Confidence comes from doing the Tough Stuff.
Ahhh, the moment when you reach in the jar, and pull out a freshly baked, chocolate chip cookie.
The cookie jar is an iconic item that sits on the kitchen counter in several homes. Often times, kids cannot wait to be given the opportunity to be able to eat one of the delicious treats inside. I love filling the cookie jar. My family gets really excited to see cookies crammed into a space, knowing that there will be moments of savoring the peanut butter, chocolate chips and oatmeal tastes ahead. It feels like something special. Cookies represent experiences that can be savored as well as opportunities to enjoy a moment. The variety of different cookies that line the ceramic container make this jar magical.
What if confidence could be pulled out of a jar, just like a cookie?
Confidence is gained from doing tough things where testing limits is essential. It is when we are in tough situations that growth happens. Before reading, Can’t Hurt Me, by Navy Seal, David Goggins, I used to try and avoid difficult things when it was possible. Yes, I have always been a person who does not give up, and will finish what I start. But choosing to run head first into something tough has not always been something I would have done. In his book Goggins explains that filling the cookie jar can serve you in life by giving you a container of confidence when you need it most.
Whenever you overcome an obstacle, face something difficult, or decide to try something that requires a lot of effort and a growth mindset, “You put a cookie in the jar”.
It is during the toughest part of a run, when I feel like slowing down or walking I can visualize the cookie jar, take one out and get the greatest satisfaction as I tap into the emotional experience of a past success. According to Goggins, we keep pulling cookies out until we have made it across the difficult part, or are back into a rhythm again.
When I think about “cookies”, or challenges I have overcome, I see a difficult conversation with my kids, tough moments in the classroom, exhaustion near the end of a particular marathon, embracing the struggle to master proofs in geometry class, finding patience after trying to sell a house for several months, leaning into my faith as my son had shoulder surgery, handling rejection and finding a way to complete back to back marathons.
Taking cookies out of the jar during a run really helps to take the focus off the struggle and re-frame thinking so that gives your body evidence that you have handled tough thing before, and can also finish what you are working on.
It is during the really tough moments where we lean into the difficulty and find a way to overcome a challenge, that we gain confidence. In order to create more cookies, I have recently found myself excited rather than afraid of new opportunities. I replace the feeling of dread and fear with new feelings of excitement that I will be able to call upon in the future.
Confidence building is a common theme among several athletes. Kara Gaucher in her book Strong, talks about using a confidence journal during her training. She keeps a journal for the specifics of her training, one that it is very objective. However, she maintains the importance of keeping another journal strictly to remember the things she has done really well. Throughout the book, Gaucher talks about writing down only positive things. If part of the run was difficult, the focus is shifted to writing about how the challenge is overcome, and what steps were taken to get through it.
There is something good to embrace about every run.
Last summer I tried this. I was at a low point as a runner. I had gradually gotten slower, and struggled to run distances that had not been a problem in the past. I was not motivated to run. I needed to try something different. So I leaned into writing a confidence journal before and after each run. Before tough runs, races and difficult moments, I looked back through my journal and would reminisce about how far I had come. I identified traits from our school’s Positivity Project that captured the type of mindset I wanted to work on as an athelete.
I used to dislike going to the track to do speed work (a big part of most marathon plans), but wrote one morning about how I could be open-minded in how I approached the 800’s I had to do. Sure enough, I ended up having a fantastic workout and was so excited about a new mindset that I actually ran double what I needed to. During the middle of a 20 mile run, I looked for positive words to describe myself. I told myself that I was persistent, dedicated, enthusiastic, had self-control as well s integrity.
The coolest thing about focusing on the positive, and keeping a journal that reflected it, was that I had evidence that I was a really good runner.
Slowly, my times got faster, but even more importantly; I couldn’t wait to run. I loved the experience of flipping through a journal and discovering why the hours I spent training were worth it.
So, whether you create a graphic of a cookie jar (I am going to do this with my kids and in my classroom), or start a journal that can only be filled with positivity: find some way to capture the amazing things you have done! Overtime you will train your brain to look for more opportunities, as well as re-frame your thoughts to remind you about how talented you really are. You will crave opportunities to challenge yourself and fill your cookie jar.
Running is a metaphor for life. I have not limited using a confidence journal to running. Throughout the day, I log what I have done well, how I have overcome challenges, as well as the positive things about the relationships I am in with friends and family members.
I like the quote from Charles R Swindoll, “ Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. I realize I have a lot of space in my life to do the hard things and use each of those experiences to build my confidence.