I bumped into a great article at PezCycling News entitled Cycling Confidence. Much of the article deals with things most people already know, that confidence (like happiness) is an inside job, but there’s more to the article… It gets into how to improve your confidence. As the article states:
A misconception that many cyclists have is that confidence is something that is inborn or that, if you haven’t developed it early in your cycling career, you will never have it. In reality, confidence is a skill, much like technical skills, that can be learned. Just like with any type of cycling skill, such as taking corners fast or riding in a pace line, confidence is developed through focus, effort, and repetition.
The problem is that you have the option to practice good or bad confidence skills. If you are often negative about your cycling, you are practicing and ingraining those negative confidence skills, so when you go out for a difficult training ride or compete in a race, just like a bad technical habit, that negativity will come out and it will hurt your riding. In other words, you became highly skilled at something—being negative—that actually hurts your cycling.
If you have a bad technical habit, for example, you rock your upper body side to side while climbing out of the saddle, you probably have done that for a long time, so that bad riding habit is deeply ingrained. The result is that you have become skilled at riding that way. The same holds true for confidence. You can become skilled at being negative.
To change bad confidence skills, you must retrain the way you think and what you say to yourself. You have to practice good confidence skills regularly until the old negative habits have been broken and you have learned and ingrained the new positive skill of confidence.
I couldn’t have possibly written it better myself (though I’ve tried). I would go so far as to say that, while the article is great, it does miss something: The rest of life can follow the same principle. In fact, not only does the rest of life follow the same principle, our confidence in our sport of choice can flow into everything else we do – after all, it’s a way of thinking. If we’re confident in our ability to cycle or run, that confident thinking will have an effect on how we approach our work and the rest of our life. While the negativity is infectious, so is positivity.
The article wraps up:
What separates the best from the rest is that the best cyclists are able to maintain their confidence when they’re not in top form or are struggling with the conditions. By staying confident, they continue to work hard rather than give up because they know that, in time, their riding will come around. The skill in meeting the Confidence Challenge is not getting caught in the vicious cycle and to be able to get out of the down periods quickly.
Oh how well that works with everything else.