Happy New Year! I hope that 2016 will see you “live your dreams” and move forward smoothly to the next stage of your life, whether that might be embarking on further study, getting a job or just progressing onto the next year of your course. But what if, at the moment, all of that feels a bit difficult. Here are my top tips to build a more confident and successful you.
Think about what you’re good at.
Make a list of all your achievements and of the things you feel confident about. Have you got lots of friends? You’re probably academically successful. Do you make things happen? Do people ask you for advice or support? Are you good at running, acting, singing? It’s all relevant and it all needs to be on your list.
Now what about the things you’re not quite so good at.
This is the moment for realism and not false modesty or over-confidence. Be completely honest with yourself. This isn’t the interview question, where you’re trying to walk a line between declaring a possible weakness and demonstrating that you really have it covered! What do you genuinely find difficult? Do your friends or tutors tell you about areas for development? What are they? Just note down two or three things, perhaps key areas which you think might hold you back. You don’t need a three page list!
So are these “weaknesses” a disaster or an opportunity?
It can be depressing to think about your weaknesses, but should it be? Could it also be empowering and exciting? It’s the beginning of a New Year and every newspaper and magazine is full of helpful information about diets and exercise. People are seeing this time as a new opportunity to get fit and thin. Could you use the impetus of all those fireworks which welcomed 2016 to power yourself towards addressing your “weaknesses”? Dealing with things which psychologically hold you back from success could be considerably more life changing and enduring than losing a few kilos.
Identify any barriers to taking action to deal with the “not so good areas”?
This might need some really serious thought. Your family probably gives you lots of support, but are there some less than helpful messages they give too? Are you perhaps modest people, who don’t like to blow your own trumpets? Could this feed into an inability to promote yourself? What about playground games way back when you were at school? Were you the hero or the sidekick? Could this feed into your concerns about how to lead other people? Try to work out what might be holding you back. Once you understand your “baggage” you’ll be a lot closer to being able to move forward to overcome it.
Is inertia or fear holding you back?
Are you holding back from acting because you don’t think you can be successful? “I can’t get a job like that, so I won’t waste my time applying” is a common sentiment. It’s good to be realistic. If you’re just graduating as an Economist you’re not going to be offered the post of Governor of the Bank of England, but you could apply for the graduate scheme at the Bank. If you meet the key person requirements for a job, then why count yourself out of the running without even applying? Sometimes you have to be prepared to face the possibility of failure in order to progress. If you do apply for something, what’s the very worst that can happen? You don’t get it – just as you won’t get if you don’t apply! On the plus side you might be offered the post, or at the very least you may get some very helpful feedback on your performance which will help you to move forwards.
Do you have a warped perception of everyone else?
It’s easy to think that everyone else is much more successful / cleverer / more confident / more articulate than you are. But are they really? Where did you get that impression? Chances are that social media contributed to your views of others. Could it be that while everyone vaunts their successes for all to read, we are all a bit more reluctant to tell the world about things that didn’t go so well.
Be kind to yourself.
It’s time to finish your introspection on a positive note. Write down at least four things from last year that make you pleased and proud. Look back at the list of things you’re good at, spend some time feeling proud about all of that. Why not write yourself a note and put it somewhere prominent to remind you.
Put together your action list.
You’ve identified some areas for development and should have a better understanding of what might have been holding you back. Now decide to take action to change some of these. It might be time for another list! Pencil in some time frames for when you are going to have achieved change. Work out how that change might achieved. Some of this will be easy. Too lacking in confidence to apply for jobs? Have a target to apply for two before the end of January. Scared of leadership? Take charge of something, perhaps you could volunteer to do something with a club or society or take a chairing role for coordinating some joint coursework. The opportunities will be there. It’s down to you to find them.
Make 2016 a year of success!