Peechaya Burroughs for TIME
By Brian De Haaff / Inc.
September 16, 2016

Have you ever noticed that some people seem inherently confident while others prefer to comfortably fade into the background? You might argue that confidence is all in our upbringing or even our genetic makeup. But I do not think it is so simple.

I recently read an interview with Tim Cook in the Washington Post. One comment stood out — he said that his skin has become “materially thicker” over time. Expanding on that point, the Apple CEO noted that “I think I’m a bit better today about compartmentalizing things and not taking everything so personally.” Even a self-assured CEO recognizes there is always room for improvement.

Successful, forward-thinking people experience the ups and downs of life just like anyone else — but they think differently about themselves and the world around them.

Their unique perspective helps them maintain confidence, even in the face of adversity. But they also adhere to a set of principles — rules, if you will — that help them take on challenges, opportunities, and everyday life situations.

The great news is that anyone can improve their confidence — if they are willing to put forth the effort. Here are seven rules of confident people that you can adopt today:

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1. Set a clear direction

Confident people know their priorities and set audacious goals for themselves. Sir Edmund Hillary, the first mountaineer to summit Mt. Everest, said, “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” Recognize that life passes by quickly, and do not waste a single day on goals that are not meaningful.

2. Invest in yourself

It is important to have faith in your own abilities. But you also must invest time and energy into learning so you can continually offer your best. In his first sales job, Mark Cuban read software manuals so he would feel confident selling the product. Identify areas where you could improve and shore up your knowledge so that you can handle any situation with composure.

3. Face your fears

Being self-assured does not give a person a natural immunity to fear. But confident people do not let fear prevent them from accomplishing goals. Eleanor Roosevelt pointed to the “real danger” of running away from fear, saying, “If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

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4. Do not conform

Track and field star Florence Griffith Joyner, who was known for her willingness to be herself, said, “When anyone tells me I can’t do anything, I am just not listening anymore.” Stop relying on the approval of others. Instead, dig deep and gather that fortitude from within. Celebrate your individuality and your unique strengths, and tune out the naysayers.

5. Bounce back quickly

It takes chutzpah to rebound from tough experiences or even failure. Stephen King, who has published more than 50 novels and hundreds of short stories, learned about rejection firsthand when his very first novel, Carrie, was turned down 30 times before it was accepted and published. Brian Acton was turned down for an engineering job at Facebook before co-founding WhatsApp (which he then sold to Facebook for $19 billion).

6. Let insults slide

Truly confident people look for value in criticism, but let insults roll right off. Julie Zhuo, vice president of product design at Facebook, learned to ignore good and bad press about the company — instead focusing her attention on the vision and trusting the team. Some people may not want you to succeed and may try to tear you down. Do not let them.

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7. Practice generosity

Self-assured people spend time thinking of how to make the world better. Bill and Melinda Gates are among those signing the Giving Pledge to give most of their wealth away to philanthropic causes. Having a giving spirit will give you a healthy confidence boost and keep your own troubles in perspective.

Confidence is not an inborn trait, and it does not develop overnight. Even if you lack that self-assurance right now, you do not have to stay that way. You too can become more fearless and self-assured — if you are willing to work at it.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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