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Fuel Your Confidence-Competence Loop

Sep 06, 2023

Do you remember the moment when you learned how to ride a bicycle? When the training wheels came off, when your mom or dad ran behind you, released your seat, and…ahhh….you were cruising? You were balanced, even still a bit wobbly, and yet absolutely elated??

I distinctly remember that moment, the pink Schwinn bike with a banana seat (super stylin’), and even what my dad was wearing. How freeing and excited I was to do something I had often watched others do with ease! To have worked at it and worked at it, to have sat, stationary, on the bike and practiced holding up my feet, seeing how long I could balance in place… And now…with my pedals in motion, in one extremely special, culminating moment, it clicked. The joy, the satisfaction, the CONFIDENCE that coursed through me.

Fast forward to today and I still feel it. Collectively, I’ve spent days on two wheels, riding long distances, and climbing elevations I never would have imagined as a kid. And it all started on a short, flat street in my little neighborhood. 

What I didn’t know at the time was that as I was learning to ride a bicycle, I was building a Confidence-Competence Loop. This very loop is the same one we all use to build skills ranging from rudimentary to advanced and from personal to professional.

The Confidence-Competence Loop is a self-perpetuating cycle that pushes you towards success. It all begins with a single step: the initial decision to take on a new challenge or endeavor. It’s the stage at which you have no clue what you’re doing, yet you’re curious to find out.

Practice makes progress and progress builds confidence. As confidence builds, curiosity and courage drive you to try harder, go bigger. And thus the loop, or virtuous cycle, begins. It’s simply up to you to call your shot and start working toward it. 

Want to strengthen your public speaking skills? Get serious about your preparation strategy before your next big meeting.

Want to grow executive presence? Choose one or two characteristics to intentionally and relentlessly practice throughout the course of two targeted days.

Want to ask for the promotion or an increase in salary? Consider asking what’s standing between you and it and start asking for other, lower-risk things right now.

Build your competence to increase your confidence to, in turn, build more competence! See how that works? It’s like a Peloton flywheel for your professional development!

Here are 5 ways to use the Confidence-Competence Loop to your advantage:

1. Be willing to skin your knee. Nary a bike rider achieves lift-off without a skinned knee or two. Embrace discomfort. Challenge yourself with tasks that push your boundaries. Reframe the initial discomfort with excitement that you're growing.

2. Practice consistently. Whether it's learning a foreign language or a programming language, regular practice is key to building competence. 

3. Make it smaller. Break your larger goals into smaller milestones. Celebrate these victories to boost your confidence as you progress. You can’t reach the top of the staircase without starting at the first steps.

4. Talk about your new skill. Tell others what you’re up to. Hearing yourself say something out loud solidifies your commitment. Their feedback may provide perspectives to enhance your skills, expose blind spots, and fuel your competence even more.

5. Learn from failure. Failure? Who said failure? Failure is only a dead end when it’s not followed up by learning or another step. Stepping stones are absolute keys to success. Analyze setbacks, adjust your approach, and re-enter the loop with newfound wisdom.

The Confidence-Competence Loop weaves a thread that ties growth and confidence together. How exhilarating that you’re the one who gets to choose where it starts and where it goes! It all starts with one decision, one step – a step that can lead to a lifetime of success. 

So, my sheroes, are you ready to take the plunge, embark on new adventures, and witness the remarkable evolution of the Confidence-Competence Loop in your own life? What’ll it be? What competence do you want to start building today??

A scholarly article on the Confidence-Competence Loop published by State Of The Science may be found here.

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