You know that to-do list you’ve got taped to the fridge — the one about cleaning out the garage and buying new fabric softener? What if this month you vowed to shake up your life instead? Here’s a you-can-do-it list of personal challenges, each requiring a varying degree of daring and all designed to change the way you think about who you are and what you’re capable of achieving.
This life-altering process is deceptively simple. First take a mini challenge (worth one or two “Confidence Points”) that doesn’t take you too far out of your comfort zone. Your success with that small step will inspire you to something riskier and more rewarding. Try to rack up at least 15 points by the end of the month. You’ll be amazed how ready you are to conquer the world — or at least your own little corner of it.
For 1 point
- Rework your wardrobe. Slip out of your uniform of jeans and V-neck sweaters by making an appointment with a personal shopper at your favorite department store (the service is usually free). She’ll help you find gorgeous new looks to boost your body confidence, and you’ll feel like a movie star browsing the racks with a personal stylist.
For 2 points
- Get taller without the teeter. Wedges and chunkier-heeled platforms have the check-me-out-sexiness and height of stilettos without the wobbly walk and fear factor of a broken ankle. Plus, those extra couple of inches will help you see the world from a powerful new vantage point.
- Brighten up. Toss out the blah shade of lipstick you’ve been using since college and sample a zingy new hue. Dark lips are hot this fall; try M.A.C’s Lip Varnish in Autobody Red ($14), and put some pizzazz in your pout.
- Give yourself a lift. Who needs plastic surgery? Skip the knife and go into one of those old-fashioned bra stores. Yes, it’s likely an 80-year-old woman with a tape measure will feel you up, but you’ll walk out looking perkier than ever and ready for anything or anyone.
For 2 points
- Collect comebacks. Practice three perfect zingers to keep in your arsenal for the next time your obnoxious coworker makes a crack about how you never work past five. (“Too bad you can’t get your work done during normal hours and have to stay late. I prefer to have a life.”)
- Thank your parents. Remind your mom and dad (and yourself) how far you’ve come by sending them a heartfelt letter about how their advice and support have helped you achieve your goals. Your level of confidence is often related to how other people — especially your parents — view you; when they see you as a successful adult, you’re that much closer to believing it.
For 3 points
- Buddy up. Recruit a trusted friend to be your confidence buddy. “Agree to e-mail each other twice a week, pointing out a few of the other person’s recent successes,” suggests Larina Kase, PsyD, author of Anxious 9 to 5. Be specific: “You looked fabulous in that Donna Karan suit,” or “You told the funniest story over drinks last night.” “Shining a spotlight on your strengths will give you a more positive outlook,” says Kase.
- Spread the joy. Shell out some positive energy each week by bringing fresh-cut flowers to an overworked friend or mowing an elderly neighbor’s lawn. “Research shows that doing a good deed builds your own self-confidence,” says Tim Ursiny, PhD, author of The Confidence Plan.
For 4 points
- Trust your judgment. Go one week without asking for anyone else’s opinion on anything — from what to wear to the fund-raiser to the best title for that memo — and follow your own instincts. You may learn you have all the answers.
For 5 points
- Flirt fearlessly. Plop down next to that cute guy who’s typing away on his laptop at your favorite coffee bar and say, “Can I buy you a latte in exchange for checking a movie time on your computer?” If all goes well, ask him to join you.
- Fix it yourself. Learn to do one frustrating thing that always requires the help of your partner, handyman, or office techie, like changing a flat tire or fixing a printer paper jam. Mastering a skill, especially if it’s something you’ve been avoiding, will give you the self-assurance to take on other challenges.
For 8 points
- Kick a habit. Give up those cigarettes, soap operas, or snacks that have an unhealthy hold over your life. “Being a slave to a habit makes you feel like a victim,” says cognitive psychologist Pierce Howard, PhD. Announce your goal to everyone you know, then join a support group, see your doctor for help, or keep a journal to pinpoint what triggers your addiction.
Jump-Start Your Career
For 3 points
- Live the dream. Take one small step toward making your organic bakery/swimwear line/graphic design firm real. Design a logo on your computer and hang it over your desk, or find out how much that little storefront you’ve been eyeing would cost to rent. Research shows that the more vividly we visualize a goal becoming a reality, the more likely we are to achieve it, says Ursiny.
For 5 points
- Make a gutsy call. Dig out your sister’s roommate’s cousin’s phone number (the one who has the amazing job you’ve always coveted) and offer to take her out to lunch. Come prepared with questions and talking points so she knows you’re serious; you may get some invaluable advice.
- Work the room. Attend your next networking event solo and stay until you’ve collected three people’s business cards. Three bonus points: E-mail a friendly follow-up within a week suggesting you meet for coffee to continue your conversation.
For 6 points
- Take the stage. Stop obsessing over American Idol already and go to a karaoke bar. After warbling “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (sober) to a roomful of heckling strangers, speaking up at the staff meeting will be a piece of cake.