To achieve any goal in life, you must believe you are going to be successful. If you do not, you are likely to fail.
When I was 27, I took the bold step of handing in my notice at work in order to set up my own business. I did not have any idea what I was going to do, but inside of me was a burning desire to go out on my own. The time had come to throw caution to the wind and really go for my dream. I spent the next six months researching ideas, thinking about what I was going to do and contemplating how to do it. The one thing I didn't do though, was to take the action necessary to make these ideas a reality. Despite a huge desire to succeed and the massive step I had taken, I could not motivate myself to really go for it. The result, I did not succeed. My savings depleted, my spirits down, I was forced back to work to pay my bills.
It is only now as I look back at that period of my life that I can see why I failed: at no stage did I really believe I was going to be successful. Many of the ingredients for success were there. I had a great goal that I really wanted to achieve. I had a well respected business qualification. I had a number of years experience in business. I had also taken the first bold steps to achieving the goal by handing in my notice at work and examining a number of business ideas. Unfortunately, I also had little self-belief. I did not see myself as a successful entrepreneur. I did not feel like that who I was going to be. My beliefs were like a force hidden deep inside me, holding me back, stunting my progress, preventing me from taking the actions necessary to succeed.
So, that was me - what about you? Do you work towards new goals with a conviction that you will succeed? Do you have a picture of success in your mind and a feeling that this is meant to be? Take a moment to think back over some of the things you have tried and failed to achieve over the last few years. As you do, ask yourself When I started doing this, did I really believe I would succeed?. If you find that in many cases you didn't then it's vital that before you start to move towards your goals for the future that you take the time now to believe in yourself. To believe that you will succeed. This chapter will show you how.
Why are beliefs so important?
We start creating beliefs as soon as we are born. Then, as we progress through life, we continue to create new beliefs and change old ones. We need to do this to make living in the world practical and easy to do.
I believe that when I get out of bed in the morning I will be pulled to the ground and not fly up to the ceiling. I learnt this when I was very young and now don't have to pay it a moments thought. Just as well - what I pain it would be if I had to check which way gravity pulled me every morning before I get out of bed!
When I lock a door, I turn the key towards the latch. When I unlock it I turn it towards the door. When I was young I developed the belief that Doors lock by turning the key towards the latch and unlock by turning the key towards the door. Now, when I open a new door, I don't have to consciously think about it, I just act in accordance with the belief I have. I turn the key towards the door. Simple and easy isn't it? That's the point of beliefs.
Now, if you're like me, you probably know of a lock that doesn't follow this logic. Irritating isn't it! For some bizarre reason the lock on my car unlocks by turning the key away from the door. After a year of regularly opening and closing this lock, my automatic reaction is still to turn it in the wrong direction! The belief I developed about locks directly affects my behaviour, even when it is not appropriate.
Is the world round or flat? It's round isn't it? But how do you know this? Isn't it just what people have told you? What proof do you really have? It looks pretty flat to me when I look out the window! If you did believe the world was flat, you might be quite concerned the next time you went out in a boat - you could fall off the edge of the world! Of course this was what people used to think, and it was a great barrier to exploration for many years. The beliefs people had directly affected their actions, and in this case limited their results.
Notice then that beliefs do not necessarily reflect the real world. Doors don't always unlock by turning the key towards the door. Beliefs about the world being flat were soon changed once explorers started to travel around the world. Beliefs do directly affect our actions though. Sometimes then, we take action even when our beliefs are wrong, and this can limit us. This is particularly true about the beliefs we have about ourselves and our abilities.
Beliefs about ourselves
Just as we act automatically within the limits of the simple beliefs we develop like the way to lock or unlock a door, we do the same with the beliefs we develop about ourselves. If we develop limiting beliefs about what it is possible for us to achieve, then our response will be to limit the actions we take. As a result we also limit the results we get.
If we believe we are likely to fail, our subconscious mind will get to work to create actions which support this. When the going gets tough (and it usually does at some point), we won't go the extra mile needed to succeed; an initial failure just supports our belief that we were going to fail all along and we give up.
On the other hand if we believe we are going to succeed, then we probably will. Mohammed Ali is often regarded the greatest sportsman who ever lived. As well as obvious talent, strength and courage, one of the main reasons he was so great was his tremendous self-belief. Most of us have seen television clips of Ali during his boxing years claiming he was the greatest. When he was telling everyone this, was he the greatest? Well no. At that time he still had a lot to prove. What he did have though, was complete belief in his own ability. That belief was reflected in the results he got and despite being stripped of his world title in 1967, because he would not fight in the Vietnam war, he was not deterred. He came back seven years later, won the title back, and proceeded to keep it for another 4 years. His belief that he was the greatest, not only took him to the pinnacle of boxing, but probably the pinnacle of sport as a whole.
In next week's article I will look at how beliefs can affect our lives in ways beyond our normal conscious control, and outline the 10 step self-belief process.
Nick Best is an author, speaker and personal development coach. If you would like more information on the 9 step self-belief process and how to make it work for you, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will send you the full text of the relevant chapter of his book The Management Of Life. Other selected chapters of the book can be found on his website www.managementoflife.com.