You’ve heard it a million times: “If you want to be successful, you must first believe in yourself.” But what does that really mean?

You have likely heard this phrase so many times that it no longer holds weight. You may think, “Well, of course I believe in myself! But I still haven’t reached my goals. I still haven’t become what I hope to be.”

Through my running career (and life) I have encountered many phrases of self-belief, all stating essentially the same thing: You can accomplish ANYTHING if you simply believe in yourself! Do you want to know what I think of such phrases? They work!

Many runners fail and then point the blame at that ridiculous “If you believe, you will achieve” nonsense. 

I’m not buying it! I have ran over 30 marathons and found this framework of self-belief to be ABSOLUTELY essential to success. My most successful races have followed an unwavering sense of confidence. When my races were less-than-successful, I quickly realized that my negative thoughts were to blame.

No one ever taught me how to believe in myself. It is a skill I have learned and polished over time. You don’t need to be a runner, and you certainly don’t need to be a rocket scientist to develop self-confidence!

Here’s what I’ve learned:

State What You Desire

State what you desire, as if you already wholeheartedly believe it to be true. Whether silently in your head or at the top of your lungs, let the world know that you believe!

Leading up to the 2004, 2008 and 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials, I repeated over and over that I was going to qualify for the Olympic Trials long before I really believed it. I stated my goal each time, and I qualified each time. Stating my dreams as facts (along with hard work) made them come true.

Push aside the fear of stating something that is uncertain and embrace the adventure of stating something that could come true!

Live, Eat, Sleep and Breathe Your Belief

When the manta “I believe” fills your head, your conversations and your journal, you will subconsciously shift your lifestyle to match that belief. You may suddenly develop a taste for kale or look forward to your morning run. The negative chatter in your head will slowly subside, making way for positive affirmations and self-confidence. 

Results don’t happen overnight, and if someone tells you otherwise, it’s likely a gimmick or a lie. If you’ve ever tried to give up a bad habit or establish a good one, you know this well. Have patience and stick with it. Every day, your belief will become more real, and one day your crazy, miracle of a dream will be your reality. 

 

While training to qualify for the Olympic Trials, I woke up each day and committed to being stronger than the day before. I fueled my body with optimal, nourishing food so that I would qualify. Every night, I told my body it was time to rest and prepare for the next day’s training because we were going to qualify. When I ran, I told myself that each breath of oxygen would improve my lung capacity, in preparation for the Olympic Trials. Throughout each day, I made an effort to constantly hammer my belief statement into my mind, in multiple ways and in every context. 

Write Down Your Belief Statement Every Single Day

Part of living your belief is writing it down, and doing so every day. I believe this to be the most powerful and important factor is success. When you write down your affirmations, you hammer those truths into your head. 

When preparing for the Olympic Trials, every day when I sat down at my computer, I would grab an index card or type on my computer: I am an Olympic Trials Qualifier. I continue to do this daily, changing the statement based on my current dream. Today, I write down that I am a 52-year-old USA Olympic Marathon Qualifier. I work hard to believe this statement--to eat, sleep and breathe this--because I want to achieve this goal with all of my heart and soul.

Once writing out your goals, hang them up where you will see them constantly--the refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, your vision board, or as your screen saver. Put your belief everywhere to see!

I have the Monumental Marathon course map hanging on my office wall with the statement: I am a four-time Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier. On my refrigerator is a sign that says I am running 2:42:50! I wear a necklace with pendants that read: Find a WAY, Prove it, Believe, Win the Day, DWI (deal with it) and of course sub 2:43!

One of my signs in my office!

One of my signs in my office!

Visualize Your Belief Actually Happening

Your brain does not know the difference between what it sees with your eyes and what you imagine in your mind. Seriously! Your thoughts have the power to create your reality, which can be exhilarating or scary, depending on what you think about most. If you only sporadically think about MAYBE reaching your goal, it’s unlikely to happen. You must constantly act as if you are going to reach your dream, and occasionally rejoice as if you already have.  

When I was training for my 50th birthday marathon, my goal was to win the marathon and break the course record. I spent many of my training runs visualizing myself celebrating with birthday cake after I won the marathon with a new course record. When race day finally arrived, I had been visualizing for so long that it actually felt as if I had been there before. Victory tasted even sweeter than I had imagined!

Spend Time with Good People

Your time is a valuable resource, so spend it with people that share your belief and support your dreams. I have found that the best remedy for waning self-belief is a group of friends and family who won’t hesitate to remind you just how amazing you are. 

 

 

I remember the first time I was trying to BELIEVE that I could qualify for the 2004 Olympic Trials. Since I sometimes struggled to believe in myself, I spent nearly all of my free time with my coach, training partner and friends that truly believed in my ability to succeed. Eventually, with their support, I believed it too!

Baby Steps towards Big Dreams

Do something--no matter how small--each day to bring you closer to your goal. Your ability to stay motivated will help you train for your goal, do the hard work and experience a sense of progress. When you believe that your dream is attainable and that every decision can take you closer or further, choosing training and eating healthier become much easier.

Over the years, I have observed that many people fail to reach their high-set goals because they didn’t take the time to set the foundation of self-belief. When you down lay a foundation, the house can’t withstand the storm, and the same goes for goal-setting. 

When I was training to win my fourth USA Master Championship title in 2008, I didn’t take the time during my training to believe in myself, post my goals, visualize or state to myself or others that I was going to win. I didn’t see myself winning the race or celebrating my victory. Instead, I spent time saying that I was tired, that I wasn’t ready and that I would just try. Guess what happened? I experienced my first (and only) DNF (did not finish)! During the marathon, I made excuses instead of finding a WAY, and I dropped out. This was my biggest lesson in the power and importance of self-belief. In 2010, I went back to Twin Cities after training my mind to believe and conditioning my mind to win. I not only won the USA Master Championship, but I qualified for my 3rd USA Olympic Trials. Damn right it matters what you think!

The Lessons Here

If you eat, breathe and live your belief--drilling it into your mind at every turn--you will find it nearly effortless to get up and keep going when you fall. 

Reaching big goals requires time, effort, and discipline but if you lay the foundation of self-belief, you will inevitably reach the finish line. 

I will leave you with one final thought:

If you, too, believe that self-belief fosters success and understand that negative thoughts lead to unfavorable results, than you have the power to create successful results. Simply hold on to the most powerful belief of them all: I CAN DO ANYTHING IF I BELIEVE!

My believe necklace

My believe necklace

Keep on Believing, Keep on Running and Never Stop Having Fun,

SL


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