Would you say you’re a confident person – or more of a diffident one?

For most of us, the answer would be different each time we were asked depending on how we felt at the time and whether there was a specific subject area we were being asked about. So, for example, if you were asked this question in a work context and had just been admonished by your boss for under-performance, your confidence would probably be at a low, and vice-versa, of course; and you would answer accordingly.

Similarly, in sport, a golfer, for example, who is feeling on top of the world having won a tournament may feel like he or she has a better chance of winning the following tournament than if they’d performed badly on the previous occasion. And miscellaneous studies have shown that they’d probably be right to feel this way most of the time.

But life isn’t that simple.

A fascinating article on the Award Winning Personality – or “AWP” website explores this very issue; looking at whether or not “momentum” truly exists when it comes to the psychology of sport. In other words; if you’re doing well, are you really likely to do better?

It’s unequivocally true to say that a lot of sports success is based more on what’s going on in our heads than what we’re really doing to prepare physically – as most sportsmen and women would agree.

But perhaps golfers, tennis players, footballers and rugby players would agree to a greater extent than would track athletes, runners, rowers, weight-lifters and swimmers? That isn’t to say that confidence – or momentum – doesn’t play an enormous role in such sports; merely that it isn’t quite as much of the be all and end all that it is in other sports. In such speed and endurance-only types of sports, psychology is bound to play a slightly lesser role than does out and out fitness. So whilst psychology is vital, it cannot overcome relative physical weakness.

Also; there are times when over-confidence hinders us. “Pride goeth before a fall” as it says in the bible and it’s as true today as it was whenever it was written.  Often, it’s beneficial to enter anything competitive in life with a little humility and diligence. If you’re over-confident and feel you’re invincible, then perhaps you feel you don’t have to try so hard. Perhaps you become a little less industrious than you would otherwise – and perhaps you let your guard down or fail to follow your own rules?

When it comes to the world of investing, for example, success can often breed future failure. It’s often said in investing circles that a “rising tide lifts all boats”; in other words, it’s easy to pick winners when the whole market is rising because most stocks tend to do well. But as Warren Buffett once said – it’s really all about seeing who’s wearing the bathing suits when the tide recedes; “only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked” as he put it.

The message, then, is to temper things a little in either direction. If you’re feeling invincible, then well done, but make sure you work hard and keep your feet on the ground. If your confidence is at a low point, then you’re very probably overstating the case to yourself and need to work on confidence-gaining strategies in whatever walk of life we’re talking about – and this is usually achieved better with the help of another trained professional.