How to have the confidence to try

How to have the confidence to try

Confidence. It’s an elusive and powerful thing. If you have ever fancied doing something outside your normal repertoire, does the following conversation seem familiar to you?

“You’re going to do what? What makes you think you can do that?”

This attitude, so often seen, really says more about the person asking the question I think. They don’t have the confidence to take on their ambitions, so have to ask with undermining incredulity how others feel so brazen as to do so.

So we’ll ignore them shall we? That is a good first step. Remember, it is not the critic who counts. That renders their influence mute and impotent.

Let’s instead ask ourselves some better questions;

Instead of “why?” ask “why not?”

If you ask yourself why do you think you can do something, this has the effect of focusing on yourself, and not the matter in hand. If I asked why do I think I can run a marathon, I’ll end up scrutinising my own current levels of fitness at this point in time. If I ask instead, why can’t I do a marathon, then the answers often become practical steps to achieving the goal. Or they provoke further questions. So maybe the answer is, there is no reason I can’t run it, but then the question might become, why can’t I run it under 3hrs? In which case the serious of measures needed to improve to that level would arise; technique, training, injury recovery, etc. Really, we throw up so many imaginary barriers in front of ourselves sometimes that it is often best to really scrutinise them and if we tackle them one by one, there is no reason why we should have the confidence to take on any challenge.

What is my desired outcome?

The Marathon des Sables is a classic example of this but so is almost every other mass participation run. Some people aim to win, some people aim to just go the distance. Compete or Complete is the pithy way of putting it. If your aim is to compete, that’ll take talent and training. If your aim is to complete, then the bar for performance level lowers dramatically. In so many challenges, for so many people, their relative place is irrelevant. Edmund Hilary said it best; after all it is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. Set your own ambitions and pursue them with confidence..

What if I don’t succeed?

Fear of failure is a huge barrier for most people. But what is the worst that could happen? You’d be embarrassed? Ok in some cases i.e. free climbing El Capitan you’d be dead, but that isn’t most people’s area of operation. Why be embarrassed? At least you tried. Like we said before, ignore other people. Armchair critics deserve a special place in purgatory, but they don’t need it, as their own bitterness is that in itself. You can inoculate yourself against fear of failure by, at all times, remembering the words of Theodore Roosevelt, H. Jackson Brown’s mother and Wayne Gretsky. If you don’t try, you’ve already failed.

You may also wish to consider the concept that failure is not an outcome in itself, but one result in a larger experiment. Why did you not succeed? Find the reason and fix it next time, again again until success.

What have I got to lose?

The final word goes to Steve Jobs; you’re going to die, so you already have nothing to lose.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

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