(For more on this subject listen to Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox Podcast Episode 7)
In Buddhism, confidence is necessary for a person to change deeply for the better. Buddha taught that humans have infinite potential for change. A person who is presently unhappy can become someone with a positive and happy disposition. Someone who is addicted to something can become and stay sober and be an inspiration for others to follow. A person who is habitually angry can become patient. The most profound teaching in Buddhism is that there is no fixed, inherent self. The self we relate to based on our current habits and those habits can change. Understanding that we are not a fixed, inherent self means there are limitless possibilities for us.
About 1,200 years ago the Buddhist Master Shantideva defined the steps to developing confidence as this:
- Aspire. Dream. Wish. You have to develop a strong wish to accomplish an important goal or personal change. Visualize yourself having accomplished it. In your imagination, feel how wonderful it is. Imagine what your life is like having attained this goal/change.
- Plan and Be Steadfast. Steadfastly put these planned steps into action. Accomplish your daily goals. Decide what has to be done to accomplish this goal–according to your capacity. Very clearly identify the first step (what you will do tomorrow.) Plan what the steps will be the following day toward realizing your goal. Create a step-by-step plan.
- Be Joyful. Your plan to change must be a joyful one. We won’t do what makes us suffer for very long! The path toward change will be challenging, but it cannot be very unpleasant. The Buddhist path should always be a joyful one if we are practicing correctly.
- Rest. Rest is a power of effort. Plan to take rest and have a break. Also, when we have an unexpected rest (when we diverge from our plan), don’t feel that you have failed. Steadfastness means we are going in the trajectory of our dreams, not that we are perfect.
Through the steadfast accomplishment of daily actions toward your goal or personal change, confidence will naturally arise. Eventually, you will be familiar with this new way of being. You will have become a new person, with new habits and a new life!
Through effort, vigilance,
Restraint and self-control,
The wise person can become an island
No flood can overwhelm.
Unwise, foolish people
Give themselves over to negligence.
Protect vigilance as the greatest treasure.
Don’t give yourself over to negligence
Don’t devote yourself to sensual pleasure.
Vigilant and absorbed in meditation
One attains abundant happiness.
From The Dhammapada, translated by Gil Fronsdale, Chapter 2, Verses 25 – 27
The Dhammapada, translated by Gil Fronsdale
Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, by Je Tsongkhap, Volume 2. Pages 181-208. Translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Joshua Cutler, Editor-in-Chief, and Guy Newlan, Editor.