Self Confidence, Optimism and Success

Self confidence is one of the keys to career and life success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to become self confident you need to do three things.  First, become an optimist.  Second, face your fears and act.  Third, surround yourself with positive people.

While I think that all three are important, if forced to rank order them, optimism would come in first. defines optimism as, “A disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.”  Self confident people expect the most favorable outcome – and they are often proved correct.

I came across several quotes about optimism last week.  I’d like to share them here…

  • “The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.”  Dietrich Bonhoffer


  • “Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you.”  Mary Lou Retton


  • “The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser – in case you thought optimism was dead.” Robert Brault


  • “The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity…I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else”  Winston Churchill


  • “Health, happiness and success depend upon the fighting spirit of each person. The big thing is not what happens to us in life – but what we do about what happens to us.”  George Allen

George Allen’s quote doesn’t mention optimism, but I think it captures its essence.  Optimistic people realize that bad stuff happens.  They also realize that they have it within their power to choose to react positively and to make good things happen.  Like Winston Churchill, they see opportunity in tough times.

I did a talk for the Colorado Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association last Saturday.  The talk was titled, “How to flourish, Not Just Survive in These Tough Times.”  My goal was to help my fellow alums apply my Four Cs of Success model.  I wanted to show them what they could do to ensure that they were least likely to get laid off and most likely to get promoted. 

I spent a lot of time discussing self confidence and optimism.  I borrowed a page from Dietrich Bonhoffer.  I stressed the fact that optimism “is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope… it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself.

I talked about how facing your fears and acting – even if you fail – can help you hold your head high and claim the future for yourself.  Every time you look your fears in the eye and act, you are becoming a more self confident and optimistic person.  You are daring to try.  Only an optimist can do that.

After the talk, several people approached me to thank me for my words about self confidence and optimism.  They said that things had been getting them down lately, and that they were about to give up on some of their dreams.  They said that my talk gave them the will to keep on trying and to do whatever they have to do to make their dreams a reality.

The common sense point here is clear.  Successful people are self confident.  Self confident people are optimistic.  They take action, even when they are not sure of the outcome.  By facing your fears and acting you become more self confident and optimistic.  You become more self confident because you dared to act – something that is not always easy.  You become more optimistic if you succeed because you have conquered a personal demon.  You become more optimistic even if you fail, because you learn one of the great truths of life – failure is seldom fatal.

That’s my take on self confidence and optimism.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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