A Coaching Power Tool By Nadezda Nedospasova, Care & Resilience Coach, LATVIA
Overconfidence vs. Optimism
Accept yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your truth, and know what tools you have to fulfil your purpose. Steve Maraboli“Life, the Truth, and Being Free”
My daily life as well as my professional experience, which brings lots of communication with people, has always reminded me of the old saying –“everyone is having a battle we know nothing about”. People go through a vast variety of challenges, they struggle with choices and confront dilemmas, and each of them every single moment picks up a certain tool from their own inner arsenal in order to find the solution. But the optimal solution requires a power tool – a powerful time-saving strategy, a technique, or an approach that leads to progress making a significant positive difference.
Among all the different and unequivocally effective power tools, I would like to focus on a particular one that based on my observations plays a huge role in developing a roadmap to transformational change.
This power tool is based on the concept of being confident which means believing in ourselves and in the certainty that we can accomplish our goals – that belief gets disbalanced quite often turning into overconfidence, which in turn can be constructively replaced by optimism in order to restore the balance and let the individual move forward instead of regressing.
Overconfidence vs. Optimism Definition
We’re generally overconfident in our opinions and our impressions and judgments. Daniel Kahneman
Never be afraid to fail. Failure is only a stepping stone to improvement. Never be overconfident because that will block your improvement. TatchakornYeerum
Confidence is good, but overconfidence always sinks the ship. Oscar Wilde
Understanding the idea of overconfidence is possible if we take a closer look at the definition of confidence.
Confidence by Merriam-Webster Dictionary is defined as a feeling or consciousness that one can do something well or succeed at something, that one will act in a right, proper or effective way. Confidence is based on one’s experience, certainty, perfect self-control, and command of one’s powers. Confidence is normally opposed by insecurity and self-doubt and seems that these two are the main destructive powers that can get in the way of one’s growth. But there is hiding another more unobvious and therefore much more influential and powerful aspect when confidence is inflated by arrogance and inaccurate self-assessment which leads to overconfidence.
Overconfidence is based on an illusive self-perception and overestimation of one’s actual performance so it blocks personal growth and development. We are overconfident when we say to ourselves “I know everything, there is nothing to learn, I can do anything”.However, we find ourselves endlessly trying to progress yet losing our power for true changes. There is a lot of insincerity in ourselves that disempowers us very easily without recognition. That’s why overconfidence works as a stopper developing so invisibly and yet so quickly that we miss out on that very moment when our confidence turns against us and our purpose.
We often immerse into overconfidence in order to hide our vulnerable parts as our desire to look better and smarter in other people’s eyes prevails. But at the same time, we forget that through accepting our vulnerability only there is a way to discovering self-love and self-respect which in turn leads us to correct self-esteem.
Interestingly overconfidence is widely explored by psychologists and is related to the so-called “overconfidence effect” which is a well-established cognitive bias when one’s subjective confidence in their judgments is reliably greater than the objective accuracy of those judgments, especially when confidence is relatively high. Overconfidence is one example of a miscalibration of subjective probabilities.
The most common way in which overconfidence has been studied is by asking people how confident they are of specific beliefs they hold or answers they provide. The data shows that confidence systematically exceeds accuracy, implying people are more sure that they are correct than they deserve to be. If human confidence had perfect calibration, judgments with 100% confidence would be correct 100% of the time, 90% confidence correct 90% of the time, and so on for the other levels of confidence. By contrast, the key finding is that confidence exceeds accuracy so long as the subject is answering hard questions about an unfamiliar topic. For example, in a spelling task, subjects were correct about 80% of the time, whereas they claimed to be 100% certain. Put another way, the error rate was 20% when subjects expected it to be 0%. In the series of questions where subjects made true-or-false responses to general knowledge statements, they were overconfident at all levels. When they were 100% certain of their answer to a question, they were wrong 20% of the time.
Thus confidence, as one of the most helpful tools on our way to mindful self-development and progress in life, comes along with the high risk of overconfidence which rather blinds us than drives us to success. And exactly there is space for applying another powerful tool as an option for removing those risks and getting ourselves back to balanced, blockages-free moving forward and more effective interaction with others – and that is optimism.
Optimism is essential to achievement and it is also the foundation of courage and true progress. Nicholas M. Butler
An optimist understands that life can be a bumpy road, but at least it is leading somewhere. They learn from mistakes and failures, and are not afraid to fail again. Harvey Mackay
Optimism inspires, energizes, and brings out our best. It points the mind towards possibilities and helps us think creatively past problems. Price Pritchett
Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so. Noam Chomsky
A common idiom used to illustrate optimism versus pessimism is a glass filled with water to the halfway point: an optimist is said to see the glass as half full, while a pessimist sees the glass as half empty.
The term derives from the Latin optimum, meaning “best”. Being optimistic, in the typical sense of the word, is defined as expecting the best possible outcome from any given situation. This is usually referred to in psychology as dispositional optimism. It thus reflects a belief that future conditions will work out for the best. For this reason, it is seen as a trait that fosters resilience in the face of stress.
A few methods to measure optimism have been developed such as various forms of the Life Orientation Test, for the original definition of optimism, or the Attributional Style Questionnaire. Optimism is also linked to health and well-being.
The American psychologist Martin Seligman defines optimism in terms of how people explain to themselves their successes and failures. People who are optimistic see failure as something that can be changed so that they can succeed next time around. Optimism has the power to motivate people. An emotionally intelligent attitude lies in an optimistic approach which can be learned by increasing self-efficacy.
As well to overconfidence our optimism is growing on the confidence base and is driven by self-trust. It moves us towards commitments and therefore success, opening the door to exploration and reflection giving us acknowledgment of who we are and what we are capable of. It gives us the power for the desired change, for achieving our goals. Optimism works as a driver for our progress. There is a lot of power in being honest with ourselves and only through honesty can we grow in our confidence.
Optimism means having a strong expectation that in general things will turn out alright in life despite setbacks and frustrations. From the standpoint of emotional intelligence, optimism is an attitude that buffers people against falling into apathy, hopelessness, or depression in the phase of tough going. Optimism pays dividends in life providing of course it is realistic optimism. Although too naive optimism can be disastrous and that’s where overconfidence sits.
Overconfidence vs. Optimism Affirmation
Overconfident professionals sincerely believe they have expertise, act as experts and look like experts. You will have to struggle to remind yourself that they may be in the grip of an illusion. Daniel Kahneman
Faith offers us the Serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
But there is no need to be religious as the prayer can be easily transformed into an affirmation: “My mind is open to embrace optimism and my heart is blessed by true courage to reject overconfidence. And I find wisdom within myself to distinguish one from the other.”
Like most people, I tend to aim to look good in other people´s eyes. Every time when that happens I remind myself of the words of the Serenity Prayer. Because one of the things I enjoy the most is learning something new, growing my awareness, and developing my skills, but eagerness to look that I know much more than I do in reality raises overconfidence which in its turn blocks learning.
On the other hand, I´ve had an endless number of examples of the power of optimism in my personal and professional life – optimism brings determination, a stable mindset, confidence, and a thoughtful approach to resolving any problem. For this reason, I totally agree with the opinion that optimism is a trait that fosters resilience in stressful situations.
My professional background as a caregiver highly resonates with the fact revealed by researchers – low optimism helps explain the association between caregivers’ anger and a reduced sense of vitality. That’s why I have always been paying attention to my level of optimism. Besides a recent meta-analysis of optimism supported past findings that optimism is positively correlated with life satisfaction, happiness, psychological and physical well-being and negatively correlated with depression and anxiety.
Seeking to explain the correlation, researchers found that optimists choose healthier lifestyles. For example, optimists are more physically active, consume more fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain bread, and are more moderate in alcohol consumption. And I absolutely agree with that.
Coaching Practice for Overconfidence vs. Optimism
In coaching practice both overconfidence and optimism play a significant role once being identified and explored but of course each one in its own way. The coach has to be clear about every moment when overconfidence displaces confidence and which impacts the quality of the session. At the very same time coach has to realize the power of optimism in the coaching process.
Overconfidencelies in exaggerating our capabilities as a coach in order to make ourselves feel better about our performance. But when it shows up in the coaching, a potential risk to cause damage to the client´s trust is increased.
Simple equationsbelow show this effect:
Optimism + Honesty = Progress
Overconfidence + Insincerity = Blockage
But how can a coach identify what tool is picked up for coaching clients and fulfilling the commitments? There is one of the various ways – through recognition of basic beliefs. For example,
I am good enough
I am better than others
I can learn from my mistakes
I am always right so I never make mistakes
I am competent
I am genius
I am significant
I am more important than others
I can be lucky
I’m always lucky
I am loved
Everyone must love me
I am worthy
I am super precious/supreme
As we can see, there is a subtle yet significant difference between optimism and overconfidence – meanwhile, optimism leaves the space for thorough work on a new goal and exploration of the pros and cons according to one’s acknowledged abilities, while overconfidence brings along superficial approach and serious lack of attention to the pros and cons on the way to set a goal. Therefore, it is paramount during coaching sessions to pay acute attention to whether there is overconfidence driving the process or optimism is being in place.
Understanding Overconfidence vs. Optimism
We all face challenges in our daily lives and I truly believe that it´s not about the failure that brings us really down but about the steps we take after finding ourselves failed. Thus, questioning ourselves in order to bring more clarity about our ways to handle the challenges has its undeniable power.
So what might be those questions in relation to optimism and overconfidence:
- What has me thinking that?
- What are the benefits of thinking so for me?
- What if someone told me that it´s not the way I think it is?
- What does optimism look like to me?
- What makes me believe there is nothing more to learn in it?
- In what way do I contribute to optimism?
- What habits, places, and people fill me with optimism?
- What purpose would my overconfidence really serve?
- What does feeling overconfident really mean to me?
- What’s the impact of my optimism?
- What might make me care more about keeping myself optimistic?
- What can bring me more confidence?
- What would tell me that I am exaggerating my self-esteem?
- What if it transpired that what I am adamant about wasn’t true?
- What’s likely to happen if I don’t feel optimistic about it?
- How does it feel when I think I lack optimism?
All these questions are working for understanding our place on a scale of our confidence and optimism and therefore are useful to adjust ourselves with regard to what is the most productive strategy on our way to progress in resolving issues.
“Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman
“Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
“Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman
Wikipedia on Overconfidence Effect
Wikipedia on Optimism
Life Orientation Test and the Attributional Style Questionnaire – positivepsychology.com