28 December 2018 by Tom Olsen

Why Courage is More Important Than Confidence

Disclaimer: courage required

A lot of our clients come to us with the desire to become more confident, especially in their dating and social lives. No wonder – we talk a lot about confidence and we all know how valuable it is. But we don’t talk so much about courage. That is a shame. Courage may turn out to be more important than confidence.

Let me say one thing: building confidence takes time. It comes through experience. Experience comes from taking action. Confidence therefore is a by-product of taking action.

This is why, in our coaching, we focus heavily on taking action.

If you are like most people you have probably thought the following thoughts at least once in your life:

  • “I really like that girl but I don’t have enough confidence to ask her out. I will wait until I feel more confident.”

  • “I am passionate about X. I would start a business doing X but I don’t feel confident enough right now. When I feel more confident I will start.”

  • “I want to do Y but I am not feeling confident enough yet. When I feel more confident I will do it.”

But let’s take a step back and ask an important question: Why should you feel confident doing something for the first time?

If you have never spoken in front of an audience before it is understandable that you wouldn’t feel confident doing it. If you have never been direct and honest about your intentions with a woman why would you feel confident doing it for the first time?

As I said, confidence comes from experience. If you have little experience with something then it is totally normal, and logical, that you wouldn’t feel confident starting.

In fact the people who are most confident when it comes to women, public speaking, business, you name it, tend to be those people who have, over the years, and through consistent action, built up a solid level of experience in those areas.

Experience, expertise, excellence – all similar words because they refer to the same thing.

If confidence comes from experience and experience comes from action, then we cannot wait for confidence to perform an action, otherwise we may be waiting for a very long time. Waiting to be totally confident to perform an action puts the cart before the horse and results in procrastination.

Of course there is nothing wrong with starting small and building up to greater and greater levels of action. The problem is when we postpone taking any action until we feel 100% confident enough to do it.

To grow in confidence we need to take those actions that we don’t feel totally confident doing.

So on what can we rely to bridge the gap between our current level of confidence and the actions that we want to take to build experience and therefore confidence?

It’s courage.

Courage is about taking an action when you aren’t feeling totally confident. It’s about trusting yourself when you aren’t sure of the outcome. This is the cornerstone of personal growth.

Without courage we cannot take those actions that will lead to experience and eventually confidence.

To perform any action we need a combination of courage and confidence. For those actions where we feel totally confident we require no courage. For actions we don’t feel totally confident taking we must rely on our courage to carry us through.

A balance of those two ingredients is important though. We all have limits as to how courageous we can be, especially on a consistent basis (which is the most important thing). If the courage required to get us through is beyond our ability we must step back and do something that we are slightly more confident about.

Let me give you an example: back in university when my dating life was non-existent, I was fairly confident talking to girls in my social circle, but I had little confidence being honest and direct with a girl (asking her out, making a move, escalating) especially one that I didn’t know.

Not my university dating life

I wanted to be able to approach a girl in public and ask her out but at that time that terrified me. I didn’t have experience of doing that, therefore I didn’t have confidence in that area, and so the level of courage required to do that was just too much.

So instead, I focused on asking women for directions. That scared me at first, as I didn’t have much experience of approaching people on the street, but I was confident enough that the courage required to do it was within my capacity.

Once I built up experience (and therefore confidence) of approaching women on the street and asking for directions, I started to add in a compliment. Once I was more confident about doing that I was ready to start going direct. It still scared me, but the level of experience and therefore confidence that I had built up, combined with courage, was enough to see me through.

You may not feel courageous but there is always an action that you can take. The key is to find the level of courage that you are able to conjure up from within yourself. If it’s a small amount, then take an action that you feel 95% confident about (which therefore requires 5% courage).

In other words – a baby step.

Not a baby step.

Finally, I want to make an important point. In my experience, the best way to master something is to enjoy it. If you enjoy a process then you will do it willingly. When you think about doing things that scare you, you may immediately related it to suffering. But being courageous doesn’t have to be a chore. Learn to enjoy being courageous. Learn to enjoy the feeling of fear. Welcome it as a signpost that you are on the right track.

Remember, courage is a muscle. It can be trained like any muscle can – by using it. So really, I think what people actually want when they come to us is to trust themselves more even when the outcome is uncertain. They want to be able to throw themselves into new situations without thinking too much.

They want to be able to act more and think less. What they want is not more confidence – it’s more courage.