This Article Continues From S: Self-Assuredness & Self-Belief
If the COVID pandemic of 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that despite our best intentions nothing in life is secure.
Besides birth and death, security, as it has been dramatically shown to us, is an illusion. Insecurity is the reality.
Our livelihoods, our careers, our homes, our way of life have been turned upside down. Our sense of who we are, what we do, how we do it, is in question. This virus has not only attacked our physical health and threatened our lives, it has also attacked our mental health and undermined our emotional stability.
It has revealed our vulnerabilities on a personal level, relationship level, community level, national level, even global level.
It has revealed our vulnerabilities on a financial level, healthcare level, employment level, even national security level.
Unemployment around the world is at Great Depression numbers, which some analysts predict will go even higher. National and international border closures have dramatically disrupted chains of supply. Mental health issues brought on by job losses, financial ruin, and forced isolation have climbed. Anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self-harm are rising at a faster rate than compared with previous years before the pandemic began.
It takes courage to face down your insecurities and develop strategies to overcome your problems. It takes courage to face your fears and continue to live the best way possible. We especially need a lot of courage during this pandemic when fear and anxiety are just as virulent as Covid-19 itself.
Yet, courage is not out of reach. Courage is something that is inherent in every person; it just needs to be acknowledged as part of who you are and then expressed.
Courage is not just for the brave. It is not just for others. Courage is closer to you than the skin on your body. It is not something far and distant and unobtainable. It is well within your grasp.
As M. Scott Peck wrote in his bestselling book, The Road Less Traveled:
“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future.”
Thankfully, as a human being, you have an abundance of courage. You have the inner power to move out against your fears into the unknown and into the future. Like humans have always done in every crisis.
We show courage when we go into lockdown for weeks at a time to stop the spread of the virus, not only as individuals but as communities and nations. We show not only courage, but also ingenuity and collaboration, when we galvanise our efforts to hunt down and develop a vaccine for Covid-19, which has now been achieved and is now available to the people of the world, a feat that has been accomplished faster than ever before.
We show courage when we have faith that this too shall pass, that the world will rebuild and renew itself and that the future still holds the promise of joy, hope, love, and even peace and freedom.
So, yes, this pandemic has taught us that nothing in life is secure, that insecurity is the ‘new normal’ (if in fact this is actually ‘new’ at all, or that it’s just more obvious to us now that we’ve been forcibly and rudely shaken awake to what we thought was real and made to see what is not), but it’s also revealed something else, something wonderful and truly marvelous:
Human courage is already there—it’s already inside us, as us. It’s who we are.
So if courage is what you want, you already have what you’re looking for. All you need to do is tap into it.
And one of the best ways to tap into your courage is to broaden your SCOPE.
SCOPE: Courage and Confidence—Cause. Persistence. Self-Worth.
In my article, Why Success in Anything You Do Depends on Your SCOPE (and Your Failure Too), I introduced the concept of broadening your SCOPE to develop the success habit of completion. Namely, the habits of:
C: Courage and Confidence
We discussed the first step to broaden your SCOPE, and thus transform your failures into success, is to build your faith muscle—your self-assuredness—which you do by:
- Clarifying Your Vision—your “I am”
- Amplifying Your Success Attitude—your “I will”
- Building Your Self-Belief—your “I can”
All three traits—I am, I will, I can—build your faith in who you want to be and what you want to do. When you use it like a mantra—”I am! I will! I can!”—and repeat it in the gymnasium of your mind, the stronger your faith muscle becomes, the firmer your self-assuredness.
In a sense, your vision, attitude, and belief are keys to unlocking your sense of optimism for who and what you can become. As Hellen Keller reminded us:
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”
So if you want to be successful, if you want to achieve things, you need a good dose of optimism and faith, which is what we’ve been defining as self-assuredness.
Successful people have healthy doses of self-assuredness. They also have healthy doses of courage and confidence, which we’ll be discussing in this article. Courage and confidence are linked to self-assuredness and self-belief in a two-way stream, where each reinforces the other (as do, in fact, all 5 aspects of your SCOPE).
I mentioned just a moment ago the need to tap into your courage during these uncertain and insecure times, and in a previous article, Everything Begins With Who, What, Why, How: Why Everything Begins With Clarity of Vision, I also mention how confidence is a game-changer for those seeking to be successful and desiring to grow into the person want to be.
Like self-assuredness, those who are successful tend to have an inner supply of confidence. Those with limited success tend not to have confidence or be able to tap into their inner supply.
Confidence, however, is a word that needs defining because it has so many different meanings to many people. Essentially, psychologists define two types of confidence:
- Epistemic confidence—how certain you are about what’s true.
- Social confidence—how secure you are in yourself (which ties in and overlaps our discussion of S: Self-assuredness and Self-belief).
When you think or say things like, “I have no doubt this is going to work out,” or, “I can guarantee he’s not telling the whole truth,” then you’re expressing epistemic confidence. This can be thought of as the confidence in what you know—the expression of certainty.
If you think or speak as if you are someone who is worth listening to (and self-worth is something we will elaborate more on later in this discussion in C: Courage and Confidence Part 2) and deserves to be heard, then you are expressing social confidence. This can be thought of as the confidence of who you are—the certainty of expression.
Social confidence also doesn’t mean that you need to be a great public speaker or that you need to be the belle of the ball to exude social confidence. It just means that whatever social context you’re in—family, friends, work, parties, sport, clubs, other organisations, and so forth—you genuinely feel and believe that you have something of value to contribute and deserve to be there.
Good leaders tend to have a mix of epistatic and social confidence. That is, they have a sound knowledge base and know what they’re doing (or at least appear to be), and they are confident in deserving that role and confident in who they are as a person. Think of some of the most well-known business and political leaders of modern time: Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandella, JFK, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, to name a few.
Yet although personal and professional leadership requires both epistatic and social confidence, research has shown that, when it comes to having an impact on others, epistatic confidence trails social confidence by a fair margin. In other words, people are more influenced by who you are than by how much you know.
A study of university students working together and interacting in small groups (Anderson, C., Brion, S., Moore, D. A., & Kennedy, J. A. (2012). A status-enhancement account of overconfidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(4), 718–735. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029395) showed that higher ratings of confidence and capability were given to those students who participated more in conversations and appeared more relaxed. On the other hand, the student’s surety on what they were asked about, their epistatic confidence, mattered very little.
Your social cues, such as eye contact, body language, and use of voice, are given more weight in how others judge your confidence than on your knowledge base.
As the saying goes:
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
People are social animals and so prefer, and judge you on, not your expressions of certainty, but the certainty of your expressions. Which is why, in our discussions on confidence henceforth, we will focus more on social confidence than epistatic confidence. Such focus also fits in with the underlying mantra of this series of articles:
Get yourself right, and everything else will fall into place.
Confidence, therefore, begins with who you are. It develops and matures with the clear vision of who you are, what you want to do, why you do it, and how you do it.
What’s more, your confidence will grow in magnitude directly proportionate with the courage to be the person you want to be. It’s hard to be confident without courage, without making action in spite of your fears, yet it’s also hard to be courageous without confidence. They are symbiotic.
So it’s important to refine our definition of self-confidence, which the Psychology Dictionary Online defines as:
An individual’s trust in their own abilities, capacities, and judgments, or belief that they can successfully face day-to-day challenges and demands.
Accordingly, there are 3 main types of confidence that, as the successful and effective person you intend to be, you will need to be mindful of and seek to develop:
- Belief in your abilities—the confidence that your skills and abilities will handle most, if not all, future scenarios and find solutions to problems that will enable you to progressively realise your worthy goal (i.e. your cause).
- Belief in the outcome—the confidence that you will achieve the outcome you want, as long as you keep persisting and persevering.
- Belief in your efforts—the confidence in the Law of Cause and Effect, that your efforts (causes) are worthy and will be rewarded with the results (effects) you intended.
Developing and growing your courage and confidence is essential if your intent is to achieve the things you want to do and be more successful. You need courage and confidence to take action and do the things you need to do to progressively realise your worthy goal, despite the obstacles, fears, and insecurities in your way.
Without courage and confidence, you probably won’t take this necessary action, or if you do it will be half-hearted and likely to run out of steam before anything meaningful is achieved.
As Earl Nightingale said in his audio series, The Strangest Secret:
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice. It’s conformity. People who conform are ones who believe their lives are shaped by circumstances, by things that happen to them, by exterior occurrences.”
Those who have achieved success know that what happened to them in the past, or is happening to them in the present, does not define them. Rather, your success depends on what you choose to focus on and what meaning you assign to the events happening in and around your life.
For instance, what importance you assign to your goals, how much you are prepared to go the extra mile to achieve your worthy cause, and even your own self-worth and self-value.
Which is why developing your courage and confidence is so important, and why it is the second step in broadening your SCOPE. This you do by:
- #1: Identifying Your Worthy Cause—your ‘I am’
- #2: Maintaining and Sustaining Your Persistence—your ‘I will’
- #3: Knowing Your Value (Self-Worth)—your ‘I can’
Just as these traits—I am, I will, I can—build your faith in who you want to be and what you want to do, your self-assuredness, they also build your courage and confidence to begin your journey of success and to keep going when the going gets tough.
Get started. Keep going. Renew and grow.
That’s courage and confidence. That’s growth. That’s success.
#1: Identifying Your Worthy Cause – I Am
When you know what you want to achieve, you know what you must become in order to achieve it.
Want to help find a cure for cancer? Then you’ll need to become a doctor or nurse to treat patients with cancer, or a scientific researcher to organise the studies and examine the data, or a philanthropist to fund the research.
Want to help eradicate worldwide poverty, hunger or suffering? Then you’ll need to align yourself with a charity like World Vision or Doctors Without Borders, or become involved with international organisations like the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
Or maybe you have ambitions to act more locally and support those most vulnerable in your community, like the elderly, disabled, homeless, disadvantaged minorities, abused children. Then you’ll need to become a healthcare worker, or social worker, or counselor, or even a volunteer at your local community or religious centre. You might even consider becoming a lawyer and dedicate yourself to advocating for disadvantaged groups.
You might want to educate underprivileged teenagers, or share the word of God, or deliver babies. Then you’ll need to become a teacher, or preacher, or midwife.
Or you might just wish to create works of art that reflect the goodness, truth and beauty you see in the world. Or write an inspirational book, or compose and play music that lifts the emotions of those who hear your lyrics and tunes. Then you’ll need to become a painter, writer, or musician.
Or you might just want to become a mother or father, wife or husband or partner, and create a home in which love, happiness, good memories, and optimism grow and abound like a well-tended garden. Then you must become a person of value, wisdom, patience, self-sacrifice, and dedication.
You see, the worthiness of a cause is directly related to how much you dedicate yourself to the service of others and create value for them, even if it’s just one person other than yourself. It isn’t how many people you serve that determines how worthy your goal is, it is the act of using every moment to create and add value for someone other than yourself.
When you add value to somebody else, you give meaning to who they are and you give meaning to what you do. The parable of “The Old Warrior and the Starfish” is a wonderful analogy of how this works, and it goes like this:
After a tremendous storm had torn through their island, the villagers were concerned when their Elder, The Old Warrior, was nowhere to be found.
“Go around the island and try to find the whereabouts of our Elder,” the villagers instructed one of their younger warriors. “We fear for his safety.”
The young warrior set off at once while the rest of the village set about rebuilding their devestated huts. For the whole day he trecked through the jungle, over the sacred mountain, scouring the island for any signs of The Old Warrior without any luck.
But just before sunset, he spied what looked like the Elder of his village in the far distance. From his vantage point high above the coast, he saw the figure of a man busying himself along the beachfront.
The young warrior raced down toward the sea, yelling at the Elder as he ran to get his attention. As he neared, the young warrior noticed that the beach was littered with tens of thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore during the storm.
He yelled again, but the Old Warrior ignored him, instead bending down to pick up a starfish and throw it back into the sea.
“What are you doing?” the young warrior said from just a few paces away. “The villagers are worried about you.”
The Old Warrior picked up another starfish and tossed it into the water. “What does it look like? I’m saving these starfish from drying out.”
The young warrior looked all around at the thousands of starfish slowly dying on the sand.
“What’s the point?” he said, as the Old Warrior picked up another starfish. “There are too many. It doesn’t matter what you do.”
The Old Warrior glanced at the starfish in his hand, then said, “It matters to this one,” and tossed it into the sea.
This parable is similar to the adage that you might not be able to help every single person in the world, but if you help one person you’ve helped their world.
So your worthy cause isn’t based on the number of people you help. Rather, your worthy cause is founded on serving other people’s needs without requiring anything in return for that service.
That’s how you build worth and become worthy. It’s how you become a person of value and live a life of happiness and fulfillment.
When you stop being caught up in your own little world and allow yourself to be caught up in a much bigger, universal world, you grow into a bigger and better version of yourself, and when this happens your life takes on more meaning, worth, and value with which you can share with everyone else.
It isn’t any more complicated than that. It’s a positive reinforcing cycle, but you must make the first move. You are the catalyst. You are the one that sets things into motion. As such, you must first give to get:
It is the giving of yourself to others—your service—that determines your value and worthiness, your success.
There are therefore just as many worthy causes as there are people on the planet, because each worthy cause is based on your individual and unique service to other people.
You will do your best and be successful when you realise you’re not an island isolated from others and need to do it all by yourself, when you realise we’re all interdependent on one another and the best way forward is to support each other whether in business and work, or in your relationships and family.
Yet, most people fail to see this. They are only interested in serving themselves. For whatever reason—fear, ignorance, shame, greed—they have not developed the courage or confidence to become anything other than someone who takes direction from their baser instincts. They get caught up in their own little world and become slaves to their whims and desires. They become unconscious servants to their desires—they become self-serving—with the inevitable result of living a life of selfishness, greed, addictiveness, neediness, and futility.
When this happens, you live a life of untapped potential and unmined value. A life of depreciating value and meaning and limited self-worth.
Which is why it is vital to set yourself a goal to achieve for not only your own benefit, but for the benefit of others. In doing so you set yourself a worthy port to which you want to sail, not to arrive there like a pirate to plunder and fill up your hold with treasures, rather to bring and deliver your own treasure and worth and value to the people of that port.
Because without a worthy goal you are without worthy direction. In fact, you will probably have no direction at all. You will become rudderless and lost, of no use to yourself, and if you’re no use to yourself you’re not going to be of any use to others. You won’t be able to serve others to the best of your ability, and you won’t find the success or happiness you’re looking for.
As David J. Schwartz, author of the bestselling book The Magic of Thinking Big, said:
“The individual who fails to set long-range goals will most certainly be just another person lost in life’s struggle. Without goals we cannot grow.”
So don’t be just another person lost in life’s struggles. Get your thinking cap on, get a pen and piece of paper, and start writing down what you want to achieve. Start mapping out a route to the destination you want to go to.
And while you’re at it, make it worth your while—make it a worthy goal. Here’s how:
- Use your imagination super-power and create a vision of who you want to be and what you want to do.
- Listen to your heart and find your passion, something you think about often and love doing, and commit to achieving it.
- Align your goal with serving others and creating value for them, so that you are motivated not just for the rewards you’ll receive but also for the rewards of helping others.
- Make your goal a lifelong cause to which you can devote your life and your energy.
Then make a start on it, because Life rewards action.
#2: Maintain and Sustain Your Persistence – I Will
The beneficial side effects of identifying your worthy cause and making a start on it are tangible and intangible. They are both objective and subjective, physical and mental.
The tangible side effects of striving toward your worthy cause have physical components and actually have positive, measurable effects on your health.
Researchers have shown that people who set goals and work towards them have better health outcomes than those who don’t:
- They sleep better
- They have a lower risk of heart problems
- They have better functioning with aging
- They even have a 20% lower risk of death¹
In fact, those that don’t have a worthy cause to which they are striving to achieve, have worse health outcomes and increased vulnerability to substance abuse, anxiety, boredom, and even depression.
One of the intangible side effects is the resultant happiness you get from striving toward your worthy goal. So too courage and confidence.
Happiness, courage, and confidence are intangible side effects because they are purely subjective; only you can experience them. Others may notice your smiling face, or steadfast demeanor, or determined resolve, but only you feel the depths of these feelings.
There are other intangible side effects too, which include a greater sense of inner peace and fulfillment, joy, hope, enthusiasm, lightness of being, optimism, anticipation, self-respect, greater energy, balance, and harmony.
Your worthy cause gives you a greater sense of meaning and purpose.
Meaning and purpose also have a knock-on effect: they give you drive, determination, intent, perseverance, persistence.
With your worthy cause in your heart, you develop a “Never say die” attitude in your head.
Successful people never give up. Even when all else seems futile, when the whole world seems to be conspiring against them, they keep going. They keep putting one foot ahead of the other, always moving forward, never stopping. They are climbing their mountain and they won’t give up until they reach the summit, no matter the cost.
In 2015 I attended a private business conference in Sydney, Australia, and during that conference I met the 64th Australian to successfully climb to the summit of Mt Everest. He was a colleague of the organiser of the event and had been invited to speak to the audience about his experience of climbing the highest mountain on earth, a feat achieved by less than 5,500 people (*as of the beginning of 2019).
He spoke of years of preparation and training to tackle the mountain. Of unbelievable obstacles, freezing conditions and furious winds, of altitude sickness, despair and injury. He spoke of avalanches and seemingly bottomless chasms of ice into which previous climbers had fallen and were never seen again, of tying 3 or 4 ladders end to end and using this makeshift bridge to cross hands and knees to the other side. And he spoke of the final triumph over the mountain.
But it was his depiction of the final attempt to reach the summit that I remember most clearly. He talked of the peak of the mountain as taunting the climbers, of making them believe they were closer than they think. Then, just as they thought they were nearing the top, the mountain appeared to move further away. It was as paradoxical as it was soul-destroying: the nearer he got to the peak, the more it seemed to move away from him.
It was at this moment, just as he was about to reach the peak and realise his dream, that another mountain, the mountain of self-doubt, reared in front of him, seemingly as insurmountable as Everest itself. At this moment, with the freezing air chilling him to the bone, his oxygen supplies running low, all he could do was focus on his feet trudging through the ice, putting one boot ahead of the other.
“I couldn’t do anything else,” he said, “other than focus on putting one step at a time.”
He could have given up at any point along the climb. But he didn’t. He was ultimately successful in conquering Everest, and his story is a great metaphor for the mountains we all set ourselves to climb. Like a marathon, climbing Everest comes down to the simplest, yet one of the most difficult, things we learned to do as a toddler: putting one foot ahead of the other.
There are 4 takeaways from this story of ultimate success I like to bring people’s attention to:
- Set yourself a mountain to climb, your Everest—this is where you identify your worthy cause.
- Plan and prepare—you don’t just turn up at base camp and start hiking up the mountain; you need to plan how you will conquer your mighty goals.
- Put one foot ahead of the other—when the going gets tough, sometimes all you can do is focus on the next step, but this is what will get you to the top.
- Keep going—maintain and sustain your persistence, even when your goal taunts you and seems to be moving away from you the closer you get, because if you stop you’ll never get there.
As Winston Churchill said when he visited Harrow School, his alma mater, in 1941:
“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
In other words, set your course and keep going no matter what.
¹ Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Have a sense of purpose in life? It may protect your heart.” ScienceDaily, 2015
This article is an excerpt from Dr. Scott Zarcinas’ upcoming book, The SCOPE of YOU!
Why Success in Anything You Do Depends on Your SCOPE (and Your Failure Too)