1/20/22: Rational confidence versus emotional confidence

Sent 1/20/22


This week's Think Better Newsletter is about two types of confidence

The Idea

In last week's newsletter I talked about the Failure of Nerve, which occurs when you know that something can be done but you aren't willing to do the work to make it happen. A failure of nerve often happens when you rationally "know" that the results are achievable but you still aren't confident it can happen.

We all suffer from Failures of Nerve. We know that someone is interested in us but we don't have the confidence to ask them out. We can outline a plausible business strategy but not be willing to invest the money to do it. We know that our training has gone well but we don't truly believe we will run a great race.

I've recently had two mentors of mine suggest I pursue opportunities that feel outside my comfort zone. And yet if I analyze the actual requirements, I know I could do them. This is common for me. I experience a "confidence disconnect" between what I know and what I feel. This screws with my expectations.

I write in Make the Leap that our brains are designed to create expectations. Inputs come in, our brains process them, and expectations come out.

So why do inputs we know to be true result in expectations we aren't confident in?

Recently I've been thinking that I experience two types of confidence. One is rational confidence, the belief that something makes sense. We believe our logic is sound, our story is airtight, and our premises all check out. Often I can honestly say, "yes, I'm confident I can do that." And yet, I don't always feel confident.

I feel confident when I have emotional confidence. This is the belief that something feels possible, that we deserve it, or that it's "right for us." I firmly believe this is the confidence most people use to guide their decisions, no matter how much they want to think they are rational. If our bodies say no, our minds tend to follow.

Having one is enough to get us started, but it takes both to ultimately be successful and see a major challenge through.

The System

Confidence is fluid. It can change in a moment. Something doomed suddenly has hope. Something hopeful suddenly feels doomed.

The only system I know of that maximizes both types of confidence is preparation.  Doing the work. Training for the moment. Having a strong plan. And a backup plan. Two backup plans.

Rational confidence is the result of knowing you did the work, knowing you've anticipated the most likely outcomes, and knowing you have a plan. Emotional confidence is the feeling you have when you know you're ready, when nothing can stop you.

If you're experiencing a disconnect between your rational confidence and your emotional confidence, you may not be as prepared as you need to be.

The Question

Does your confidence tend to be more rational or emotional?


Go Be More,

Bryan Green
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast

"Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway."
~ Mary Kay Ash  



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