Beliefs are of utmost importance as we associate truth with them. We typically make a belief by taking thoughts, focusing on them, and accepting them to be true. Even if blindly accepted by someone we trust, we still attach a sense of truth to it. A belief is simply an acknowledgment of something’s existence or validity. Significantly, it is the attachment to the truth that gives a belief meaning. Therefore, beliefs are essentially thoughts that are true to us.
The Naval Academy football team had a long-standing belief that they could not beat Notre Dame, the longest consecutive losing streak in Division 1 FBS football history at 43 years. The Midshipmen had valid reasons for believing this—service academies have height and weight restrictions, students cannot red-shirt, and must serve in the Navy afterward. The last time Navy beat Notre Dame was in 1963 with Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, further reinforcing their firmly held belief that they couldn’t win.
In 2001, Paul Johnson came to Annapolis and shifted the Navy players’ mindset with his “Believe to Achieve” mantra. He got them to focus on what they could do and challenged their limiting beliefs that they couldn’t beat Notre Dame. In 2007, they achieved this, without a Heisman winner or any Heisman hopefuls on their team. Coach Johnson’s assistant Ken Niumatalolo kept the belief alive, leading them to victory over ND three more times.
Comparing the two teams, Notre Dame had many advantages—players could be there for up to 6 years, no height and weight restrictions, and a history of NFL recruitment that attracted top high school players. It was a true “David vs Goliath” story. The success of Navy didn’t happen overnight—it took Coach Johnson’s slogan “Believe to Achieve” and instilling belief through the locker room and practice field for them to achieve victory.
In another sporting world, Roger Bannister was an unconventional athlete, practicing away from the critics and coaches who said breaking the four-minute mile was impossible. On May 6th, 1954, he became the first person to do it at 3:59.4 seconds, only to be surpassed 46 days later. The following year, three more people broke this record, and since then over 1700 more have done so, proving that what was once thought unachievable could indeed be achieved.
Breaking through barriers sometimes comes down to belief—Roger Bannister believed he could break the four-minute mile, and the Naval Academy Midshipmen built their belief in their abilities with practice—and building an empowering belief takes time and reinforcing actions.
Beliefs are thoughts that we have accepted as true, and through focused energy, these beliefs can take root and grow. This growth leads to corresponding actions and behaviors which support the belief. Understanding beliefs, where they come from, and why they’re so powerful is essential for creating empowering ones.
Being told I had “thunder thighs” and couldn’t play basketball caused me to accept the opinion of others and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Focusing on a negative belief impacted my behavior and performance, showing how powerful beliefs can be.
Your thoughts and beliefs can become habits, so it’s important to consciously give focused energy to what you want to grow. Planting ‘seeds’ of positivity will lead to corresponding behaviors and actions that support them.
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Believe in yourself, commit to achieving your goals, and you will be surprised by how much you can do. I’m living proof that when you shift your mindset and choose to believe, you can accomplish anything. There’s no limit to what is possible. Empower yourself, and you will empower others. Believe to Achieve!