'I believe I can be great (although maybe I don't)'

There was a documentary that came out in 2010 called Waiting for Superman. The director, Davis Duggenheim who also directed Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, follows a handful of American kids through the US education system and exposes many of the problems that the system faces. The trailer for the documentary presents very interesting statistics about how the American system is performing, stating that among 30 developed countries worldwide the United States ranks 25th in maths and 21st in science. While these rankings are a major issue for America and clearly shows their education system is failing many, there is one area where American kids rank number one - confidence. These kids are failing academically in comparison to other countries but they actually believe they are doing well - their confidence and self-belief is excelling!

The self-help revolution has been a booming business over the last half century, I’m sure that just about everyone reading this piece will have read at least one self help book, I know I’ve read my fair share. But like all things there are different standards in the quality of work that comes from this area of content. There’s scientifically proven work that provides tools which can be applied to help people progress and then there’s non-proven theories that sell the message that it’s easy to achieve the fulfilment you desire - but in practice doesn’t create real change.  

I always find it interesting how ‘belief’ is sold in the books which don’t have a great deal of research to back it up or author credibility, they promote the idea that as long as you have the belief that you can be or have something you want it will come to you with ease. The message is that the first step in moving towards the life you want is to just believe that you can have it. If I believe I can lose weight I will, if I believe I can be a millionaire I will, if I believe I can find the perfect partner I will. The list goes on and on. These books sell the idea that if you just have belief you will gain all of these amazing outcomes, but there are two bigs things that stop this from being true, evidence and reality. 

When people read these ‘if I believe it, I can create it’ types of statements they may feel a momentary burst of inspiration but within a few seconds they are faced with the reality of their current situation or ability. ‘I believe I can lose weight’ would be confronted with fact that you haven’t stuck to a healthy eating or exercise routine for years and this will quickly quash any hope of blind belief that it’s easy. 

The thing is, belief is something that we can all experience. It doesn’t come from blind hope but rather from experiences that prove to yourself that you have achieved the next level based on your current ability. I see this all the time with our beginner runners at Get up to Five, our 5k running group. In the first week of the programme they don’t believe they can do 7 sets of running for 30 seconds followed by 3.5 mins of walking, they are fearful because their past real experiences with running have shown them that they can't run. If they were expected to run 30 minutes non-stop they would most likely fail. Even though these people are afraid, deep down they think there is a chance that they can do these 30 second sets, that's because the workout is broken down into smaller steps and while this is scary for them the step up in ability is achievable. 

So what happens? They turn up and with the help of the coaches around them they get to the end of the session. Throughout that week they repeat this workout three times and by the end of the week they have overcome their fear and have progressed that one step closer to their goal. The fear has subsided, then they see that they will be running for 1 minute next week and that fear comes back but because they now believe that they can run for 30 seconds they are willing to extend themselves to 1 minute. Their belief and confidence is growing because they have evidence that shows them that they are close to this next step, it’s a stretch but they are willing to try.  

By the end of the programme these people are successful in running 5k because each week they have built their belief based on their previous week’s growth, this is an amazing place because they start to see more possibilities and are open to testing themselves, they believe in themselves.

If there are areas in your life where you wish you could have more belief, look for your current ability, find where the next small step in your growth is and then work at it. The more you do this the more you will experience success which then takes you up to the next level - that’s how you gain that magical thing called belief.  


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Bevan Eyles