The Confidence Course
“Always keep your composure. You can’t score from the penalty box; and to win, you have to score”
Bobby Hull, Hockey Legend
Composure…The Third Layer
Composure is the third layer of our Confidence Pyramid and it may be the most important layer because without composure, you do not have control over your thoughts, feelings, emotions or visceral equilibrium. In short, when you lose composure you have lost control of the moment and situation. You are out of balance emotionally, mentally and even physically. You cannot concentrate, focus or do your task effectively.
We have all heard the saying: “when the people around you are losing their heads and freaking out, the person who keeps their head is the one who wins”. This suggests that a cool and collected mindset is vital to remaining in control and being capable to function effectively in pressure filled situations. In sports, legendary football coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Paul Brown once said: “the key to winning is poise under stress”. Often the athletic team that can remain on task and stay in control and not lose their cool when the other team is gathering momentum and making a run at them is an illustration of team and athletic composure.
In business, we often hear of business CEO’s addressing the heated and strong desires of board members and corporate heads with a comforting and reassuring message that has been developed over years of being in the front lines of debate and confrontation. Composure under fire is also the appearance of remaining calm when all things point to a heated conclusion!
Thus we see from many situations and events around us, the key to performing well and to achieve success is maintaining one’s composure under all sorts of duress and hardships. These situations could be from feelings of extreme joy, sadness, despair and cataclysmic events. Without the ability to maintain and create feelings of composure, we as human beings would be in a constant state of disarray and hysteria and any attempt to be productive would be for naught.
Another way of viewing composure is that it is a way to remain thoughtful and patient. I have always said that “Patience is confidence waiting to happen!” What I mean by that is if you stay focused on want you are trying to achieve and can persevere and stay on course, all of the good things you want will come to you in good time. Therefore, tranquility, emotional stability and patience are all linked under the foundation layer that I call composure.
According to several dictionary definitions, composure is the ability to remain calm and self-assured under dire circumstances and situations. It is also about the ability to be calm, confident and in control. Perhaps the most extreme example of staying composed is when a first responder or paramedic is called to the scene of a terrible accident. They have to prepare themselves mentally and emotionally to be able to recognize and act quickly to treat the injured. Their ability to stay focused and remain relatively calm in a highly accelerated emotional event is attributed to not only their training and competence, but also in their ability to remain composed and diligent to the task at hand. That is why they are called “first responders”. If they were “first reactors”, they would react in an unprofessional manner and freak out and be unable to do their jobs effectively. (Just something for you to think about).
But those are extreme examples. In a much more common way, we lose our composure just merely standing in line waiting for the cashier to ring up the other people in front of us. Because we may be in a selfish state of mind, we become impatient and start to become frustrated and angry. If we leave these feelings to go unchecked, we become agitated and eventually we lose our temper and create either a scene or embarrass ourselves! In a business situation such as an interview, it is normal to be a bit nervous if the job position is important to you. The task for you is to act as normal and comfortable as you can possibly be. The ability to remain composed and answer the questions as well as you can is vital. People who appear composed are also viewed as more confident and well-assured and this makes their interview process go much smoother.
So we know that composure and remaining in a relaxed and balanced state is good for us in our everyday and working lives, but how do we create and develop composure? The following exercises will help you to appear calm, relaxed and in control. The great thing about these exercises is that you can do them anywhere in any number of situations. Enjoy the ride!
Exercise #1 Creating Composure while driving
Perhaps one of the most common dilemmas that we encounter on a day to day basis is the subject of road rage. Road rage is the distorted emotional rage that a person develops driving a multi-ton vehicle that could do enormous damage to life, limb and people! In this exercise, while you are driving and you encounter heavy traffic and people are crisscrossing in front of you and cutting you off, I want you to do three things:
- Immediately recognize what is happening here!Be aware that someone is being a jerk and that they are the aggressor in this situation. Do not become agitated or irate. Simply recognize this behavior for what it is….an accident that is waiting to happen and just might…if you do not recognize it for what it is.
- Take a break!Breathe a deep breath and slow down. Do not accelerate your gas pedal or your reaction. Simply let this moment pass.
- Smile.Make yourself smile a big smile and simply say to yourself…Go ahead…You’ll get to where you want to go….
By you doing these 3 things….You are becoming PROACTIVE versus REACTIVE!
Remember, being composed is about staying in the moment and remaining calm, cool and collected. By doing this exercise, it will lower your chances of getting in a bad car wreck and probably lower your blood pressure as well.
Exercise #2 Learning to be Patient
Patience is confidence waiting to happen. But while the world is going on around you at a hundred miles an hour, you are stuck in a long line going nowhere fast! This is a frustrating event that really rattles a number of people and often creates feelings of frustration, irritability and anger. But the only way to practice being patient is to get yourself frustrated by waiting around in the first place! Therefore, here is the exercise that I want you to do to learn composure.
- The next time you go to the grocery, supermarket or ticket line, choose the longest line. By putting yourself in the longest line, you are forcing yourself to stay patient. Also, remember to take a couple of deep breaths and smile to the others in line. Remind yourself that you are developing a lifelong skill simply by taking your time and letting others go in front of you. By simply doing this exercise, the next time you see someone losing their temper because they are impatient, think to yourself: “that used to be me”.
Exercise # 3
This is a simple exercise when you feel that you are losing your cool or that someone is annoying you to where you want to shout and scream.
- If you are becoming agitated, simply take a deep breath and count to ten. By counting to ten and taking some nice, relaxed and deep breaths, you are giving your body a brief “mental time-out” from what is going on around you. In essence, you are giving your human computer a “re-boot”. You are letting the dust settle a bit and you can become composed a bit before you move on. Also, you can reflect back to a more quiet time in your memory bank and think about how relaxed and comfortable you were then. Perhaps it was a beach or a fun time with your friends or loved ones. Reflection on a relaxed mood is always a good way to spend a few tense seconds. But, ten seconds is all you have….and if you do it well… composure will be waiting for you!
Exercise # 4 Singing a Happy / Feel Good Song
We all know when we have an “earworm” song stuck in our head. We just can’t get rid of it sometimes. A simple suggestion is that when things get a bit frustrated and irritating, simply pick out a tune that makes you happy. Hum or sing the first few verses. You may be surprised to find that your mood suddenly turns from sour to sweet. Remember, it took only a second for you to lose composure, so take a few more seconds into turning things around for yourself. Do that and you will find that your day is heading in the right direction!