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Mar 11, 2014

Building Confidence, Creating Opportunity

Step 3/10: Building Confidence, Creating Opportunity

By Jeff Rockwell


I first began teaching in 1992, initially at a chiropractic college and, later, at a school for massage therapy. From my first class, I formed the habit of asking my students the following question: “What makes a great healer , well, great?” As much as I wanted the students to ponder this for their own benefit, I was hoping one of them would be able to explain this for my benefit.

Over ten years went by and I gathered many interesting and deep responses. One day, while walking along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica on my way to a movement therapy class, “it” (i.e. my answer) came to me. My thinking went like this: We are all born into a relational field and, for many, that field often feels unsafe, if not toxic. When a client enters our office, they become part of a new relational field, one they can feel at ease in, where their words and body are truly listened to and heard.  A healer worth her salt creates for the client something sacred: a safe space.  It may be the first time a client has been held, so to speak, in such a nurturing and healing container.

True healing is an alchemical process, not easily explained in words. People receive therapeutic touch and their life changes. Like any process, time is required. Time plus safe space equals a new life.

The National Holistic Institute College of Massage Therapy is dedicated to helping people have work they love. Having work we love is part of having a life we love. The next of NHI’s “core beliefs” is “building confidence, creating opportunities”.                                              

Very few people succeed in life without a degree of confidence. Yet everyone, from young people in their first real jobs to seasoned leaders in the upper ranks of organizations, have moments — or days, months, or even years — when they are unsure of their ability to tackle challenges. This often comes with the territory of being raised in an unsafe space. Whether it be the speed and disconnectedness of our culture, or the stress of a dysfunctional family environment, confidence withers before it has a chance to blossom.

“Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance,” says Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live. And yet he concedes that “insecurity plagues consciously or subconsciously every human being I’ve met.” At least we are in good company, if you want to look at it that way.

How can we break free from the crowd and get into the positive cycle that Schwartz describes?

Well, first of all, your piano teacher wasn’t right. Practice doesn’t make perfect. But it does make you better. “The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it,” says Schwartz. Many people give up when they think they’re not good at a particular job or task, assuming the exertion is fruitless. But Schwartz argues that deliberate practice will almost always trump natural aptitude. If you are unsure about your ability to do something — speak in front of large audience, build a practice — start by trying out the skills in a safe setting. Practice—even mental rehearsal, can be very useful.

Confident people aren’t only willing to practice, they’re also willing to acknowledge that they don’t — and can’t — know everything. “It’s better to know when you need help, than not,” says Schwartz. “A certain degree of confidence — specifically, confidence in your ability to learn — is required to be willing to admit that you need guidance or support.”

While you don’t want to completely rely on others’ opinions to boost your confidence, validation can also be very effective in building confidence. Schwartz suggests asking someone who cares about your development as well as the quality of your performance to tell you what she thinks. Be sure to pick people whose feedback will be entirely truthful; Schwartz notes that when performance appraisals are only positive, we stop trusting them. And then use any genuinely positive commentary you get as a talisman.

Be yourself

Also remember that some people need more support than others, so don’t be shy about asking for it. When I was a freshman in high school, I was the worst runner on my cross-country team.  Any self-confidence I had disappeared. But I loved to run. Considering how shy I was at the time, I amazed myself by calling the number of a local elite marathoner and, when he answered the phone, asking him if he would be willing to train me. Even more amazing, he said yes. When I returned to school that fall, I was the best runner on the team. Four years later I competed in the Olympic Trials. All thanks to a risk taken, a lot of practice and the encouraging help of a mentor.

At NHI, we consider ourselves a community of mentors. We are a safe space where compassionate truth-telling and encouragement happen daily.

The good news is that self-confidence can be learned and built on. And, whether you’re working on your own self-confidence or building the confidence of people around you, it’s well-worth the effort.

Your level of self-confidence shows in many ways: your behavior, your body language, how you speak, what you say, and so on. I have repeatedly observed, over the years, how changing one’s posture through deep tissue massage and somatic movement therapy, changes one’s attitude and confidence.

What else can we do to improve confidence?

Well, the “bad news” is that there’s no quick fix, or five-minute solution.

Here are three steps to self-confidence, for which I’ll use the metaphor of a journey: preparing for your journey; setting out; and accelerating towards a life you love, a top-quality life journey.

Step 1: Preparing for Your Journey

The first step involves getting yourself ready for your journey to self-confidence. You need to take stock of where you are, think about where you want to go, get yourself in the right mindset for your journey, and commit yourself to starting it and staying with it. Ask for help. Place yourself in a “growth” environment, a turbo-charged safe space.  Run with what you learn.

Think about your life so far, and list the ten best things you’ve achieved in an “Achievement Log.” Perhaps you did great in an important test or exam, played a key role on an important team, or did something that made a key difference in someone else’s life. Put these into a smartly formatted document, which you can look at often. And then spend a few minutes each week enjoying the success you’ve already had.

Next, think about the things that are really important to you, and what you want to achieve with your life. Setting and achieving goals is critical (as is setting and living by your values), and real self-confidence comes from this. Goal setting is the process you use to set yourself targets, and measure your successful hitting of those targets.  The modern-day philosopher, Earl Nightingale said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” Progressive: as in steady, incremental improvement. Worthy: as in motivating and inspiring, to you and to others (but mostly to you).

The final part of preparing for the journey is to make a clear and unequivocal promise to yourself that you are absolutely committed to your journey, and that you will do all in your power to achieve it.

Step 2: Setting Out By Managing Your Mind



Start generating and flowing with that positive energy I wrote about in my previous blog, keep celebrating and enjoying every small success, and keep positive mental images active in your mind.

On the other hand, learn to handle failure. Accept that mistakes happen when you’re trying something new. In fact, if you get into the habit of treating mistakes as learning experiences, you can (almost) start to see them in a positive light.

Step 3: Accelerating Towards A Life You Love

This is the time to start stretching yourself. Make the goals a bit bigger, and the challenges a little tougher. Increase the size of your commitment. And extend the skills you’ve proven into new, but closely related arenas. Keep yourself grounded – this is where people tend to become over-confident, over-worked, and stretched too thin.

Albert Einstein was asked what the purpose of life is. He candidly responded, “I don’t know. But I can assure you that the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found a way to serve.” Another term for being of service is to create opportunities.


Consider this opportunity: The U.S. spends $2.7 trillion a year on health care, more than any other country by far, and yet we are not healthy. They also know that, to create a healthier nation, we must focus on more than just treating illness. We must create opportunities to pursue the healthiest lives possible, wherever we live, work, learn, and play.

At NHI, we are committed to creating a “culture of health and wellness.” Everyone probably has their own definition of a culture of health but, to me, it means a society in which each person has the opportunity to lead a healthy life, with adequate housing, educational opportunities, safety from violence, healthy food options, exercise, and of course, affordable, quality health care.  Creating a culture of health means creating a relational field of health. It entails becoming a “safe space” in motion, where our thoughts, words and actions become part of the solution.

We have each been given a piece of the planet to “make safe.” Creating such a culture is revolutionary, and it starts with one person; a person whose confidence and commitment to being of service is so strong that it becomes contagious. One kind act at a time; one heartfelt “hello” at a time; one massage at a time: however you pursue this great journey it all points in the same direction—to not only a life that we love, but a world in which everyone is loved!

Find out what the next step is in Jeff’s 10 Steps to Having a Life you love ~ Subscribe here!