In an article on self-belief, fellow mental game coach Brian Lomax discusses two key beliefs a mentally tough individual must have:
- Belief that you can attain your goals
- Belief that you possess unique abilities to best your opponents
Brian also mentions optimism as a key to fostering these beliefs. If you are a critic, cynic or pessimist about your own abilities to succeed your chances of success greatly decrease. Behaviors follow thoughts. The optimism paradigm can be learned. Belief in yourself is something that can be learned. We are not born with this belief. However, self-belief is more than some fluffy “think positive” approach.
How do we do this? Building self-belief requires that you:
- Create goals that truly are attainable with process goals to attain them (if you consistently fail at goals then the odds are you need to assess how you set goals).
- Identify your doubts and what generates them (people, situations, information).
- Create a game plan to short-circuit those things that generate doubts.
- Focus on things you can do to increase chances of success (action has power).
- Find and use reminders that reinforce your belief (like quotes, mantras, images).
- Reinforce things you have done in the past that lead you to success.
- Limiting exposure to people and environments that raise doubts about your choices, abilities or approaches (i.e. training). [And yes, this can mean limiting interactions with family members!]
- Minimize any past failures (after all those are in the past) and maximize past successes (they do show you can succeed).
Anna Weber is a good example of someone who embraced learning and practicing self-belief in her pursuit of a US Olympic trials marathon birth. Anna uses objective data from training. She uses her visual preference to reinforce data by creating graphs as reinforcement. She surrounds herself with a team of people who are supportive. She uses a powerful quote to reinforce her mindset and uses this as her race day mantra. She actively practices the “3Rs”: Recognizing when her thoughts go in the wrong direction; Regrouping immediately; Refocusing on what she controls. (This is just one technique I shared with her in curbing non-productive self-defeating thoughts.)
Self-belief directly impacts performance. And self-belief is something that can be developed but it is not a passive process and is not something that just “happens”. It does not wait until you have done something to prove you should have the belief. It is something you create in your mind by taking specific actions, reinforcing them and sticking to it.