Confidence, Battery-Powered Drills and Visualization
My son-in-law wisely chose not to loan me his expensive power drill for my project of drilling holes in the bottom of several flower pots, which forced me to go out and buy the least expensive drill I could find. In asking the clerk for help and explaining I never owned a power tool of any kind and really needed specific instructions on how to use it, I was told it was very simple to use. Perhaps at this point I should have asked if it was simple for all licensed contractors, or people like me. There are definitely different definitions of simple. To make it more challenging I was informed I needed to buy bits, the drill wasn’t complete on its own. Is it hard to put those little bits in my new drill I asked, and the clerk emphatically said there was nothing to it, just put the bit in; it was simple.
As you might have guessed that wasn’t the case. I put in the bit and it fell out. I put it in and tried to turn it and spent an inordinate amount of time using everything but crazy glue and still it didn’t work. After I reread the instructions and called the place where I bought it I assumed one of two things, either the clerk had mistakenly told me something that was untrue, or I was very poor at following instructions; a bit of both seemed to be the case.
What’s my point? We explain things based on our knowledge base and to this clerk apparently putting in a drill bit was the easiest thing in the world, any fifth grader could do it (although the child probably shouldn’t be allowed to play with power tools.) For a middle-aged woman who knew nothing about tools, there were a few more steps that were mandatory, however those were assumed knowledge and so those steps weren’t mentioned. Now in case you think I’m getting ready to talk about effective communication, you’re mistaken. Instead I’m talking about something even more important, self-compassion and self-communication; how our internal dialogues shape or sabotage our successes.
When I started feeling frustrated I also started thinking about how poorly I followed directions and how everyone else on the planet would have had no issues with setting up a drill, which is what we often do if we’re told something and we don’t grasp it instantly. The same mentality has us second guessing ourselves in meetings, editing what we say to bosses, apologizing for things before we say them and other egregious behaviors. Called negativity bias, we typically think the worst when given alternatives, which helped our species survive--we focused on the dangers around us and that kept us repopulating the planet. But in today’s world without man-eating animals or other dangers lurking around every corner, we don’t need this type of negative habitual thinking. And the quicker we learn how to change this mentality the more effective and successful we’ll be.
For openers, our thoughts aren’t necessarily true, but we see them as if they are indisputable. As an example, the next time you’re in a meeting and someone is abrupt with you pay attention to the thoughts that could be splashing through your mind:
- I obviously said something dumb or incorrect
- I must have made a mistake
- Everyone else seems to be doing this with more confidence
And then realize how you choose to see this person’s behavior will impact how you act, your demeanor and much of the time the outcome of the encounter. Yes, that individual may lack emotional intelligence and be a jerk, but that mindset will not help you. That person could also be suffering from a tooth ache, lost an account or argument or any number of other things. We need to use the QTIP acronym to remind ourselves to Quit Taking it Personally, and then decide to see it differently in order to move on with a more positive agenda.
We can rewrite reality by changing beliefs, which is incredibly useful regardless of where you are in your career or how many degrees you may have, because we all feel vulnerable or frustrated at times. As an example, if you had a car swerve in front of you on the highway you’d probably honk and yell or at least think, “What a jerk!” But what if you found out the driver was trying to pull over because her infant son was choking, you would completely change how you saw this situation, which is called cognitive reappraisal. None of us can suppress our frustrations or ignore them, but we can choose to see them differently and it will change how we act, think and feel.
And since people are buying from us, promoting us or ignoring us based largely on how they react to our non-verbal cues, then changing how you think is incredibly important for your future. Again, another way to look at it is from the direction of self compassion, which is necessary for all great leaders. If we can’t be confident in who we are and the mistakes we make, how on earth can we be a great leader, employee or even friend.
Next time you get frustrated when you can’t figure out how to do something or don’t do it to the level of perfection you’d like—then realize you’re temporarily feeling annoyed with yourself and change your mindset. Choose kindness, give yourself a break and realize there are numerous other folks out there who also might be having difficulties with what you’re challenged by. Harvard professor Howard Gardener said years ago it’s not how smart we are, but how we are smart. We will always be smart in some areas and not so much in others.
Finally remember that we don’t have time to dwell on something we did wrong, we need to get back on track right away because we are judged by the first impressions we make, and those impressions will be formed by how we’re feeling and how we reflect those feelings. Our reptilian brain, in charge of primal instincts and reflexes that kept our ancestors alive, will size up someone in seconds, so we haven’t a lot of time to make a good impression.
One of the best ways to stay on track in today’s hectic business environment is to warm up with visualization. Think about it, if you are a serious runner you don’t go out to start a long race without warming up. And if you are a dedicated business man or woman you want to be your best in any situation despite what you might be telling yourself, so you need to warm up intellectually and emotionally. One excellent way to stay in shape cognitively is through visualization, which not only helps us create what we want right now, it does double duty by releasing some of those feel-good chemicals to help us demonstrate even more confidence and presence wherever we go.
Jack Nicklaus never swung a club without visualizing it first. Michael Phelps played his video to perform for the Gold and many professional athletes say they are exhausted after only visually playing their sport. Our confidence creates our reality and if we can “see” a more successful outcome then why not use it to our advantage. Visualizing means getting into the state/feeling you want. If you need more confidence before you get up to speak to 50 people, then remember a time you were at your most confident, bring in that feeling and see yourself on a big movie screen behaving the way you want to feel. Add music, something that will give you more energy and really live and breathe in that reality. Then see your audience smiling and nodding in agreement with what you’re saying. When we’re anxious about anything and can flood our brains with Oxytocin then we’re creating the persona that others will gravitate toward, the charismatic personality that instills passion and commitment in others.
By the way I finally got the drill bit to stay in, with some help from someone who actually uses tools, and it was a pretty simple process. But to the novice it was unfamiliar and difficult to do. I quit berating myself for not figuring it out and decided to give myself a break; maybe the tool salesman doesn’t know some of the things I know how to do, or at least that’s the way I’m choosing to see it.