small steps toward success breed confidence


Great leadership depends on confidence. Great leaders are conscious of their power, believe that they will respond in the most effective way, and carry a quality of certainty that is sensed by others. Confident leaders inspire confidence in their teams. Confident leaders point in the direction of possibility and start by taking steps toward the seemingly impossible. They learn from their failures and build on prior successes.

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”             – Theodore Roosevelt

Confidence is not something that you have or don’t have. Confidence waxes and wanes. Confidence can depend on the circumstances and may be more challenging when facing something novel. Confidence can depend on how we are feeling physically and emotionally, with lows more likely when we are not taking care of ourselves. Confidence can depend on our mindset and our ability to shape our thinking positively toward action.

“Self-confidence is the memory of success.” – David Storey

Confidence builds as we experiment, discover and learn. Success – even the smallest instance – breeds confidence. Taking small steps toward what we value and consider important builds confidence. It is quite possible to move from hardly knowing anything to being quite proficient, even an expert. Take driving, for example. You don’t just get in a car one day and become a great driver. Learning to drive requires a desire to drive and lots of learning. It’s amazing, really, what consistent practice does: you can move to the point that you know something so well you can do it in autopilot.

“Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situations. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.” – Unknown

Where in your life would you like to be more successful? Get started by building a clear vision for your success, taking small steps in the direction of your success to build your confidence, and creating a support structure to enable your success. One small step at a time, fully supported, and fueled with openness, curiosity, and courage, you’ll be building the pathway to success, and with it the confidence you need to stay the course. Once you’re in motion, the hardest part is over!

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll

Clear vision: If you don’t know what you want or what will make you happy or successful, how do you move toward it? Life and other people have a way of moving you along. The risk is that you end up somewhere that makes them happy and not you. To have greater clarity about what you want – your aspirations, dreams, goals in work and life – you have to take your foot off the gas petal along the always-on freeway. Clarity comes by slowing down long enough to tune in to ourselves and listen to our hearts and minds, and to sense what is happening, where we are and where we want to go. Seeing where you are going helps you feel stronger and more courageous about taking steps in that direction.

“Success is not a big step in the future; success is a small step taken right now.” – Unknown

Small Steps: With your goal in mind, identify what one step you can take right now to move toward it. It doesn’t have to be big – in fact, it should be a small step. The idea is to build on small successes. Defining that first step – or other subsequent steps – too broadly could have the opposite effect you’re going for. Instead of feeling confident about your progress, you might eel inadequate and defeated.

“If you can conquer your physical and mental wellbeing, you can conquer anything in the world.” – Unknown

Body care: Feeling sure and confident increases when our minds are in optimal condition. And how we are in our minds is greatly affected by how we are in our bodies. (I learned this from Rolf Gates, author of Meditations from the Mat and Meditations on Intention and Being.) I’ve found a very powerful way of shifting to a place of greater confidence is by pausing periodically throughout the day to notice my posture. Often, I’m hunkered over my keyboard, shoulders tense, my chest and stomach scrunched. Noticing this, I move to a more relaxed and open position (learn more about what I’ve come to call my ‘awake posture’).  Eating and hydrating properly, incorporating movement into our day, and allowing recovery time are also critical ways for enhancing our performance – and thus, boosting our confidence. (Read more of Dr. Jacqueline Lee’s tips on sustaining peak performance.)

What one small step toward success will you take today to boost your confidence? A first simple step might be to schedule time on your calendar – time when you push the pause button, sense what’s happening, gain insight, and set intentions. Start small – it could be 5 minutes at the start or end of a day or during a mid-day break. Some questions you might consider are provided below. Take a question a week and see where you end up at the end of a month.

  • How do I define success?
  • What does success look like?
  • Why is success important?
  • How will I know I’ve achieved success?


This blog is inspired by reading Fearless at Work: Timeless Teaching for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll, who sees confidence as “no matter what work offers up – success or failure, happiness or disappointment, recognition or indifference – we can unshakably rely on ourselves to be self-assured, resourceful, and at our ease.” What I love about Michael Carroll’s books is that I can read through one by focusing on a chapter at a time, usually using one a week to inspire new ideas and habits (Another of his books is Awake at Work, and Mindful Leader is on my what’s next wish list.)

Dive Deeper

You might be interested in:

  • Inc magazine’s feature by Peter Economy: 5 Powerful ways to Boost Your Confidence, including being prepared by learning as much as you can in your areas of expertise and creating “great lists” of things you are thankful for and things you have accomplished.
  • Leo Babauta’s list of confidence boosters on his Zen Habits: Breathe site: 25 Killer Actions to Boost Your Self-Confidence, which includes starting something you’ve been procrastinating about, setting goals, and focusing on solutions.

Related posts

  1. Sustaining Confidence
  2. Shifting Our Victim Mindset

* I took this photo of a dianthus in my backyard this spring, and I shared it here because to me it has a confidence about it.

Author: Vicki L Flaherty

I am most alive when I am creating, whether through writing, photography, gardening, cooking, crafting, sewing, yoga. I enjoy traveling because it opens me to greater awareness and new possibilities. I find a special joy when I’ve helped someone see their brilliance and express their full potential. As I've focused on living more mindfully, I've found special joy in expressing myself through poetry and photography, and in truly being in relationship with those I meet along my journey.

6 thoughts on “small steps toward success breed confidence”

  1. Thank Vicki for organizing all of these great tips into one well-written blog. Your insights always seem to come at the right time for me and I can learn something new by reading your work. You made me think…if we have no fear then how does that change confidence? Mindfulness for me has been a journey of hand-picking my thoughts — being “choosey”, and that often means dropping useless, fearful thinking, and the void that creates seems to get filled with calm…and a confidence that things will work out — that “life” has my back so to speak. And that works out to being a more relaxed and confident parent, person, project manager, whatever hat I happen to be wearing!

    1. Sunita, I love your inquiry – if we have no fear then how does that change confidence? My experience is similar to yours, when I drop the fear, there’s a calm and a trusting that rushes in to fill the space. Actually, maybe it’s that when I drop the fear, there’s a beautiful emptiness that creates space and openness. I love that you are moving more and more toward a relaxed and confident being! Thanks for engaging on this abundantly delicious playground with me!

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