It is often said that businesses fail because of lack of knowledge, lack of strategy or lack of money but the number one reason businesses fail is actually lack of confidence. Lack of confidence appears as self-doubt and when I met the president of High Point University Nido Qubein a few weeks ago in North Carolina, we spoke about this. “It is human to doubt yourself,” he said “but it is a very destructive habit because it keeps you from bridging the gap between what you are and what you could be.”
Nido also explained: “This is what ruins businesses. People with negative habits. Not the mechanics of the businesses. People are those that make choices, decisions and select strategies. So this whole self-doubt issue becomes really important.”
As business owners and high performers we therefore need to focus on changing negative habits of self-doubt and negative self-talk. The good news is that we can change habits relatively easily once we understand how habits work.
Feedback loops generate our habits. There are two kinds of habit loops: A positive habit loop which enhances a good habit and a negative habit loop which dampens bad habits. Every habit loop consists of these four elements:
3 Reward (positive loop) or punishment (negative loop)
Once you figure those elements out, it is possible to change any habit and create new powerful habits. You want to get your brain to respond to a negative thought in a negative way and a positive thought in a positive way.
Positive reinforcement is created by giving yourself a reward and allowing yourself to anticipate the reward. Negative reinforcement is created by administering pain — if you see a mad scientist in a white lab coat in front of you right now that is understandable but I am happy to inform you that less will do it. Much less!
Here is the clicker that Nido gave me which they use at the university as well to break the bad habit of self-doubt.
The bi-product of self-doubt is whining and complaining. Nido carries this with him and explained that “If someone complains or has doubts and for example says ‘We can’t do that’ I use this clicker.” He calls it the No Whining Clicker. It emits a very loud, uncomfortable noise and you should use it every time you doubt yourself, hear yourself whining or have negative thoughts come into your mind. Not exactly pain, but annoying enough that you want to avoid it. Another technique which is widely used by athletes is to wear an elastic armband, which you snap whenever you move into a negative mindset. There has to be physical pain or loss of comfort to create the negative feedback loop. After a week or two, you will find that you don’t need the clicker or the elastic band anymore to interrupt your pattern. You have created a habit of interrupting negative thoughts.
We can also habituate positive behaviour. Successful people are consistently successful, consistently joyful, consistently friendly and consistently authentic. The keyword here is ‘consistently’. That means that for them all of these things is a habit. Nido states it this way: “Your habits are directing the results you get in your life. You are a product of habituation. In order to improve, you need to ask yourself: ‘what are my habits?’, ’what guides my life?’, ‘what are the things that I do that gets me in a good place or bad place?’.
As Aristotle said: Excellence is not an act, excellence is a habit. Viewing it this way, you can make a habit out of being confident.
You now have the tools you need to deal with self-doubt and reinforce your confidence. Go out and make it happen!