How To Find Your Inner Confidence and Be Assertive

Here are my musings on how we find our inner confidence, overcome fear and self-doubt, and become more assertive in everyday life. With extracts from ‘The Confidence Gap’.


“Many people are completely lost in something I call ‘the confidence gap.’ It’s that place we
get stuck when fear gets in the way of our dreams and ambitions. You know you’re stuck in the
confidence gap if you believe something like this:
I can’t achieve my goals, perform at my peak, do the things I want to do, or behave like the
person I want to be until I feel more confident.
Does this ring true for you? Many self-help approaches inadvertently encourage you to think this
way, but you will soon discover that the more tightly you hold on to this belief, the more it will
hold you back from creating the life you want.”

The Inner Confidence Gap.

It’s the story we often tell ourselves that we’ll go for our biggest dreams when we feel confident.
That’s not only a gap but a trap.
The theme of the book is captured in the first rule of the game of confidence: “The actions of
confidence come first, the feelings of confidence come later.”

We take action *THEN* we feel confident. Not the other way around. If we only do things when
we “feel” confident, we’re not going to do a whole lot with our lives.

Why? Because the only way to grow is to leave our comfort zone. And, the moment you leave
your comfort zone you feel, by DEFINITION, discomfort. And, of course, the bigger the dream,
the more discomfort. That discomfort doesn’t feel good. If we let those feelings dictate whether
or not we act, we’re in trouble. Hence, our golden rule.

—>“The actions of confidence come first, the feelings of confidence come later.”


“Below I’ve listed the ten ‘right’ rules of the confidence game. However, before you read through
them, I think a warning is in order: rules become dangerous when we follow them rigidly. So
please—hold all these rules very lightly! Be flexible with them: bend them, modify them, or drop
them as required. They are not the Ten Commandments!”

Russ tells us that we’ve been conditioned to believe the WRONG rules regarding confidence.
And, he outlines 10 correct rules that he sprinkles throughout the book. We’ll take a quick look at
all 10 and then drill into a few in more detail.


1. The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later.” This is Rule
#1. It’s THE GOLDEN RULE of confidence. We ACT *then* we feel confident. Most people
get this completely (!) backwards—thinking they need to feel confident in order to act.
Remember: “The actions of confidence come first, the feelings of confidence come later.”

2. “Genuine confidence is not the absence of fear; it is a transformed relationship with fear.”
As David Reynolds tells us in Constructive Living, anyone who says they are never afraid is
both stupid and lying. (Hah.) We ALL experience fear at times. The issue isn’t getting rid of
it. It’s transforming our relationship to it. (And using it as fuel as per Rule #8.)

3. “Negative thoughts are normal. Don’t fight them; defuse them.” Defusion is such a GREAT
idea. More on that in a moment. Know that our brains evolved over millions of years to
survive; this required a bias to see the negative. Therefore, we CAN NOT get rid of negative
thoughts. Period. We can unhook or defuse ourselves from them. But we can’t get rid of ‘em.

4. “Self-acceptance trumps self-esteem.” Self-esteem is a highly overrated quality. Much better
to accept ourselves and then self-motivate ourselves to live in integrity with our values.
(Side note: Russ talks about how “affirmations” can actually be damaging for people with
low self-esteem. Much better to practice Self-Affirmation Theory by affirming VALUES.)

5. “True success is living by your values.” Want success right.this.second? Awesome. Live by
your values. More on this in a moment as well.

6. “Hold your values lightly, but pursue them vigorously.” We’re NEVER going to live our
values perfectly. Period. There are no perfect people. We will not be the first.

7. “Don’t obsess about the outcomes; get passionate about the process.” Another theme we
talk about all the time. Quit obsessing about whether or not you’re going to get the outcome
you want. That’s a great way to diminish your confidence. Get FIRED UP about what you’re
going to DO in pursuit of your big dreams. That’s a great way to build your confidence.

8. “Don’t fight your fear: allow it, befriend it, and channel it.” Russ has what he calls the
“ABCs” of fear-whispering. He likens it to taming a wild stallion. First, allow your fear
in. Then be nice to it. Then channel it. Just as a wild stallion has amazing energy we can
harness, fear can be FUEL for our peak performance if we learn how to use it.

9. “Failure hurts—but if we’re willing to learn, it’s a wonderful teacher.” No one likes to fail.
And, if we’re willing to look for the lessons in our failures, we can learn a TON.

10. “The key to peak performance is total engagement in the task.” Want to perform at your
peak? Then ENGAGE with life. Put all of your energy into what you’re doing. You can’t do that if your mind is fused with worrying thoughts.
Defuse. Then go all in.

The 10 rules to help us win the game of confidence. Your favorite?

P.S. What’s The #1 Rule of inner confidence? Make It Stick by thinking of it without looking back. 🙂

P.P.S. A huge part of ACT is flexibility. As I describe in this Micro Class, we want structure
but not rigidity. We want spontaneity not chaos. That’s flexibility. It’s a VERY good thing. The
hallmark of a healthy human.


“At this point, I’d like to introduce one of the most important words in this book: workability.
Please etch this word deep into your brain, as it underpins everything we do from this point on.
The term workability arises from this simple question: ‘Is what you are doing working to help
you create a richer, fuller, more meaningful life?’ If the answer is yes, then what you are doing is
workable. If the answer is no, then what you are doing is unworkable.

The concept of workability can help us unhook from our thoughts. If your aim is to empower
yourself so you can take effective action and be who you really want to be, but your mind
is generating all sorts of reasons why that just can’t happen, then you can ask yourself this
question: ‘If I allow this thought to guide my actions, will it help me create the life I want?’ If the
answer is no, then you can recognize that the thought is unhelpful and that acting on it would
be unworkable. It only takes a few seconds to do this: to pause, check in, notice what your mind
is saying, and ask yourself the foregoing question. Recognizing a thought or belief is unhelpful
often helps to reduce its influence over us; it makes us less likely to act on it. However, note that
with this approach, we’re not getting into debates about whether the thought is true or false; the
question we’re interested in is simply this: ‘If I let this thought dictate my actions, will it help me
lead the life I want?’”


It’s a key word we want to understand.

But before we get to workability, we want to understand an even more important word:

Defusion is huge. Before we can even ask the question of whether or not a given thought is
helpful for us, we need to NOTICE we’re thinking a negative thought in the first place.
This is where mindfulness comes in. We need to SEE our thoughts. We can’t do that if we’re
“fused” with our thoughts. If there’s no separation between our thought and our “self” then it’s
impossible to be effective.

For example, if you can’t see that you have a running dialogue telling yourself wonderful things
like, “I can’t do that,” or “I’m not smart enough,” or “I don’t have what it takes,” or “Insert-yourcharming
story here,” then good luck rocking it.

We must DEFUSE from those thoughts. See them and let them go.

Russ has some great ways to help us do that. Let’s practice some now. (btw: He tells us that
nothing great was every achieved without practice more than I do. If we want to get good at
ANYTHING we must practice it. A lot.)

So, first, think of a not-so-empowering phrase that may dance through your mind often.
Got it?

• Now, say to yourself: “I am having the thought that … insert phrase.” <— DEFUSION.
• Or: “I notice I am having the thought that … insert phrase.” <— DEFUSION.
• Or, say your thought in the most ridiculous voice you can imagine. <— DEFUSION.
• Or, sing your thought to the tune of your favorite song. <— DEFUSION.
• My personal favorite: When the thought arises, say to yourself, “Hey! Thanks, mind. That
was awesome. Really appreciate your contributions. #highfives!” (Hah!) <— DEFUSION.

We want to unhook or DE-FUSE ourselves from those disempowering thoughts.

Once we do that we can ask ourselves: “If I allow this thought to guide my actions, will it help
me create the life I want and be the type of person I want to be?” If not, then we can recognize
the thought is unhelpful and choosing to act on it would be unworkable.

Note: We DID NOT try to *get rid of* our negative thoughts. As Russ says countless times in the
book, THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE. Millions of years of evolution have wired us to think negatively.
Even the greatest Zen masters have negative thoughts. They just aren’t hooked by them.


“If we live our lives by this definition of success, we are doomed to stress and misery (punctuated
by brief moments of joy when we achieve a goal). So I invite you to consider a radically different
definition. True success is living by your values.

This definition makes our lives ever so much easier. Why? Because in any moment, we can act on
our values—yes, even if we’ve neglected them for years. Presto, instant success! …

When living by our values becomes the definition of success, it means we can be successful right
now. All we need to do is act on our values. From this perspective, the mother who gives up her
career to act on her values around nurturing and supporting her children is far more successful
than the CEO who earns millions but completely neglects his values around being there for
his kids. Albert Einstein put it this way: ‘Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to
become a man of value.’ And Helen Keller put it like this: ‘I long to accomplish a great and noble
task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.’ So next
time your mind is beating you up for not being successful enough, try saying, ‘Thanks, mind!’

And then ask yourself, ‘What tiny thing can I do right now that’s consistent with my values?’
then do it: instant success!”

A key aspect of ACT is to get clarity on our values and then let them drive the show.
Then we can redefine success from the standard, make a ton of money, get famous and all that
jazz to living in accordance with our values.

Result? Presto! Instant success.

Of course, that begs the question: What are your values?

Russ helps us identify our values by listing 59 of them as inspiration—encouraging us to identify
with at least 10 of them, then narrow down that list to the 6 most important values.

Here’s a sample: Acceptance, Assertiveness, Authenticity, Caring, Compassion, Connection,
Contribution, Courage, Creativity, Enthusiasm, Fitness, Fun, Generosity, Gratitude, Humility,
Humor, Justice, Kindness, Love, Mindfulness, Patience, Persistence, Responsibility, Safety, Self-
Care, Self-Development, Sensuality, Spirituality, Trust, Insert-your-own-list-here.
Think about it for a moment.

What six values do you think best capture what you stand for these days?

Write those down. Put them on a piece of paper or index card you can put in your wallet and/or
on your desk so you can see them often and remind yourself that success is just a moment away.
Remember Rule #6: True success is living by your values.

P.S. This definition of success is precisely what we talked about in our Notes on Wooden,
Primary Greatness, Legacy and so many more. Let’s live our values. PRESTO! Instant success.

Inner Confidence Trust Yourself
Inner Confidence to Trust Yourself and Overcome Fear and Self-Doubt


“What holds us back? What stops us from acting on our values? The answer is FEAR. No, not
fear, but FEAR, an acronym that stands for:
E—Excessive goals
A—Avoidance of discomfort
R—Remoteness from values”
What’s holding us back? FEAR.

We are Fused to our negative thoughts. We have Excessive goals. We Avoid discomfort and we
are Remote from our values. Not a winning combo.

The antidote to FEAR? We must DARE.

D—Defusion. We need to Defuse from our thoughts. Remember: “Hey, mind! Thanks for
awesome thoughts. Super helpful!” 🙂

A— Acceptance of discomfort. This is so important—we need to get REALLY comfortable with
being uncomfortable. It’s the *only* way to grow. (Literally.)

R—Realistic goals. Want to freak yourself out? Set crazy unrealistic goals. We want to dream,
but then we want to focus on the PROCESS and the next, doable goal. What’s yours?

E—Embracing values. Values are our fuel. Our pathway to instant success and our fuel for
sustained persistence and Grit. What are your values? Embrace them!!!

Turn your FEAR into DARE!


“Suppose I could give you a choice about how to live your life. There are two options:
Option 1: for the rest of your life, you only take action to do the things that are really important
to you if you are in the mood, psyched up, and feeling good. In other words, you spend the rest
of your days on this planet at the mercy of your emotions. If you’re in the mood or you feel good,
then you do the things that make your life work. But if your mood drops or you don’t feel good,
then you give up doing the things that truly matter, and put your life on hold until such time as
you feel good, positive, inspired again.

Option 2: for the rest of your life you take action to do the things that are really important to you,
whether you are in the mood or not. Whether you feel good or bad, energetic or fearful, inspired
or uninspired, you continue to take action; you keep doing what truly matters to you. Instead of
going through life at the mercy of your emotions, you can behave like the person you want to be
and do the things you want to do, even if you’re tired or anxious, or you don’t feel like it.

Which do you choose?”

That’s from the last section in which Russ tells us that the “comfort zone” should be called “the
stuck zone” or “the stagnant zone” or “the zombie zone” or “the half-lived life zone.”

Fact is, if we want to live our lives as a daring adventure, we need to embrace discomfort. We
need to get very comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s how we develop true inner confidence—
the trust that we have what it takes to respond to whatever life throws at us and the wisdom and
ability to do what needs to get done whether we feel like it or not.

So… Two choices. Which do YOU choose?

On Key

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