Reading our daughters school newsletter this morning, the first thing that struck me when I opened it was their motto – We Believe! We Achieve! I had spent the first part of the morning pondering what I wanted to share in my blog this week and the thoughts that had been running through my mind all related to the importance of belief to success in any area of life. When I read the school motto I took it as a sign – so here goes, my thoughts on why belief matters as much as it does.
As Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” My own experiences in life together with my observations of other people have cemented my view that belief underpins not only the outcomes we achieve but also the paths we choose to go down in the first place. Contemplate for a moment the things you have failed to achieve because you chose to believe you couldn’t.
Our eldest son Jordan recently had a party at our place. As is a parents right I decided it was a great idea to talk to some of his friends about their life plans 🙂 Talking to Alan (name changed to avoid inappropriate disclose of a serious conversation with a mates Mum at a party) I was saddened to hear him say “I’d love to be an astronomer but I can’t”. When I asked him why he believed that to be true the answer he gave worried me even more “because I’m not very smart”. I was astounded – standing before me was a fantastic young guy who at the tender age of 20 has already decided his dream job isn’t an option for him.
Not satisfied with that response I invited Alan to come over some time to talk further about his lack of belief in himself. I was very happy to receive a text message from Jordan the next week that read “hey Mum, you planning to be home, Alan’s coming over and he wants to talk to you”. It’s always easier to give advice to a kid who wants to hear it. The first question I had for Alan was “when did you decide you aren’t smart and why”. Alan went on to share that because he hadn’t done particularly well in high school it was evident to him that he’s not intelligent. This is how the conversation went from there:
Me: “how hard did you try”
Alan: “not very”
Alan: “because it was boring”
Me: “do you think you’d work hard at something you love doing”
Me: “do you think it’s possible your school grades are more reflective of your lack of interest and effort than your intelligence”
Alan: “yeah I guess so”
The next time I see Alan I intend sharing with him this quote from Richard Branson “I was dyslexic, I had no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever. I certainly would have failed IQ tests. And it was one of the reasons I left school when I was 15 years old. And if I’m not interested in something, I don’t grasp it.”
Alan is far from alone – I can personally relate to his limiting belief. For many years I believed I wasn’t intelligent – I believed that I achieved success in my career because I work hard. I remember sharing that view with Jeremy the CEO I worked for at Vanguard. In response Jeremy nearly fell off his chair laughing at me; he was very blunt and said something along the lines of “that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard you say”. The strength of Jeremy’s response helped me to believe he was sincere. From that moment on I chose a new belief – that I am intelligent.
Of course accurate self-perception is important but so too is choosing not to limit our potential with unfounded beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of. Some beliefs I have learned to hold firm while others waver and require constant reinforcement in my own mind. Often the extent to which these beliefs waver comes down to the health of my body and mind. If I’m tired and lazy I’m entirely more likely to be pessimistic and undermine the strength of my self-belief. I choose to believe:
- With belief I can achieve anything
- My gender is irrelevant to my ability to achieve my career goals
- I get what I give
- I can make a difference
- Why not me
- I’m fulfilling my life purpose
- I’m a good person and kindness serves me well
- It’s OK to be different
How are your beliefs enabling or undermining your dreams from coming true? I’d love to hear your stories about the beliefs you hold and those you have dismissed from your life.