The Science of Achievement & Confidence – Greta Thomas

By Posted on : 22 Aug 2017 0 Comments

Last Wednesday I was fortunate enough to attend to an event held by Full Potential Labs where Greta Thomas spoke about “The Science of Achievement & Confidence” as part of Female Entrepreneurs Week.

Greta Thomas is a professional ballet dancer (one of the original cast members of CATS), Company Director, Speaker, Leader and Marketing Guru. Greta is passionate about encouraging others to “Rate Yourself!”. Greta worked at a large bank where she worked on a study about the gender differences between men and women when it comes to confidence and achievement – and how to neutralise the differences found in the research.

Greta is no stranger to having to “rate herself” and back her abilities. Greta had to perform a solo when she performed as part of the original cast of CATS. Although she had performed her solo routine countless times in rehearsals without an issue, when it came to her live performance, she began to wobble and was unable to shake her self-doubt.  After a number of such performances she was able to ‘hijack’ this self-doubt in her mind and harness her full potential to overcome the ‘wobble’ – she was able to change her mindset.

According to a study by KPMG (Women’s Leadership Study 2015), Confidence and Determination are the top 2 leadership characteristics, with confidence often viewed as being more important than competence.

The Evil DJ – i.e. Your inner critic that creates the narratives and ‘soundtrack’ in your head that in turn creates self-doubt and affects your confidence. This ‘soundtrack’ distorts your perspective on reality.

  • What triggers your Evil DJ? These are just some common triggers:
    • Are you tired or stressed?
    • Have you received negative feedback (or no feedback)?
    • Someone criticises your idea or business model?
    • You compare yourself to others?
  • How do you hijack and interrupt the ‘soundtrack’ when it starts? How do you recognise and challenge your own thoughts?
    • Choose a cue or reminder/check-in – it can be something tangible (like a watch, bracelet, picture on the wall) or something intangible;
    • Ask yourself:
      • Am I stuck in my head and in my own narrative?
      • Is my Evil DJ in charge?
      • What’s the evidence for my thoughts?

“No matter how compelling they seem, your thoughts are not necessarily facts!”

Dealing with Rejection and Setbacks:

Greta went on to speak about the need for us all to build resilience – women in particular as women are more likely to take rejection and setbacks personally.  She used the example of Kathryn Minshew (CEO and co-founder of The Muse), who was rejected 148 times before she received her first ‘yes’ for her start-up venture.  What did Kathryn have to do to overcome the rejection and go on to raise US$16M last year?

Greta discussed some tips for dealing with rejection – try asking yourself these questions when you feel you have experienced a setback or rejection:

A great way to bounce back from rejection and to “hijack” your negative thoughts/Evil DJ, is to remember to look after yourself. The best ways to achieve this are:

  • regular and sufficient sleep – a lack of sleep can affect your cognitive ability. Try these things to get more sleep:
    • 30-minute power nap (no more than 30 minutes!);
    • Switch off technology 2 hours before going to bed;
    • Have a sleep routine – try the same time each night.
  • time to yourself;
  • eating properly;
  • going to the gym/exercise;
  • Talking things through with a friend or trusted colleague – this can give you a different perspective and help you realise that your thoughts are not rational or realistic.

Did you know …

  • Men overestimate their abilities by 30% greater than the reality
  • Women underestimate their abilities by more than 20% than the reality
  • This overestimation and underestimation can have quite a significant impact in situations such as job interviews or start-up pitches, where the reality of an individual’s abilities is not evident – only their perception and self-confidence (even when equal abilities are compared side by side).

Some of the key differences between men and women when it comes to negotiating have been found to be:

  • Women who negotiate can be judged less favourably than men who negotiate;
  • Women negotiate significantly less than men. One study showed that 93% of female Masters graduates at Carnegie Mellon accepted job offers without negotiating vs only 43% of men;
  • Men are more likely to negotiate downwards with a woman than they would with a man.

A few points of advice for women when negotiating is:

  • To be comfortable with silence – don’t feel the need to continue talking/explaining your position once you have made it;
  • Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend;
  • Know how the game is played differently between men and women and optimise our game as women.

Greta discussed how communication (verbal and non-verbal) plays an important part in a successful negotiation.

Some phrases and tones to avoid include:

  • I’m not sure but …
  • Would it be ok …
  • Finishing a statement with your voice trailing upwards.

Phrases and tones to consider using instead are:

  • Let’s try this
  • My advice is
  • The data shows
  • I am going to be direct here

Body Language to avoid:

  • Eyes looking upwards
  • Fidgeting / squirming
  • Crumpled in on oneself

Body language to use:

  • Eye contact
  • Mirror body language
  • Broad and expansive shoulders / body language


Walking back to work after the event, I thought about the way we all use the certain types of language which reduces our confidence and in turn, our credibility. Remembering to understand the importance of identifying what your own personal triggers are, so that you can work on interrupting and hijacking these thoughts (and your Evil DJ), will help in assisting to build up a more confident and determined ‘you’.  It was a nice reminder to take away from the event where I felt I could apply it to my everyday life both at work and at home. Thank you to Greta Thomas and to Full Potential Labs for such an eye-opening event!