If there’s one thing many of us have been in short supply of over the last couple of years, it’s confidence. The world we live in has been so volatile and so uncertain – a pandemic, a war on European soil, an unstable British government and now a probable looming recession – that looking to the future with a positive attitude and mindset has been a challenging task.
But with the pace of change, whether societal, geopolitical, technological or economic, unlikely to slow down any time soon, the ability to face the future with confidence is something we all need – both for our own psychological wellbeing and for the good of our organisations. Without a positive attitude to change and challenge, we will not be able to work together to build sustainable and thriving organisations and communities.
The more confident we feel, the more motivated we are to achieve our goals and make a positive difference. Studies have also shown links between self-confidence and wellbeing, performance and job satisfaction. Confidence is built through multiple sources and experiences, including through our accomplishments, being aware of and using our strengths, getting positive feedback from others, giving positive feedback to ourselves, and from others modelling positive behaviours.
When it comes to planning for a positive and confident future, every business leader will understand the importance of financial capital. But what about psychological capital? This concept, also known as ‘PsyCap’, was defined by management professor Fred Luthans as “an individual’s positive psychological state of development”, which has been shown to have a positive impact on job satisfaction, people performance and individual wellbeing. Just like financial capital, having high levels of PsyCap in an organisation will act as a competitive advantage sorely needed in turbulent times.
PsyCap has four elements, all of which are clearly linked to confidence (and which spell out the handy and appropriate acronym ‘Hero’):
- Hope: Believing you will success in the future
- Efficacy: Believing you have the ability and competence to achieve your goals
- Resilience: The ability to overcome barriers and bounce back from setbacks
- Optimism: Feeling positive about the future
Again like financial capital, PsyCap isn’t fixed or finite: it can be developed. So, how do you go about building it? Here are some practical ideas of where to start:
- Set positive goals that focus on moving towards somewhere positive rather than away from somewhere negative. Make sure these goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) as well as clearly communicated and understood by all involved parties.
- Celebrate successes on the way to achieving goals. Recognising even small milestones can be a powerful motivator and confidence-builder.
- Focus on strengths and recognise where you have achieved success or mastered something in the past. A strong sense of accomplishment builds confidence and using strengths is associated with better goal progress, psychological fulfilment and enhanced wellbeing.
- Think about ‘waypower’ as much as ‘willpower’. While willpower motivates us to achieve our goals, waypower is about our ability to see ‘ways’ to reach our goals, preparing for and seeing ways around problems, switching tact or improvising as needed.
- Reframe negative experiences and emotions, seeing them as a challenge to be overcome rather than an insurmountable obstacle. For example, could nerves be excitement about an upcoming opportunity rather than anxiety?
- Find meaning and purpose. These drive us through tough times and help us become more resilient.
Resilience is a key component of our emotional toolkit when it comes to facing the future with confidence, as it helps us to balance negative or strong emotions and recover from adversity. Resilient people not only cultivate more positive emotions in themselves, but make others feel better as well, creating a virtuous circle. According to one study, individuals with high resilience are less likely to quit, report less absenteeism and are four times more likely to be satisfied in their jobs. Building resilience helps build the internal foundations to weather any storm that comes our way.
Uncertainty, so the saying goes, is the only certainty there is. And in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment that saying has perhaps never been more pertinent. But there are tools we can draw on to help ourselves and our teams face uncertainty with confidence, grabbing opportunities and overcoming obstacles to move towards a brighter future.