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Self-Confidence at Work (and in Sport)

Golfers who play well are more likely to see the hole as larger than their poor-playing counterparts, according to a Purdue University researcher.

“Golfers have said that when they play well the hole looks as big as a bucket or basketball hoop, and when they do not play well they’ve been quoted as saying the hole looks like a dime or the inside of a donut,” said Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies perception in athletes. “What athletes say about how they see the hole and how well they play is true. We found golfers who play better judge the hole to be bigger than golfers who did not play as well.

The researcher conducted several experiments looking at whether a better score resulted from the positive outlook or the positive feelings were the result of playing well.  Based on the research, Witt believes there is a cyclical relationship between the two.

“There is so much more to perception,” she said. “It’s an active process because it encompasses aspects of your body and your body’s abilities. We’re not saying a person’s perception is not immune to cognitive influences. Even if you know the hole is a certain size, you can’t help but see it is a bigger or smaller. It’s showing that perception is not just based on the optical information.”

The role of self-confidence isn’t confined to the world of sports.  Self-confidence is one component of TRACOM’s Behavioral EQ Model.  Behavioral EQ addresses a person’s feelings of self-worth and personal competence as an indicator of their confidence in their knowledge and abilities.  It also measures one’s ability to convey this confidence to others.

TRACOM’s Dr. Casey Mulqueen says that self-confidence is as important in the workplace as on the sports field.  “People with high self-confidence tend to challenge themselves to develop new abilities and take on new responsibilities.  These efforts can lead to additional successes, recognition and opportunities which further builds self-confidence,” says Mulqueen.

There are some simple steps a person can take to improve self-confidence.  Mulqueen recommends that people make a list of areas where they lack confidence and the reasons for that feeling.  They can take specific steps to improve in that area.  So if a person is uncomfortable speaking in groups, they can work on this by practicing in a safe environment, such as Toast Masters. This behavioral change will influence the person’s abilities and beliefs about public speaking.  Similarly, he recommends keeping a file of accomplishments and reviewing the list periodically as a way to boost confidence at work.

Actively working on self-confidence can help professionals hit the workplace equivalent of a home run.

Learn more about the Purdue research here or listen to an NPR story about it here.

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