By now, you’ve had your fill of ‘new year, new you’ challenges. From workouts that help you drop that pesky extra 5 pounds to programs that guarantee you’ll add an extra zero to your paycheck, there’s plenty of talk out there. But what does it all come down to? According to experts, confidence. Confidence is the single quality that empowers us to move forward, approach life with a fresh outlook, and chase down our goals. As self-belief coach Carmen Parks explains, “Confidence is your internal support system that gives you the extra boost to take on new experiences and challenges. Self-confidence goes along with the belief that you are capable of trying something new. You automatically know that you can figure it out even if you don’t succeed at it right away.”
But building confidence is hard! In fact, we’ll gamble that building strong, lasting confidence could take as long as a year. And for that reason, we’ve broken 2018 down into a month-by-month confidence-boosting guide with different activities every month to help you be your strongest self. Let’s take it from the top.
January: Make a vision board
Before you roll your eyes and say you don’t believe in the workings of the universe, Parks wants to remind you that you don’t have to be spiritual to imagine a different outlook for your life. By printing out images or cutting photos and/or words out of magazines that depict what you hope or aim for, you create a daily visual reminder to maintain your positivity. “Having a vision board gives you a guide for your year. When you lose focus, you can use the vision board to get back on track. Seeing other people accomplish similar goals helps you believe in the possibility of you reaching your goals,” Parks explains.
February: Make a list of your ANTs
Nope, not the sisters of your mom and dad, but ‘automatic negative thoughts.’ According to Parks, everyone has a few of these that wreak havoc on the areas in our lives that bring the most stress. Perhaps you’ve been single for what feels like forever and each time you meet someone new, you instantly believe they’re too good to be true, or you’re not enough to fulfill them. Or maybe you struggle with standing up for what you want in the office, so you always back down when faced with confrontation or argument. Parks explains that the first step in overcoming your ANTs is acknowledging they exist. “Once you’ve written them down, evaluate them and decide if they are true or not. If they are not true, write down facts that prove them wrong. Debunking the ANTS reduces their power, which can help you build your confidence,” she explains.
March: Get your to-do list down to three
As winter begins to melt away, the anticipation of spring brings a laundry list of holidays, vacations, school prep, and quarterly goals to meet. March also happens to be when most Americans complete their taxes, adding on another layer of financial anxiety to this month. That’s why Parks suggests editing your daily tasks to a manageable, digestible three. “When your list is complete, make sure to cross off each item from the list. Showing yourself that you can accomplish tasks builds your confidence to be able to take on new and even more challenging tasks,” she adds.
April: Visualize dollar signs
For women’s success coach Alionka Polanco, the start of the second quarter of the year begins with an attitude toward abundance. And while overflowing wealth can trickle into any area of your life, during this time of year, Polanco suggests directing your attention to your bank account. This might mean doing a deep dive into your budget, upping or changing your savings goal, or even taking that leap of faith that’s been itching you for, well, ever. The key here is to keep dollar signs in mind and trust in your ability to multiply them. “Focus on your confidence with your ability to make money. Whether you work a nine to five or are self-employed, you always have the power to bring in more money — as long as you believe it,” she explains.
May: Read a self-development book
Those warm temperatures have you (finally!) sporting your go-to T-shirt and spending more time soaking up vitamin D. Give your iPhone the afternoon off and give yourself permission to get lost in a book. As Parks says, May is the ideal time before the chaos of summer to have a bit of downtime. “Pick a topic that interests you — making more money, starting a business, climbing the corporate ladder, starting a workout routine, training for a race, losing weight, learning a new sport, learning to play an instrument, take on a new hobby,” she says. “The more information you have about your interests, the easier it is to take action toward what you want.”
June: Get real with yourself
Most years, it feels like nothing more than a blink between January and June. Believe it or not, though, June serves as the halfway point in the year and, as Polanco says, an opportunity to have a heart-to-heart. With yourself, that is. Instead of sugar-coating your progress, challenge yourself to be critical, without being cruel. “In January, you looked at all the areas of your life in terms of confidence — and now’s a great time to see where you’ve improved and what still needs improvement. This gives you a chance to set new goals when it comes to confidence,” Polanco says.
July: Brag a little
Though you might get a tad peeved when a Facebook pal #humblebrags consistently in their posts, sharing your successes with those you love and trust is encouraged by experts. After all, if you can’t give yourself credit and acknowledge a job well done, why should you expect the same out of others around you? Polanco says to take inspiration from the zodiac sign of the month — Leo — which is the most self-assured of ’em all. “Tap into Leo energy by letting yourself shine. Brag about your accomplishments, and celebrate those of your friends, colleagues, and loved ones too,” she adds.
August: Do something that scares you
As the final hurrah before the start of fall, August can be bittersweet. But it really is the time to get past the surface and explore the lingering fears that are holding you back, Parks says. “Find a friend you trust and take the leap. Pick one thing that scares you and just go for it without overthinking. Succeeding doing one thing helps you realize that it’s possible to take on other challenges that are outside your original comfort zone,” she explains.
September: Stop procrastinating
When the year started, did you vow you’d meditate at least three times each week? Or maybe you’d go on more online dates, since you’d really love to get married? And have you completed any of those well-intentioned rituals? It’s OK if you haven’t, but let September be the time when you finally stop saying “tomorrow” and start developing your habit today. “Is there one area of your life where you’ve been avoiding looking at your confidence level? September is a great month for turning over new leaves. With the change of seasons, you get the extra ‘oomph’ you need to tackle goals that you feel really resistant to,” Parks says.
October: Try more things alone
Even if you’re in a happy, committed, and loving relationship, the art of being alone is empowering. As Parks explains, the ability to fully, wholeheartedly trust your ability not only to survive and thrive but also to be happy by yourself is essential to self-esteem. “Go to the movies alone, eat dinner alone. Know that you can do anything when you put your mind to it. Time alone helps you build your confidence in yourself, and no matter what, there are some things that you will have to do by yourself. Practicing being alone will help you for future experiences,” she notes.
November: Explore how you feel about family
No matter how far away from home you’ve roamed or how close you are to your parents or siblings, those kin relationships impact the way we view ourselves, our world, and our future. Because the holidays bring plenty of time with relatives, Polanco suggests taking the month to explore how you feel about your dynamics. “Do you feel confident voicing your opinions when it comes to your family? If not, can you make a commitment to speaking up about what’s going on with you this holiday season? And if you do feel confident with your family, can you take this chance to empower someone else in your family who is a little more shy? They’ll appreciate it more than words could ever say,” she explains.
December: Be extra kind to yourself
The happiest and most wonderful time of year also happens to be jam-packed with endless parties, shopping trips, and FaceTime calls. Only 31 days and far too much celebrating to do from day one, both Polanco and Parks say to treat yourself this month. “Give yourself credit for everything you accomplished this year. Celebrate yourself. Do what you want to do to reinforce your confidence and your ability to take action and reach your goals,” Parks says. And of course, it’s time to think into your next lap and what you’ll focus on for a fresh start. “The cycle begins again!” Polanco says. “Take inventory of your confidence journey, looking back on how you started this year out and how you’re ending it. What are you celebrating? What didn’t work out so well? What goals are you setting now?”
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