Do or do not. There is no try. It’s cliché, and yes, Yoda said it, but if you remember anything I ever tell you, remember that. Better yet, don’t just remember it. Believe it.


In my time as a coach, I have picked up on many behavioral patterns. The most interesting are those that make or break people as they pursue their goals. The pattern I want to discuss today is belief.



Beliefs Are Powerful

Breaking Muscle Shop

Beliefs are extremely powerful and hold the potential to shape outcomes. For example, I believe humans are incredibly capable beings. I believe we all have potential to learn and adapt to just about anything if we put our minds to it. These beliefs shape how I act and how I treat my clients. When you treat people as remarkably capable, they tend to become that, sometimes despite themselves.


In this game called life, our outcomes are largely shaped by what goes on between our ears. The most successful among us are those who have mastered their minds. What we choose to believe is such a vital part of that mastery, but it often starts on an almost imperceptible level. Let me get more specific.


Self-Talk Is Poppycock

We constantly talk to ourselves, often without realizing it. There are a hundred different names for it: self-talk, hidden scripts, inner monologue, etc. Whatever you call it, it happens, and it shapes what you believe, how you act, and what you accomplish.


"I believe we all have potential to learn and adapt to just about anything if we put our minds to it."

All too often I overhear phrases that start with “I can’t do this…” or “I’m no good at that.” To be fair, sometimes it is 100 percent true. But most of the time it is total poppycock.


These negative feelings are the sum of many subtle thoughts we have routinely chosen to accept. After we’ve embraced these “micro-thoughts” for a while, they form the foundation for belief. Unfortunately they also tend to become a great way to let yourself off the hook and make excuses. The “I can’t do this,” turns into “I can’t do this,” with a subtle, “…and I’m not going to bother trying, either” at the end of it. Sound familiar?


Trying Is a Cop Out

That brings me back why I don’t believe in trying. “Trying” is a word loaded with expectation. It lacks conviction and is muddied with subtle ambiguity. Trying leaves room for you to return to the comfortable world. It keeps the door open for failure and excuses. It is all too simple to say “I tried,” and just walk away.


Entertain me, though. Instead, say “I will do this.” Maybe make it a promise to a friend. How much more does it hurt to say, “I didn’t do this or that thing,” or “I failed to deliver on that promise?” There’s accountability there and it sucks to come up short. You have more skin in the game. But it’s objective. It gives you grounds to change your plan of attack, be persistent, and persevere. Failure is okay, as long as you keep moving forward.


believe in yourself


A Real Life Example: 3,000 Miles In 12 Days

I have an example I’d like to share from my time crewing for a friend of mine who completed the Race Across America (RAAM) cycling race. RAAM is a 3,000 mile bike race across the United States that racers must finish in twelve days or less (approximately 250 miles per day). I’ll be frank with you - it’s absurd. More people have climbed Everest than completed this race.


One thing that stands out to me is the total conviction our athlete had leading up to and throughout the race. There was no ambiguity. He believed in his ability down to the very core of his being. Even in the midst of dire sleep deprivation, the vision remained clear.


"He believed in his ability down to the very core of his being."

When he hit rough patches and had doubts, he’d talk to us about his belief. He’d compare it to folks suffering through cancer, who have no choice in the matter. He’d say he was grateful to have a choice and how trivial the choice to keep riding seemed in that light. He’d talk about the team he flew out to support him and about not failing us.


There was no choice. There was no try. It was do, or do not. And he did.


That will stick with me forever. You simply can’t be 100 percent physically prepared for an event like that. It goes beyond pure physical ability. The body can do it, but the mind has to lead it there.


Five Steps to Build Complete Conviction

Sensational story aside, how do you harness this belief in your everyday life? Here are my five steps to acting with complete conviction:


  1. Slow Down and Listen - Without any judgment, focus on those thoughts that are almost subconscious. Take time to hear and be mindful of them. Acknowledge them for what they are and pay attention to how they make you feel.
  2. Ask the Hard Questions - Why is that thought there? Why does it make you feel the way it does? Is it true or does it just feel true? Really examine yourself. This part may not be all that comfortable, but it’s a great opportunity to get to know yourself.
  3. Acknowledge the Ambiguity– Any time there is choice, there is ambiguity. It’s human nature. Look for it and acknowledge it. What do I mean exactly? Think of it this way. Sure, you want to be 10 percent body fat, but you also want to eat that chocolate cake. Both choices are of value to you somehow. The answer to the right decision lies within you. Take the time to see the value in both options.
  4. Reframe – Let’s say you have a negative thought creep in, such as “I can never be below 10 percent body fat.” Stop. Don’t buy the lie. Reframe it into a better thought like, “I can get there, but I need to eliminate other options. See ya later, chocolate cake.”
  5. Act – Make your decision with full conviction. This applies to how you treat small thoughts all the way up to bigger decisions like finishing a daunting race. You will surprise yourself when you see how far conviction and focus can take you.  


Give it a try. You will learn about yourself. You will fail. But you will also succeed. I’d love to hear your stories!


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