personally and professionally.
Beware – don’t underestimate your own opinion
For now though, it’s back to Rocky
Rocky set about preparing himself for a rematch and began working really hard, but alas he found himself plagued by doubt and insecurities. For every ten fights he’d had, he drew only on the few he’d lost and shaped his reality accordingly. He was crumbling under the weight of the “What if ?” and “I can’t” self-talk. Doubt was there, in his face, everywhere he turned, like a blowfly at a picnic, or the smoke from a campfire. Eventually he slumped physically and mentally and indicated his intent to throw the towel in (which is literally the term for ending a fight, conceding defeat).
But wait…… can you believe it? It wasn’t that simple
Rocky’s support people were not ready to throw the towel in on his behalf (easy for them, they didn’t have Mr T growling and barking spittle in their faces). They encouraged Rocky to dig deep and to look within himself to find the belief that he could achieve his goal. To this point he had been drawing all his strength externally from his support team, then pouring his insecurities, like water, on the fire they offered. The real fire had to come from within himself. They told him – he had to believe he could, he had to really want it, otherwise he would live with the what might have been for the rest of his life. And he did, he realised how much he wanted it and believed he could, and the rest of course is Hollywood at its best. Had Mr T read the script before he entered the ring for the rematch, he may have chosen to reconsider. All Rocky’s doubt was gone, washed away by a tide of personal belief that delivered the lethal punches that ended in victory.
So what can you do to really build that self belief and deliver a winning blow
- Draw on you previous successes and use them to undermine your insecurities. Every time you envision a failure, or perhaps an insurmountable challenge, draw on your past successes. They don’t necessarily have to be like for like. Recalling the emotion and energy that surrounded the success is where you’ll find the power. Take yourself back and relive the moment.
- Awareness is key to self belief. Be aware of what you’re saying to yourself and what you’re saying to others. Keep it positive. Be aware of your posture. One of the most powerful positions you can be in is the victory stance with your arms flung in the air, much like you see runners do as they explode through the tape to win at the end of a running race, or Rocky did at the top of the stairs after that famous movie scene. Research shows that this position increases the level of testosterone in the body, which makes a person feel powerful and confident. Burst through the door of your job interview room , hands in the air and victorious. It’s a sure fire way to make a lasting impression. Actually don’t. But do use this technique in a private location before you step up to meet challenges like public speaking, interviews etc. At the least, stand straight, shoulders back and chin up.
- Maybe you’re not in training for the boxing ring, in which case physical exercise is particularly important. When the big challenges come along, it’s amazing how your mind prefers to conduct a debrief or even a lively debate at 2:00am in the morning. You’re more than likely mentally exhausted when you find yourself wide awake at 2, but if your physically exhausted, then you are much less likely to wake up in the first place and far more likely to sleep in a more settled fashion. Not only does that refresh the body, but also your mind. So hit the track or the treadmill.
- And whilst we are on sleep, know what triggers a rough night’s sleep for you. For me it’s certain foods, like anything with a high sugar content. As much as I love ice-cream, eating it last thing in the evening is a sure fire recipe for an unsettled night of wild dreams. The same could be said for soft drinks, caffeine and other stimulants. Don’t set yourself up for relaxation by gorging down stimulating foods and drinks.
- And of course, I can’t help but mention meditation. Give the brain a break. It’s the one part of the body that rarely takes time out for a rest. For it to operate in peak condition, it needs a breather, so meditate, or at the least, listen to music, or read a book or do something/anything that breaks the cycle of concentration on the challenge at hand.
And in the end, when the bell rings
If you put your heart and soul into something, sure it’s bound to be disappointing if it doesn’t work out how you planned or believed it would, but it is better to look back and say you gave it your best shot, than to look back and wonder “What if?”
Other relevant articles I have written
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Many thanks to James Westmore for his wonderful artwork