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Building confidence: Use the past, present & future

Building confidence: Use the past, present & future

4 min read
  • Motivation, Resilience & Growth Mindset
  • Stress management & well-being

Confidence. No other quality is seen as so elusive yet so important for performance. Everyone knows they need it to perform at their best, yet most would struggle to tell you their strategies on how to increase their confidence.

For some, confidence is a fragile thing. This is especially true for those who base it on just one source (be it the opinion or approval of one individual, or how you did in your last performance). Research suggests that robust and durable confidence is the result of drawing strength from a range of sources.

A good way to think of confidence is in terms of time. There are many strategies that can make you feel confident, utilising the past, present and future. Below, we briefly outline 6 of them:

Using the past

Remind yourself of previous success

Psychologists use the term self-efficacy to explain how confident someone is about successfully completing a task. A key component of this theory is to remind yourself of previous positive experiences. In essence, reminding yourself of how you have done well in the past can increase the belief that you will do so again in the future.

When to use this strategy? If the upcoming situation is similar to one that you have succeeded in in the past.

Remind yourself of your preparation

Your preparation can be a source of confidence. If you have put in the work leading up to an event, then remind yourself of this. Sources of confidence that are within your control – which your preparation is for the majority of the time – are more enduring than those that are out of your control.

When to use this strategy? If you have clocked up the hours and put in quality work in the build-up to the event.

We will teach your students to thrive under pressure with key stress management skills. Ideal in the lead up to exams.

Using the present

Talk to yourself in a positive, helpful and energised way

How you talk to yourself can affect how you think, feel and subsequently perform. We have previously blogged on 6 ways to improve how you talk to yourself. Self-talk is more than just talking to yourself in a positive way (“I can do this”). Instead, try talking to yourself in a helpful way (“What do I need to do in order to do well?”) and also in an energised way(“Come on, keep going”).

When to use this strategy?Whenever and wherever you want. It is quick, discreet and can boost your confidence quickly.

Seek out similar people who have achieved

We previously mentioned that reminding yourself of previous success is a key part of the self-efficacy theory. Another strategy utilising this theory is to learn from people who have achieved success. This is called vicarious experience. This gives you opportunities to learn from them, as well as boosting your belief that success is attainable.

When to use this strategy? If the person is similar to you and/or if their success is similar to the one you are hoping for.

Confidence: Use The Past, Present & Future

Using the future

Visualise yourself being successful

Picturing yourself doing well can help improve your mood, reduce nerves and increase your confidence. As well as seeing yourself achieve the outcome you want, it is also helpful to visualise the behaviours and skills you will need in order to achieve that success.

When to use this strategy? It is important to note that this technique can lead to some people daydreaming about future success, so be sure to only use it just prior to the event and only if you have already put the hard work in during your preparation phase.

Know that setbacks can help you in the future

Setbacks, though painful at the time, can actually help in the long run. In a study of Olympic gold medallists, many of them identified how using setbacks as an opportunity to grow and develop was instrumental to developing their resilience. Check out our blog on 8 ways OIympic champions develop resilience for more.

When to use this strategy? Too soon after a failure and the event may be too raw to see how it may help you in the long run. Give it time. Once emotions have cooled down, this strategy should help. Also, if you have been working towards a long term goal, taking time to reflect on how you have overcome setbacks and what you have learnt from them will help.

For even more info, take a look at our page How to Improve Metacognition, where you’ll find links to blogs and research.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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