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Confidence is a Result, But Courage is a Choice

Chris and Karen Highland /

You’ve got dreams that you want to achieve, but if you’re honest, they kind of scare you too. Where do you find the confidence to pursue your dreams?

Well, here’s the thing about confidence - confidence is most often a result rather than a resource that you can obtain. 

I am highly confident in my ability to drive a car because I’ve done it so many times. I don’t need to give myself a rah-rah speech before the morning commute. I just get in the car and go, unconsciously confident that I can drive myself to work.

Maybe some of us are starting at the wrong end of the chain in our search for confidence. See for yourself if the process doesn’t work a little more like this:

1. Consideration. You get an idea and you begin to roll it around in your head. You weigh the pros and the cons and decide if the idea has merit. So, you upgrade this thought from a daydream to a plan.

2. Conviction. As you develop your plan with greater depth, you begin building the necessary steps for positive and negative contingencies. What if the plan works better than I’d thought. What if things don’t work out so well? How will I adapt the plan? Is there a bail-out provision?

3. Courage. But there comes a time when you’ve got to make the transition from a plan that you believe in (that’s conviction) to a plan that you live in (well that’s courage). You actually step out on faith and you begin executing your plan.

Sometimes when we wish we had confidence, what we really need is courage. I don’t believe you need (or even can even find) confidence. You need to choose courage. We’ll come back to that in just a moment.

4. Consummation. You’ve planned, you’ve revised, you’ve planned some more. And then you stepped out on faith (you had that courage) and you did the thing. And now, things are either going better than expected or as expected or maybe a little worse than expected. Or perhaps some confusing combination of all of the above. But you will have done it.

And based on how well it turns out, you’ll either decide never to do that again, or you’ll have…

5. Confidence. Confidence is the natural result of doing something successfully. Not perfectly, but successfully enough so that you’d do it again if you either needed to, or wanted to.

“Make believe” confidence is usually the blustery bravado of someone trying to fake courage. Confidence need not be seen or known by anyone else. In fact, I believe quiet, humble confidence is really the most powerful confidence of all.

So, let’s go back to that courage thing for just a moment. That’s where most people, I think, get stuck. Focus is the first step to finding courage.

Fear, well that’s useful for avoiding immediate dangers, but it is highly carcinogenic. Fear is the cancer of motivation. Desire is its cure. Focus on the object of your desire, not the details of your despair.

Courage will not just happen to you or be left under the pillow by the courage fairy. And courage may be accompanied by a little bit of trembling. That’s OK.

Because courage is not how you feel. Courage is what you do.

So, think hard and plan well. But at some point in time, you’re going to have to make a choice.

My recommendation, choose courage.


Byron is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Director of the Planning Group at Argent Advisors, Inc.