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5 Reasons Why Enthusiasm is Better than Confidence


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We all want to be confident, don’t we? It’s a word that crops up fairly often in coaching sessions, even with people who are very talented and successful. We’re all human, and for most of us there are times, places, audiences and situations where we feel we’d like to be a little more confident. For creative professionals, these typically include high-pressure performance situations, such as presentations, pitches, interviews, auditions and stage shows.

Of course we want to perform at our best in these situations, but I think the word ‘confidence’ creates more problems than it solves. I usually advise clients to change the word to ‘enthusiasm’. Here’s why:

1. Confidence is about you – enthusiasm is about your subject

As long as you’re focused on ‘being confident’, you are the focus of attention. And when it’s all about you, it’s very easy to get caught up in self-doubt (“Am I really up to this? Will I be able to do it?”). But when you focus on a subject that’s important to you – the work you’re presenting, the information you want to share, the message you’re trying to get across – then chances are you’ll find yourself overtaken by enthusiasm. You’ll be energized, your voice will sound stronger, your hands will start gesturing, you’ll find your whole body moving as you warm to your task. You’ll lose your self-consciousness and be lost in the work itself, in the words and ideas you want to get across.

2. Confidence is about you (again) – enthusiasm is about others

I repeat – when you’re trying to be confident, your attention is on yourself. But when you focus on your audience – whether one person, a roomful or a whole stadium – you stop worrying about your own performance. Instead, your attention is on the audience’s experience: How are the ideas coming across? How do they look? Engaged? Confused? Intrigued? Have they ‘got it’ yet? If not, what can you do to help them? What feedback are they giving you? How can you use this to make it easier for them to learn, to enjoy or to see your point of view? How can you get them to share your enthusiasm?

3. Confidence is impressive – enthusiasm is infectious

How many times have you watched a presenter or met someone and been impressed with their confident manner – but without really warming to them? Confidence can be impressive, but beware the kind of impression you’re leaving. Enthusiasm on the other hand, is highly infectious. Think of a time when you heard someone talk about a subject you had previously no interest in, but they were so enthusiastic about it, you couldn’t help being intrigued, even fascinated. There’s something contagious about the body language of enthusiasm – when you see someone talking excitedly, smiling, gesturing, full of energy and keen to share what they know, you can’t help responding. It’s as though at some level we look at an enthusiastic person and think “That looks good, that looks fun” and can’t resist the urge to join in.

4. Confidence is certain – enthusiasm is creative

You can feel confident when you know what you’re doing, and are sure you can do it well. There are lots of times and places for this kind of confidence, but too much certainty can be stifling. With enthusiasm, there’s always an element of uncertainty, the excitement of not knowing exactly what you’re going to say next and looking forward to surprising yourself. That’s why scripted speeches are so dull, and why the atmosphere at an improvised show is electric. Accounts of the creative process abound with stories of images, ideas or words ‘popping into’ someone’s mind – and invariably, the subject or medium is one for with the person has huge enthusiasm.

5. Confidence is serious – enthusiasm is fun

When you start talking or thinking about being confident, you’re likely to start taking things a bit seriously. When you want to be confident about doing something, it’s because you think it’s important. And when something is important, it means Bad Things can happen if you get it wrong. Thinking about Bad Things is enough to make anyone serious. But when you’re enthusiastic, importance translates into passion – and the whole thing becomes fun. There are few things more enjoyable than talking enthusiastically about something you’re passionate about, and feeling others share your enthusiasm.

I’ll climb off the soap-box now. Enthusiasm is one of my enthusiasms. What are yours?

EDIT: in the comments below Ludivine has asked a really good question:

what about when worrying about practical & financial issues stiffles enthusiasm ?

I’m answering this question with a short series of posts: How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm When Things Get Tough, 7 Ways to Stop Worrying When You’re Under Pressure and 7 Ways to Tap into Enthusiasm.


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  1. [...] “Confidence is serious – enthusiasm is fun.” [...]

  2. [...] Encontre un artículo hace unos dias que me hizo recordar cuando estudiaba diseño y me auto-nombraba entusiasta gráfico. Creo que era ingenioso y al mismo tiempo es la mejor manera de describir como me sentio hacia lo que hago. Siempre he sido entusiasta con lo que hago y siempre lo seré, trato de hacerlo lo mejor que pueda y hacerlo mejor cada vez. Sé que Jorge estaría de acuerdo conmigo si digo que mucho de lo que hemos hecho hasta hoy a sido por el entusiamo de aprender, de explorar y de disfrutar. Uno siempre esta buscando la seguridad para hacer las cosas, yo prefiero ser entusiasta. Aquí hay una buena explicación de porqué. Ian • Jan 8 / 07 – 9:54 am • [...]

  3. [...] It was great to get a Christmas present from Design Observer when they linked to my enthusiasm post in their ‘Observed’ column. I can’t imagine them getting quite so excited about a link back from me, but Michael McDonough’s Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School is worth reading (even if you didn’t miss out on the top 10 by not going to design school). The list includes ‘Talent is one-third of the success equation’, ‘95 percent of any creative profession is shit work’ and ‘When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance’. [...]

  4. [...] In terms of the blog content, I want to incorporate more of the recurring themes of my coaching with clients – i.e. to start capturing more of the things I find myself saying over and over again. The best example of this is my post on why enthusiasm is better than confidence – I heard myself saying it a couple of months ago and thought “I’ve said this hundreds of times, I need to put it on the blog”. Although it’s relatively recent, it’s been far and away my most popular post, in terms of traffic, links and other feedback. And there’s plenty more where that came from – so in 2007 I’m aiming to capture more of my ‘coaching memes’ and get them out there on this blog. [...]

  5. [...] Wishful Thinking » Blog Archive » 5 Reasons Why Enthusiasm is Better than Confidence We all want to be confident, don’t we? It’s a word that crops up fairly often in coaching sessions, even with people who are very talented and successful. We’re all human, and for most of us there are times, places, audiences and situations where we (tags: blogs inspiration motivation design psychology) [...]

  6. [...] Wishful Thinking » Blog Archive » 5 Reasons Why Enthusiasm is Better than Confidence 5 Reasons Why Enthusiasm is Better than Confidence (tags: culture design motivation toread) [...]

  7. [...] In my last post, How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm When Things Get Tough, I started answering a question from a comment on my post 5 Reasons Why Enthusiasm is Better than Confidence. Ludivine wanted to know what to do ‘when worrying about practical and financial issues stifles enthusiasm’. [...]

  8. [...] He’s really on a roll at the moment and seems to keep coming up with really interesting stuff. I think his post on “Why Enthusiam’s Better than Confidence” is inspired and quite a few others seem to agree. [...]

  9. [...] Wishful Thinking » Blog Archive » 5 Reasons Why Enthusiasm is Better than Confidence [...]

  10. [...] 5 Reasons Why Enthusiasm is Better than Confidence Includes “Confidence is impressive – enthusiasm is infectious” and “Confidence is certain – enthusiasm is creative”. Brilliant! [...]

  11. [...] 5 Reasons Why Enthusiasm is Better than Confidence – [Wishful Thinking] Author: Kyle Pott Posted: Monday, February 12th, 2007 at 7:43 am Tags: communication, confidence, enthusiasm, workplace Bookmark/Share This! Leave a Reply [...]

  12. [...] Following on from my earlier posts about Enthusiasm v Confidence, Ludivine’s question about How to Maintain Enthusiasm When Things Get Tough and Ways to Stop Worrying When You’re Under Pressure, I’ll finish off this mini-series with a few tips for tapping into your natural enthusiasm. You’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need to be stressed out to use these tips – they work equally well if you’re just looking for a boost of enthusiasm to get you started (or restarted) on a project that matters to you. [...]

  13. [...] One of the funny things about blogging is you never know which bits will provoke a response. You can slave away for ages at a post, only to watch it sink without trace in the digital ocean. Or you can write something off-the-cuff or with a feeling that it’s a bit dull, only to find people getting irate or excited, with links coming in from vertiginous heights in the Technorati rankings. I think I’ve said elsewhere that my original enthusiasm post was like that – something I’ve been saying for years to clients, that I thought would make a nice ‘filler’ post on the blog, which turned out to be the most popular page on Wishful Thinking. [...]

  14. Digital Images to Posters – Decorate Your Home or Office

    Use up to 25 of your own digital images to create unique artwork for home or office. If you have a perfect picture of a perfect moment, you are fortunate indeed. Quality conscious layout and image improvement can help a less than perfect image call the…

  15. [...] Mark McGuinness goes into greater detail on each of these points in his blog wishful thinking. [...]

  16. [...] An aside, here is a very interesting post on enthusiasm. [...]

  17. [...] writer R. J. Anderson for that realization, since she’s the one who first directed me to this excellent article. The thing is, I may not be confident that other people will like my work, or that it will sell, or [...]

  18. [...] And notice what happens when you take meaningful action – the fear subsides, leaving you with renewed confidence and enthusiasm. [...]

  19. [...] more from Mark, check out his article on enthusiasm. Want more worksheets, drills, lessons, and business English advice? We've put together an [...]

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