When we accomplish something at the edge of our comfort zone, we tend to feel relieved when it’s done. We can also feel energized. Now that we climbed this hill, the slightly bigger hill in the distance seems more manageable.
Conversely, when we don’t accomplish something we attempt, it’s easy to feel diminished. If I couldn’t climb this hill, I can’t even imagine trying to climb a bigger hill. I don’t trust my abilities as much as I thought I did.
The blessing and the curse is that we tend to gain momentum in either direction.
If we’re winning, we tend to feel braver and are more likely to expand our capacity, which often results in more success.
If we’re losing, we tend to shrink and doubt ourselves, which often results in fewer wins.
These two feelings aren’t mutually exclusive. We can feel like we’re winning in one area of our life and consistently losing in another area.
The trick is to recognize when we’re gaining too much momentum in either direction.
Overconfidence can lead to a lack of self-awareness and disconnecting from reality. Underconfidence can keep us playing small and not stepping into our power.
For example, if I’m feeling overconfident about my public speaking abilities, I might not rehearse as much as I should before my next speech. If I feel like the last few speeches have gone well, I might tell myself, “I’m on a roll!” and not put in the time to ensure the next speech is as good as the past ones.
On the flipside, if I look at my previous speech and say, “Wow, that joke didn’t work. The audience looked confused here. I guess I’m a terrible speaker and I should just stop trying,” then I won’t take action to improve my speaking or make an impact on more audiences in the future.
If you find yourself spiraling out of control in either direction, sometimes the most helpful action is to pull the proverbial emergency brake.
Stop what you’re doing and step back from the situation. Are you really as invulnerable or as powerless as you feel? What information or emotions have you been ignoring?
We are rarely as perfect or as terrible as we think we might be. And we always have the power to change our course or ourselves. It just takes enough self-awareness to recognize the story we’re telling ourselves about what the momentum means.