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To succeed you have to believe in yourself… really?

It is so easy to think we have things figured out in life and without someone to robustly challenge our assumptions we just continue to think them – at times to our cost.

This is one of the reasons coaching is so powerful. You have someone totally on your side and yet, at the same time, they will call you out.

I once said to a coach I was working with that in order to succeed I needed to believe in myself – and I got called out.

Why do you believe this to be true, he asked?

Probably because I had heard it so many times before I had assumed it must be true.

Every day in the media you can read or hear about someone who has achieved something amazing and they say that their self-belief was one of the keys to their success.

But, is self-belief really necessary to succeed?

One of my favourite football games of all time was when Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League against A.C. Milan in 2005.

What a game!

At half-time Liverpool were 3 nil down. Many fans walked out of the stadium at half-time in disgust, but to their eternal regret.

Because in the second half, in a dramatic 6 minute spell, Liverpool scored 3 and levelled the match. It eventually went to penalties and Liverpool won the cup.

The match became known as ‘The miracle of Istanbul’.

It is well documented the low state of mind that the team were in at half-time.

Steven Gerrard, the captain and man of the match, said that in the dressing room at half time they had no belief at all. Jamie Carragher said the team were completely deflated.

The truth about belief

The human psychological experience is that moods come and go.

Just as our physical energy ebbs and flows, so does our mental energy.

There are times when you can feel unstoppable and full of self-belief but, equally, there can be times when you feel discouraged, deflated and full of doubt.

Whether you are full of self-belief or completely lacking it, it is never information about the external world.

If you have a goal or outcome that is important to you and it makes sense to follow that desire, then what does self-belief have to do with it?

Nothing. Unless you think it does.

You cannot control your thinking anymore than you can control the weather. But you can understand how it works.

With this deeper understanding of how thought ebbs and flows you don’t get tricked by your own thinking and just see it as an indicator of your state of mind in the moment.

Absolutely nothing to be concerned about.

What is far closer to the truth about successful people is that they have learned to ignore self-doubt. They do not trust their thinking when in a low mood and do not make a big deal out of how they feel.

Consequently, just as Liverpool did on that day, they stay in the game.

This is completely different (and far more helpful) than the misunderstanding that you need self-belief in order to succeed.

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