What the Top Athletes Can Teach You About Confidence

Have you ever watched the interviews after a big sporting event?

You never hear the losers talking themselves down. Instead, they focus on “taking the positives”.

Then you’ll see interviews with the great musicians.

Most of them avoid saying that they’re anything special. They still talk about having masses to learn – even if they’re heading into their 70s after a lifetime of amazing work.

These two seemingly opposite approaches actually fit together perfectly. Let’s find out how you can get the best of both worlds…

You can boost self-belief, while still remaining realistic and able to learn from your mistakes.

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There are two schools of thought on self-belief

One says that you should protect your self-confidence at all costs. So that you perform better.

The other says that you should be constantly aware of the mistakes you’re making. So that you can learn from them and grow in the long term.

Even if this has knock-on effects on your self-belief.

Seems like a really tricky choice of which one of those we go with.

They’ve clearly both got good points.

So you’ve got a balancing act to put yourself in the right place.

But the trick is to be aware that balancing is not a static thing.

It’s not the case that you find the perfect point on the line in between self-belief and being aware of your mistakes. And then you sit rooted there at all costs. All the time.


It’s about being dynamic.

You want to recognise that there are times where you want to prioritise self-belief.

And there are times where you really want to be aware of your shortcomings, so that you can work on those.

The skill is in knowing where you want to be at any one time.

And in having the flexibility to shift your mindset so that you can move freely along that scale between the two extremes.

Learning from sports

Let’s look at the classic approach sportsmen and women use to solve this dilemma. It turns out that this is a great model for musicians to use as well.

They go around in a cycle.

Immediately after they’ve played a match, they will totally protect their self-belief.

They take the positives.

They focus exclusively on what went well, and how they can feel confident about themselves coming out of that.

This is to stop them getting negative and losing motivation in the time ahead.

But a bit later, that’s when they go back, and they look at the performance in detail.

And, this time, they do analyse what went wrong. What they could have done better.

Because this is the point where they realize, that they need to work on improving these things if they’re going to perform to their best in the next game coming up.

And in this stage of the cycle, they are very much focused on being aware of mistakes. And on improving skills.

This stage may last for quite a while. But it will depend on how much time they have between events.

Start building again…

Shortly before the next match, or the next tournament. That’s when they start thinking about self-confidence and belief again.

At that point, long term training is not going to have any impact on something only a week away, say.

So they’re back to working on their self-belief. So that they can perform at their absolute best in the match coming up.

When the match is over they start the cycle again.

You can take exactly the same approach as a musician

Immediately after a performance, don’t go straight into that criticising mode where you pick things apart and see what’s wrong.

Instead, take the positives.

Feel happy about what you did.

Leave it a few days. And only then go back and analyse what you want to improve on.

This is when you go through that phase of deliberate practice on those things you want to improve.

Recording yourself can be really important here.

It allows you to let go of anything that goes wrong at the time. But you still know that you will be able to review the performance later and find things to learn from.

But a few days before the next performance, leave that quest for improvement for a while.

You’ve done as much as you can for now.

Work on feeling good about yourself instead.

On feeling confident about your performance.

I’d love to hear how you get on with this. Let me know by leaving a comment below.