Believe It or Not

The thing that has the greatest impact on your success–as a fencer, as a coach, as a human being–is your set of beliefs.

Your beliefs are the governing principles of your thoughts and behavior. They define and limit what you can achieve. If you believe that there are things you will never be able to do or achieve, then those things will remain unattainable to you. If you believe that you can continue to learn and succeed, then you will.

Beliefs have a significantly greater impact on achievement than does technical skill. This is not to say that technical skill is in any way insignificant–the proper positive beliefs, in fact, help you to gain greater skill.

Here’s the hook:
A belief does not have to be true to be useful.

The world is full of successful crazy people. These people have a set of beliefs–sometimes fairly absurd beliefs–that allows them to be successful.

Superior fencers (and coaches) always believe in their own superiority. To become a superior fencer or coach, you must understand your beliefs about your own identity. Every decision you make, every assessment, every bit of self-talk–even the way you are reacting to this blog entry–is determined by your beliefs. Understand what those beliefs are and then decide if they are useful–not whether they are “true” or “false”, because that is essentially meaningless–just if they are useful.

Then choose whatever new beliefs are necessary and work to make your behavior congruent with those beliefs. For example, maybe you wish to make “I am an excellent coach” one of your new beliefs. Constantly analyze your thoughts and behavior to make them match that belief. Would an excellent coach assume he knows everything or would he constantly seek out new knowledge? Would an excellent coach appear anxious or uncertain to his students or confident and sure?

You’ll notice each one of those questions is actually a deeper belief question that makes up the set of beliefs delineated by “I am an excellent coach”. No one belief is ever really self-contained. Each is part of a greater network. As you begin to adjust your beliefs to your needs, you will find being congruent with any one belief means adjusting others as well.

The process of altering your thoughts and behavior to match a new belief will, with time, make the belief “real” to you. The more real a belief is–in other words, the more you actually believe it–the more it becomes “true”.

Being congruent is the key to this process. If you don’t adjust what you do and think–if you just repeat, for example, “I am an excellent coach” to yourself over and over without actually doing or thinking anything differently–then you are not actually adjusting your beliefs. Remember, a belief is not a sentence you repeat in your head, it is an organizing principle. You must adapt your identity to the belief if you are actually going to believe it.

Choosing the right set of beliefs will allow you to achieve a lot more in sport (and life) than just practicing lunges. Believe it or not.