Daisaku Ikeda wrote: “Hope transforms pessimism into optimism. Hope is invincible. Hope changes everything. It changes winter into summer, darkness into dawn, descent into ascent, barrenness into creativity, agony into joy. Hope is the sun. It is light. It is passion. It is the fundamental force for life’s blossoming. Hope is a decision you make. Hope is a flame we nurture in our hearts that must be fanned by our determination.”
Sometimes I coach people who are feeling pretty pessimistic and say to me: “I’ve lost my confidence,” or “my mojo has gone.” Maybe you feel this way sometimes? I used to take these comments at face value and see it as my job to instil belief or motivation during the rest of the coaching session. Then it dawned on me one day when I was chanting for the happiness of one particular person that this was an illusion and that I could not inject confidence into anyone.
So the next time a client said they had ‘lost’ their confidence and their motivation, I replied: “Where? Where have you put it? Did you mislay it at the supermarket or office? When exactly did you notice it leaving your mind?” My client – well accustomed to my sometimes provocative approach – was a bit confused but I pursued my theme.
“OK, let’s try a different question: when did you last feel angry?” I asked him. “Easy. In a traffic jam, around six hours ago,” came the instant reply. “OK, so where has your anger gone, have you completely lost it as well?”
I let his thoughts gather and take shape in the silence and then: “OK… I think I get where you’re coming from, my anger has just gone back ‘inside me’ for now, right?” Correct. “And with the right stimulus it could come roaring back out of me?” Correct. “And it’s the same with my confidence, still in there somewhere, right?” Right.
This may seem like a semantic hair-splitting exercise, but a core principle of Buddhism is the idea of thoughts and emotions being ‘latent or manifest’, of your mind having the potential to manifest, in an instant, any one of a myriad of different emotions. A kind of ‘now you see it, now you don’t.’
That’s why Buddhists believe that confidence cannot be destroyed any more than life force is destroyed when your body dies. Or any more than stars are destroyed when the sun rises. We believe we can reveal and boost our confidence, mojo, wisdom, compassion , courage and any other quality by chanting the mantra Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. And on the specific issue of confidence, it’s worth remembering that you will never out-perform your self-esteem, you will never achieve more than you feel you deserve and you will always bring your goals down to where you feel comfortable, even if that means being unhappy. That’s why high self-esteem and confidence are so vital.
So remember, whatever quality you’re looking for, it must be in there somewhere…