“There’s always two voices inside: there is one telling you that you can’t do it, that it’s done, it’s finished. That voice was pretty strong after the second set. So I felt that that was a time for me to actually vocalize the other voice and try to suppress the first one that was saying I can’t make it. I told myself I can do it. Encouraged myself. I strongly started to repeat that inside of my mind, tried to live it with my entire being.” – 2021 French Open Champion Novak Djokovic, who lost the first two sets in a best-of-five set format but rallied to win the last three sets and the championship
Djokovic’s fundamental belief in himself is critical to his success. He has his doubts like the rest of us, but he manages to quiet the inner critic and move forward. So too, as you go forth to challenge yourself and the world your success must start with self-belief. This deep-rooted belief in yourself will have a tremendous impact on your outcomes.
Believe that you can, and will, succeed. Believe in your ability, judgment, and equal right with others to achieve and enjoy success. Believe that you can make it in this world, and that no matter what the challenge you will, ultimately, figure out a way through. Be optimistic about your life, your prospects, and your ability to problem-solve. Yours isn’t a Panglossian view of yourself, but a comfort level with who you are and what you’re in the process of becoming. While of course self-doubt appears from time to time, it’s not so crippling that it prevents you from getting what you want out of work, and out of life.
Here are some thoughts on developing this self-belief:
- Recognize when it is called for. Recognize when a project may have an outsized impact on your career, or when you seem to be foundering, or when you are tempted to give up or to turn in less than your best work. See the moment of truth for what it is – a chance for you to call on your education, your training, your street smarts, your chutzpah – to see your way through a difficult problem and solve it
- If it helps you, borrow from Djokovic’s technique and actually vocalize the notion that you can and will succeed. Believing in yourself will require easing up on self-criticism. When getting down on yourself, engage in positive self-talk. Say it out loud!
- Move the mental conversation from the past to the present. What are you going to do now, and next? Regrets about yesterday’s decisions, actions, inactions, and results can block us from moving forward. Wishing we’d done better in school, earned a graduate degree, taken a certain job, had a different boss, or given a better presentation isn’t productive. So, too, with wishing that we had made better use of time gone by. Everyone has regrets. Use yours as motivation to move on and do better
- Choose to be confident. Make confidence in yourself a reality by acting as if you already have it. The alternative — waiting until you achieve success, then hoping your success gives you confidence — seems unlikely. Even if you don’t feel it, present yourself with confidence. Most people will step aside to let you pass if you act as if you know what you are doing. Act like you belong even if you’re not completely sure that you do (yet). When you catch yourself imagining failure, flip your mental switch to imagine success, as Djokovic did to win the French Open. Take inventory of your strengths and the good things in your life. Recall and build on past moments when you succeeded, and on what others say they like and admire about you. Then act.
Perhaps no trait is more indicative that an inner transformation is taking place than confidence. How we carry ourselves affects how others see us and how we see ourselves. Confident people are comfortable with who they are. They aren’t riddled with fear about failing, which they realize is part of the growth process. They aren’t overly concerned with what people think. Confidence allows them to take risks, to ask questions, to appear silly. This confidence is attractive and attracts good things.
The best part? Self-belief is a skill that like any other can be developed through practice. And as you fight your way through to more and more victories, large and small, these give credence to your self-belief and help perpetuate your continued career success.
Like Djokovic, refuse to give up. Get to work, go for it, and realize the success that you have visualized.
Errata: “I’m not sure what [Djokovic] tells himself when he is two sets to love [none] down – is he able to completely forget the score or is it that he has spent the last two hours on the court with someone and now knows exactly what he needs to do?” – Mats Wilander, commenting on Novak Djokovic’s unparalleled ability to rally from difficult situations