How to make a meaningful impact through confidence + courage

We all want to make a meaningful impact on the world.

We want to leave a legacy; to take comfort in the fact that we can go to sleep at night, knowing we have made a difference.  We want to pat ourselves on the back and feel proud of our accomplishments; we want bragging rights on our success and our impact.

In fact, it’s essential to our wellbeing.  Martin Seligman, one of the fathers of positive psychology, cites ‘accomplishment’ as the fifth piece in the puzzle that underpins the science of wellbeing.  Along with the essentials of positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships and meaning, Seligman’s research team have found that we need to feel a sense of achievement in order to thrive.  Importantly, many of us feel the need to tick off our own Big Ticket Life Items in order to define ourselves and establish our identity as someone who matters.

But, at the same time, we want to feel comfortable.  We enjoy feeling safe and secure and sometimes, our comfort zone is much more appealing than the alternative.  We know that, deep down, it’s easier to maintain the status quo and follow the path most travelled.

Less risk.

Less pain.

Less fear.

So herein lies the dilemma.  How can we make a meaningful impact on the world without getting awkwardly uncomfortable?

The simple answer is: We can’t.

Making an impact that changes lives and positively impacts the planet involves stepping into our own power, owning our ‘stuff’ and being brave.  It also requires tolerance for ambiguity, sitting with free-floating anxiety and trusting our own instinct.

But this is not necessarily an either/or scenario.  It’s not about giving up all security, throwing caution to the wind and jumping off a cliff without a parachute.  Nor is it about fearfully skimming the surface of our potential. It is about finding the balance between the two, building our resilience toolkit and setting ourselves up for success through smart, strategic choices and courageous action.

The key to navigating our way toward meaningful impact is found in two powerful C words.

Confidence and Courage.

These two critical tools, when used together as building blocks for performance, have the capacity to shift us from ‘I wish’ to ‘I did’.

 Self-confidence and courageous action enable us to draw on emotional intelligence, strategic knowledge and (importantly) well-developed instinct, to make the right moves and ultimately make a positive impact.

So, how does it work?

Firstly, let’s understand how it does NOT work.

Courageous action without self-confidence often leads to superficial and temporary results.  People with this profile tend to ‘jump first, plan second’, they are all about being seen to the do the high profile thing without having the underpinning self awareness, self esteem or genuine belief in their own ability to sustain their results.  When faced with obstacles, they crumble, lacking the basic resilience or authentic connections to support their growth. Sometimes, this can lead to the much-debated Imposter Syndrome – a psychological pattern where an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud.  When we put ourselves in a situation that challenges our skills and resources, without knowing that we can nail it nor believing that we deserve it, it’s no wonder that we end up a ball of anxiety.

Self-confidence without courageous action inevitably leads to labels like ‘all talk, no action’ or ‘all sizzle, no sausage’ or even ‘all fur coat, no knickers’.  You get the picture, it’s about lacking substance or missing the willingness to demonstrate ability through action. Whilst people with this profile can often make a positive initial impression, they soon become unravelled when they fail to deliver or deliver unimpressive results.

When someone has low self-confidence and is unlikely to take courageous action, they can become stuck in a rut at best, immobilised at worst.  This is the profile of someone who has a low level of belief that they can achieve results and little belief that they actually deserve to.  This is someone who is fearful of moving beyond their comfort zone and hesitant to take on any challenges that might expose them.

So, the ideal profile here is to have robust self-confidence and strong readiness to take courageous action.  This is where the potential to make a meaningful impact begins to exponentially grow.  As we start to draw on our past successes and believe that we have the capacity to influence events, our sense of worthiness and capacity to see ourselves as successful builds.  This self-confidence feeds into our motivation to take risks, to step outside our sphere of comfort and to step into our power as a flexible, agile, agent of change. And, when this chosen action is aligned with personal values and beliefs, we are well on the path toward human potential.

This is how we can make a meaningful impact on our life and the lives of others.

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Mel Schilling

Mel Schilling

Psychologist

Australian psychologist, consultant, speaker and media commentator.  Drawing on positive psychology and cognitive behavioural therapy, Mel inspires others to make a meaningful impact through confidence + courage.

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