When it comes to achieving our goals, we intuitively know a strong desire to the achieve is needed to succeed. The desire to achieve fuels persistence, and persistence is needed to achieve our goals amid inevitable challenges, right?
However, desire is a devious little emotion that often injects unintended consequences for guys whose goal is more social confidence.
Social confidence is a tricky subject. With men I coach in this area, the number one roadblock to their goal, strangely, is their desire to achieve their goal. Their desire to become more confident socially keeps them from building more confidence socially. The process of building social confidence is a paradox. This article will attempt to deconstruct that paradox.
But first, what the hell is a paradox?
Paradox: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that when investigated or explained may prove true
The question to untangle: how can the desire to achieve a goal—in this case, more social confidence, be anything but a positive?
First, consider that us men are inherently results-oriented. We like clear “step-by-step” processes that lead to quantifiable results. “Give me the step-by-step guide to the result I want and I’ll go do it.”
As such, guys want me to share the “step-by-step playbook to social confidence.” A step by step playbook that leads to RESULTS.
This has some merit. Some of the “steps” to more social confidence are concrete. For one, desire does motivate action and action is indeed the “first step.” Men who want to improve socially must vacate the house by taking action, going out, and mingling.
But here’s the problem: that same desire gets men to take action keeps us men from releasing from the need for positive “results” based on our actions.
By “results,” I mean getting a girl’s phone number, making someone laugh, giving a successful talk, or any other social outcome “result.”
This focus on achieving a result becomes our weakness, the Achilles heel, which impedes our success and keeps us from feeling more confident.
But why? Why would a focus on a result like “getting a girl’s number,” or “making someone laugh,” be a weakness or a problem?
Firstly, because socializing is not a science as much as it is an art. For instance, is getting a girl’s number the right goal? Or is it to connect with her on a date? Is making someone laugh a worthwhile goal? Or is it to make a new friend?
Socializing is more art than it is science. The best conversations are organic. Natural. Spontaneous. The very opposite of “engineered” or “results-driven.” Socializing isn’t coding; it’s not a math problem. People aren’t responsive to being seen as a “result.”
But for guys with a massive desire for change and growth socially, its easy to forget this. Their desire leads to a results-focus. This leads to troublesome thoughts such as:
“She laughed, Plus two for me!”
“She said NO, I’m such a loser!”
“The audience liked my speech, I’m a hero!”
“They didn’t laugh at my joke. What’s wrong with me? I’ll never get this!”
Clearly, this is not the mindset of a socially confident person.
The number one mistake most men make in trying to become socially confident is placing their confidence on the social responses they generate.
While they don’t see it this way, men who focus on “results” concede their power to each person/audience they engage with.
Through this lens, men only give themselves permission to feel good and feel confident when they get “results.” This leads to anxiety. It’s a failed system.
So what’s the solution? We must accept that good responses and bad responses socially are both inevitable. Then we can let go of the need to judge social responses as either positive or negative and accept both as natural.
Only when we let go of the need for interactions to yield “results” do we get the results we desire. When we let go in this way, anxiety lowers, composure increases, and confidence builds. Less focus on results leads to better results. It’s a paradox.
To uncover this paradox of social confidence further, let’s explore the legend that is Michael Jordan, his psychology, and the concept of “flow.”
Jordan’s famous quote, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed,” highlights his thinking process.
He accepts losing as part of winning. He’s essentially embraced both.
Letting go was arguably Jordan’s number one secret to success. He learned to “let go” from his coach the “Zen-Master,” Phil Jackson and his psychologist, Dr. Mumford.
By doing so, he basked in the biggest moments and performed with superhuman confidence and composure. Jordan peaked under pressure because he’d already let go into the inevitability of all possible outcomes.
In his mind, losing is part of winning. By releasing from the need to “succeed”, he then easily entered a highly advantageous “flow state” in these big moments.
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi notes a “flow state,” is a mental state of full immersion. Flow’s a feeling of energized focus and enjoyment in an activity that arises naturally. A flow state is “letting go” in action.
Let’s bring these ideas back to social interactions and social confidence.
Connecting socially is a spontaneous flow.
Similar to sinking the big shot, the enjoyment of the social process and entering flow in your social interactions is the key connecting with others, don’t you agree? Yet men who are focused on results are too up tight to enter any flow state whatsoever.
Only when we “let go” from our desire to achieve “results’ socially can we thrive. But the elephant in the room is; how do you “let go?”
Epictitus, the stoic philosopher, shares a simple philosophy,
“Our first job is to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, (and secondly), the choices I make with regard to them I do control.”
We must separate the social world into these two categories.
First, what we can control. Second, what we cannot. Then, we simply execute in areas we can control, while letting of of the “externals”, which we cannot, as inevitable.
First, we can control how much action we take, what we focus on, and what our intent is in each social interaction. But we cannot control how other people respond, of course. So we let go and accept all possible outcomes. The wins and the losses, so to speak. Our only job, then, is to master these things we can control. By doing so, we can enjoy the flow of socializing. We’ve let go of what will happen next.
We just dance with the enjoyment of socializing like Jordan embraced the excitement of a game winning shot attempt. This new mindset breeds confidence and contentment.
As Anne Frank noted, “Whoever is happy will make others happy too.”
When we let go of the need to control how people respond to us, we become happier. Social confidence becomes a natural bi-product.
Do you want to be part of creating a kinder, more inclusive society?
Photo: Getty Images