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Have you ever heard of the confidence paradox? You certainly know, confidence is a major issue for your athletes but have you ever really solved it yourself? How confident are you as a coach and where does that confidence come from?
“Every man should believe in something. If not.. he would doubt everything, even himself.”
― Toba Beta
“Dubium sapientiae initium. (Doubt is the origin of wisdom.)”
― René Descartes
It is an unfortunate paradox, doubt and belief: if you’re bad at something, you probably also lack the skills to assess your own performance and will therefore make an assessment of your standards that is highly inaccurate and may never even know it, nor want to accept it, even if it’s obvious to everyone else. And if you can’t accept this true starting point, you can never move from it. So if you don’t know enough about a topic, you’re also unlikely to be aware of the scope of your own ignorance. This amazingly, is also a problem for “intelligent” people.
“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”
“Doubt … is an illness that comes from knowledge and leads to madness.”
― Gustave Flaubert
Experts are usually aware of the vastness of the knowledge landscape in their fields. Ask any scholar and they will likely acknowledge how little they know relative to what is knowable.
So experts fall into the paradox of, “they know a lot about very little.” I met someone that is the worlds expert on Sand, he admits, he knows very little of anything else.
“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”
― Robert M. Pirsig
Unless you’re a beach-volleyball coach, what has sand got to do with you as a coach? Apart from a few readers here, most of you know and accept you’re not perfect and by implication and admission, you don’t know everything and by logic you think anyone that claims to know everything, “is arrogant.” If you’re a logical coach, you then know your confidence is based upon how much you know and whether you can pass that knowledge on. Conversely, your confidence must also be based upon how little you know; your amount of knowledge to date. We can only do what we know, when we know better, we do better. Even with positive or negative thinking; glass half empty or half full, it’s still the same glass.
“You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link. This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link. To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of the ocean by the frailty of its foam. To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.”
― Kahlil Gibran
“Every mental act is composed of doubt and belief, but it is belief that is the positive, it is belief that sustains thought and holds the world together.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
By logic it’s reasonable to think, that in 10years time you will know a lot more, you will look back at how little you know compared to what you know in 10years and think, “wasn’t I rubbish, compared to what I know now?” The paradox is, that’s not very confident and so we often base confidence on our belief on how “amazing” we are, we are all “legends in our lunchtime.”
“I never seek to defeat the man I am fighting. I seek to defeat his confidence. A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory. Two men are equals - true equals - only when they both have equal confidence.”
― Arthur Golden
The reason this is a paradox for coaches is, if you are highly confident, you may never learn anymore, and you will only look to reinforce what you know now rather than anything new and never change or get rid of what you know, because you based your confidence and career upon it. You will reinforce how little you know, without even knowing it because even if you learn anything new, it will only be stuff that confirms your confidence.
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
― Mark Twain
If you do question it, if you have enough logic, you will be forced to admit, you were wrong back then because now you know better. Highly confident coaches (people) don’t like to admit they were wrong. Why is this? And why do a few highly confident coaches see strength in admitting they were wrong?
“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It's their mistake, not my failing.”
― Richard Feynman
It may seem, if a child’s confidence can be dented, then it isn’t “complete confidence” and if not complete, then by logic, confidence has to be learnt, developed, grown or bred. Does this mean, confidence is not a state of mind and is more complex than; you are or are not? Unlike an on/off switch state of mind, perhaps confidence is really a like a dimmer switch, a journey to the light? Or perhaps complete confidence is only the state at which, you know, you couldn’t possibly fail? If this is true, then this is not true competition. It’s that element of doubt that makes competition thrilling, you’re never absolutely sure you can win no matter what.
“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
― Bertrand Russell
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
― William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Here is the catch: to know how much more there is to know requires knowledge to begin with. If you start without enough knowledge, you also do not know what you are missing out on.
This paradox gives rise to a famous result in experimental psychology known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. They showed that the more poorly people actually performed, the more they over-estimated their own performance. In a recent survey, 80% thought they were above average drivers. For those not into math, only 50% can be above average, which means 30% of people are driving with a higher confidence than their ability and they are probably behind your car that you and your child are in. That statement also presumes you aren’t the 30% of over estimators. Few people want to admit they are stupid and so they are doomed to do nothing about it.
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."
― Robert Hughes
People whose logic ability was in the bottom 12% (so that 88 out of 100 people performed better than they did) judged their own performance to be among the top third of the distribution. Conversely, the outstanding logicians who outperformed 86% of their peers judged themselves to be merely in the top quarter (roughly) of the distribution, thereby underestimating their performance.
“Sometimes, some lies that are spoken with high confidence could be more receptive than facts that are spoken with doubt.”
This can give us coaches yet another paradox. We want our athletes to believe in themselves before they’ve even had the evidence, they are any good. We want them to go out thinking they can win and are winners, before they’ve even stepped on the court.
“Defeat is for the valiant. Only they will know the honour of losing and the joy of winning. I am not here to tell you that defeat is a part of life: we all know that. Only the defeated know Love. Because it is in the realm of love that we fight our first battles – and generally lose. I am here to tell you that there are people who have never been defeated. They are the ones who never fought.
They managed to avoid scars, humiliations, feelings of helplessness, as well as those moments when even warriors doubt the existence of God.’’
― Paulo Coelho
Belief can allow us to solve those paradoxes by ignoring all the logic. Some see confidence as a “God given right” yet another paradox called the Ontological Argument.
“Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.”
― Paul Tillich
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”
― Marcus Aurelius
In summary, FEAR is NOT a thought about a future event that may or may not happen. Fear is a by product of perceived harm that future event may bring. It’s the harm athletes are afraid of, not the future event. Fear really is lack of understanding, and once the athlete understands, fear dissolves, we are only afraid of what we don’t understand. If we don’t understand we can create a pycho-drama of fear with that lack of understanding.
“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
There is nothing to fear but fear itself. So one mustn’t remove fear in its entirety, just in it’s situational context. In other words, perhaps confidence has nothing to do with winning or losing, but the belief that what ever happens, there’s a belief that things are going to be ok? “Nobody died, worst things happen out of the sporting arena.”
Doubt can increase your chance of harm or protect you from harm. Confidence can increase your chance of harm or protect you from harm.
Do you as coaches, see the above paradox as a problem?
“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”
― Ansel Adams
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