Do you want to become exceptional? How can you adopt a positive self-image?
In How Champions Think, Bob Rotella writes to become exceptional, you must change how you view yourself by adopting a positive self-image. He explains that how you view your abilities affects how successful you’ll become.
Discover how to empower yourself by developing a positive self-image.
Adopt a Positive Self-Image
Rotella writes that your mindset can either hold you back or empower you to further your skills, overcome difficulties, and achieve ambitious goals.
(Shortform note: Rotella argues that a positive self-image is pivotal for success, but why exactly do you view yourself the way you do? In Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz explains that your self-image is how you think about every experience you’ve had in your life. For example, if you win an award, you might feel proud or you might feel guilty that you didn’t deserve it. Which of these two reactions you have is largely influenced by the opinions and beliefs of others, especially when you were young, Maltz writes. However, Maltz asserts that your self-image is subjective—it isn’t a reflection of objective reality, and you can change it to be more positive by practicing techniques that challenge you to think differently about yourself.)
Specifically, he says that champions choose to be optimistic, develop their confidence in their abilities, and overcome self-imposed limits. We’ll discuss these specific attributes and how to develop them.
1. Choose to Be Optimistic
According to Rotella, champions excel because they choose to be optimistic: They remain hopeful and expect positive outcomes even when faced with challenges or uncertainty. He explains that optimism doesn’t guarantee success, but pessimism almost always leads to failure. Imagine, for instance, that you have to give a public speech. If you’re pessimistic and believe that things will go wrong, you’ll likely freeze and panic if you forget what to say. Conversely, if you trust that your preparation and training will pay off, you’re more likely to relax, take a brief pause to recall your point, and resume your speech smoothly.
You might think that people are naturally optimistic or pessimistic, but Rotella argues that optimism can be learned. One way you can improve your optimism is by strengthening your belief in your ability to achieve your goals. To do this, find role models who’ve overcome struggles similar to yours or who’ve come from a similar background, and who’ve accomplished what you aspire to do despite those challenges. This will help you see that your dreams are achievable because if someone else, particularly someone who’s faced similar challenges, was able to succeed, you’ll develop the faith that you, too, can achieve your goals.
2. Develop Your Confidence
In addition to being more optimistic, champions also have a lot of confidence in their abilities. According to Rotella, confidence is the key to exceptional success because it empowers you to work hard and perform at your highest level.
While optimism is a broad faith in your eventual success, confidence is more specifically the faith you have in your particular skills—for example, you might be optimistic that you can win a cooking contest, but your confidence comes from your knowledge that you can cook a perfect steak.
Rotella explains that when you have confidence in your skills, you’re more likely to put more effort and time into improving them. However, when you lack confidence in your skills, you may feel easily discouraged and give up when you face difficulties rather than work harder to overcome them.
Fortunately, like optimism, confidence is a skill you can develop. Rotella provides two tips to help you do so:
1) Avoid perfectionism. Rotella notes that perfection is unattainable in any field and even the most successful people make mistakes. Instead of obsessing over perfecting your skills, he recommends you simply improve them enough to feel confident in them.
2) Practice visualization. Spend 15 to 30 minutes each day visualizing yourself performing the skill you want to feel more confident about. Make your visualization vivid by imagining all five senses—how things look, feel, smell, sound, or taste. According to Rotella, if you imagine something in detail, your subconscious mind believes that it’s true. Visualize not only your successes but also the potential obstacles you may encounter and how you can overcome them. By doing so, you’ll be less fazed if setbacks occur in reality because you’ve practiced how to handle them through visualization.
3. Overcome Self-Imposed Limits
Rotella writes that many people limit their potential based on what they believe is “realistic.” But to become exceptional in your field, you must break free from the limits you’ve imposed on yourself. This means ignoring what others deem impossible and setting big goals.
Rotella says that there are several reasons why people limit themselves.
First, people often set mediocre goals because they’re afraid of failing to reach bigger ones. However, Rotella argues that you shouldn’t be concerned about failure. Even if you don’t accomplish your ambitious dreams, you’ll achieve much more than if you limit yourself to comfortable goals.
Another reason people limit themselves is that they overestimate the importance of innate talent, believing others are successful because they have more talent than they do. However, Rotella explains that exceptional people succeed more because of their strong character traits and less because of their innate talent.