The highest levels of performance are empowered by the deepest levels of belief. Performing with belief is a critical factor for achieving success at anything in life.
What you believe drives what you do, and what you do determines what you achieve. When your belief is strong, you perform smarter, better, and with greater resilience. This is true everywhere: business, athletics, education, and personal relationships.
What you believe either empowers you or it limits you. Empowering beliefs pull your performance up; limiting beliefs pull your performance down. This is especially true under competitive pressure or in response to challenging situations.
The good news is that what you believe is your choice.
Win in Your Mind First
Under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion, you rise (or sink) to the level of your training. Challenging situations put pressure on your mental toughness. Talent isn’t enough. Physical training isn’t enough. You must be fully engaged mentally. In other words, you must believe. This is because the body follows the mind. The highest levels of performance require the deepest levels of belief. Elite performers win in their mind first.
A great example is the New England Patriots in the 2017 Super Bowl.
In the Third Quarter, the Atlanta Falcons were dominating the Patriots. The Falcons had a 28-3 lead, and it looked like an almost certain victory for Atlanta. No team in the history of the Super Bowl had ever come back from a deficit that big.
But then New England elevated their play. Their defense started getting stops and their offense started scoring points. As the Fourth Quarter began, you could see and feel New England’s belief getting stronger, and you could see and feel Atlanta’s belief starting to waver. With a minute left in the Fourth Quarter, the Patriots scored to tie the game and went on to win in overtime.
It was the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Belief played a big part. The Patriots played poorly – and the Falcons played well – for 3½ quarters. But the Patriots never lost faith, and their belief kicked in when they needed it most. It empowered them to accomplish something that had never been done and which looked almost impossible at the time.
Why is Belief So Powerful?
The power of belief resides in its ability to do four things: Belief creates vision. Belief creates strength of will. Belief creates resilience. Belief ignites and activates.
Belief creates vision. Belief sees the invisible. It sees what has not yet been accomplished. Belief sees the goal, and it sees The Path required to achieve the goal.
The Path is the work that must be done, and people who believe have a crystal clear vision of what that work looks like. They see themselves training, practicing, performing, and achieving. They see themselves on The Path and doing the work.
Because of their clarity of vision, they ignore distractions. They ignore doubters. They do not concern themselves with what critics say. Because of their laser-like vision, people who believe win in their mind first.
Belief creates strength of will. Strength of will is the powerful alignment of uncommon commitment, relentless perseverance, and consistent discipline. Uncommon commitment is the will to do whatever The Path requires. Relentless perseverance is the will to stay On-Path for as long as necessary. Consistent discipline is the will to say no to anything that is Off-Path.
Strength of will is not about the commitment to start; it’s about the commitment to continue. It’s about the many “re-commitments” that are necessary to sustain the journey when it gets difficult, tedious, and painful.
Belief is saying "I will" when it gets hard. It is the mindset that says, "I will do the work. I will grind. No matter how difficult, no matter how big the challenge, I will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes."
Stop for a moment and consider the power of these first two elements of belief: laser-like vision and extraordinary strength of will. Imagine what you can achieve if that is how you train, practice, and perform. If that is how you approach learning. If that is how you approach your job. If that is how you approach anything in your life.
Belief creates resilience. Resilience is the ability to respond and bounce back from adversity. It is the capacity to navigate through challenges, difficulties, and setbacks. Belief doesn’t just survive adversity, it gets stronger because of it.
Belief empowers people by giving them unshakable resolve. Belief is what animates the ability to respond to any situation with extraordinary toughness, tenacity, and determination.
Because they believe, elite performers maintain an unwavering focus on what needs to be done in response to adversity. They do not waste attention, time, or energy complaining or worrying. They focus all their attention and energy on doing what needs to be done. They have a never quit, never give in, never give up mindset. When it gets harder, they get better.
When difficult situations hit, belief does something very powerful: It sustains your vision and strengthens your will. It makes you stronger because of the adversity that you are forced to endure.
Here is what Randy Pausch, the author of The Last Lecture, wrote about adversity: “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
Belief ignites and activates. Belief does one more thing that is unique in human performance. Belief unleashes you. Because it has laser focus, and because it burns through doubt and distractions, belief is the ignition that activates your ability to operate at max capacity. It gives you full access to your talent and ability. Belief is the trigger that empowers you to perform at the highest level.
Under competitive pressure, your belief determines how much access you have to your capabilities. Most people work very hard to develop capabilities, but sometimes fail to gain full access to those capabilities because doubt, distractions, and negative thinking hold them back. Again, under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion; you rise (or sink) to the level of your training.
Belief ignites and activates everything. Talent isn’t enough. Training isn’t enough. You must be fully engaged mentally. The highest levels of performance require the deepest levels of belief. It bears repeating: the elite win in their mind first.
Finally, consider this: Belief is not simply about individual performance. It is also an essential element of team performance. On a team, belief is a force multiplier. One of the most powerful forces on earth is a team bonded together by a shared belief in each other and their mission. An elite team has an elite level of belief.
Shared belief creates a team with vision and clarity of purpose. A team with laser-like focus that ignores distractions.
Shared belief creates a team with strength of will. A team with relentless effort that says we will to whatever it takes.
Shared belief creates a team with resilience. A team that responds and performs in the face of adversity. A team that gets better when it gets harder.
Shared belief ignites and activates a team. It gives the team full access to its collective talent. Belief ignites all of a team’s capabilities.