Do you often find yourself thinking “I just don’t have the confidence” whenever you think about doing something different in your life or career? Well read on.

A while back when we asked the Audrey community ‘what’s holding you back from achieving your dreams’, a large number of you answered ‘myself’. Gitanjali Trevorrow-Seymour, whose confidence coaching draws on neurological research and techniques, talked us through the science of becoming more brave about big challenges and shared a few tips:

“There are three parts of the brain: the neo cortex, which is the rational thinking brain, the limbic brain which is all about how we feel, and the cerebellum, which is where our autopilot/habits live. We have to combine the first two – thinking and feeling – in order to create or change a habit in the cerebellum.

It’s our rational brain that says “I don’t have the confidence” based on how we’re feeling. After the age of 35 around 95% of how we behave is memorised behaviours, which means it’s incredibly tricky to override all those ingrained beliefs and habits. The thought of going through a big change can actually trigger our stress hormones and lead us down the path of least resistance straight back to our comfort zone.

The good news comes in the form of ‘neuroplasticity’ – we can change our mindset at any age and hardwire our brain for confidence. Think about the first time you got into a car or rode a bike. You didn’t know, rationally, how to drive or ride straight away and you certainly didn’t ‘feel’ confident – your brain and body went through a process. Positive thinking wasn’t enough. Reading the manual wasn’t enough. Paying an expert to teach you wasn’t enough. They were all helpful elements but it was you, in the driver’s seat, making mistakes, going outside your comfort zone and practising again and again that made the difference until ultimately it felt ‘natural’.

Each time you do something well, chemicals are released in the brain and you start to ‘feel’ confident about it. When you do that new action more and more it creates a connection, firing and rewiring the billions of neurons in your brain to reinforce the belief that you can do it. And before you know it, the act of driving becomes habitual, which means it’s in the cerebellum and you don’t even have to think about it. And that’s what happens when we learn any new skill, if we take action and keep practising. So we need to take action in order to ‘feel’ confident so that we can in fact stop ‘thinking’ about it altogether!

Follow these 5 steps to develop your confidence mindset

1. Define what you want to be confident about
What is the particular thing that holds you back? What is your limiting belief? eg: Public speaking, technology, acting decisively…

2. Pin-point why it’s important to you
This is key. You kept pushing yourself when you were scared and uncomfortable and failing when you learnt how to drive…why? Because driving is convenient? Because it gives you independence? Apply the same thinking to this current challenge. Find the reason why getting better at it is important to you.

3. Monitor your self talk
What is the language you’re using? What stories are you telling your brain (because it will believe them)? Simply add the word ‘yet’ each and every time you hear that program running that isn’t serving you well. “I’m just not confident enough to go to a networking event alone….YET”. “I’m not good at social media marketing…YET”.

To go deeper, write down:
Two thoughts that aren’t serving you well eg: “I’m rubbish at x” and “I’ll never be as good as x”,
Two behaviours that are not serving you well eg procrastination and perfectionism
Two negative feelings eg, self-recrimination and fear of disappointing someone.

By bringing these into the conscious mind, you will increase your awareness and becoming aware of something makes it easier to change.

Then do the same process for how you want to be – two thoughts, behaviours and feelings that will serve you well. In doing this you are rewiring your belief system each and every time you tell yourself a different story to the program that’s been running in your head all this time.

3. Do a little bit – you didn’t drive on the motorway the very first time you got in a car!

When you set a big goal your brain opens up a mental task list designed to make you feel uncomfortable until you do it. However if the enormity of the challenge is too great you find something to distract yourself, like doing needless admin or browsing social media, tricking the brain into believing you’re busy with that thing. When this happens just choose one small task and focus on it – eg, find five relevant client websites and research them, or research public speaking courses, making notes of important details. Once you’ve achieved that small task, you get a dopamine hit and your brain wants more of that. And the next time you do a small task from your list you’ll feel slightly more confident. And you build on it from there, hardwiring your brain gradually to feel more confident.

4. Keep track of your confident moments

It’s likely you’ll forget as you take on a new challenge all the great stuff you have already accomplished (because it’s on autopilot). Start a journal and reflect on the times you were confident. What have you done in your life that you’re proud of, that was you at your best? Bring these moments into your mind, really picture you at your most successful and confident, remind your brain of your confidence ‘blueprint’. Who was around you, what was the environment, what resources did you draw on? What might you need to establish/reestablish as you look to grow in confidence in this new area?

5. Don’t do it alone

Surround yourself with people that will hold you up through this process, who will give you objective feedback, share your frustrations and celebrate your wins, that you can learn from and give back to.

Remember: you were born with the hardware to overcome seemingly unfathomable things, to grow and learn and fail and learn something different and try again until you conquer that ‘thing’. You’d still be crawling if that weren’t the case!

Words: Marina Gask
Gitanjali Trevorrow-Seymour: