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The role belief plays in enabling success

Powerful beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies

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The role belief plays in enabling success
The role belief plays in enabling success

Success is rarely an accident. In most cases, it has one common starting point—a belief that there is no other option.   

Almost everyone has heard the typical award ceremony speech, which starts with “I never expected to win…”. However, it should be noted that most achievers have complete faith in their vision for success while they work towards their goal. What these achievers have going for them is the power of belief. The belief that they are capable of achieving their goals.  

Some people talk down the power of belief. They say things like: “believing won’t automatically mean you will get the result you want.” While there is some truth to their statement, the opposite is even more detrimental. Belief by itself may not get you far, but self-doubt will not get you anywhere. 

Having self-belief encourages us to try and achieve success, but self-doubt on the other hand is more likely to encourage us to give up and can prevent us from trying in the first place. The power of belief works just like the placebo effect.

People in tests who are given a sugar pill as a placebo instead of an actual chemical drug experience the same benefits as those given the actual drug. When someone believes something is going to work, it works, even if that ‘something’ in question is little more than a sugar pill. The actual success of medical intervention depends on a patient’s belief in it. The placebo effect is widely proven, and not just with pills. The British medical journal has published a study that fake surgeries are as effective as real ones in treating a variety of conditions, from angina to arthritis.

In essence, the effect of self-belief is simply a positive reframing of the placebo effect. If you believe deeply that some sort of aid is going to help you, or that you are going to nail a performance, odds are, your physiology and neurology will change to help you do just that. In other words, confidence and belief are powerful tools. Studies have found that a woman’s performance on mathematical tests is strongly correlated with her beliefs about women and math. When women are told that men are better at math, which is a common but false stereotype, they score much lower than when they are told that women are equally or more capable.

In his book, ‘The Biology of Belief’, Dr. Bruce Lipton writes of a man who was told he would die of cancer shortly and he did. What is interesting for us and became fatal for him was this belief as the autopsy showed that while he had cancer, he had nowhere near enough cancer to die of it and yet that is just what actually happened. This is known as the nocebo effect, which enables perceived or actual physical side effects based on the patient’s expectations or beliefs. 

Belief is a powerful trigger. Which is why I ask parents and teachers to be mindful of the labels they slap on kids. Shy, naughty, mean, destructive; these can all be powerful beliefs that become self-fulfilling prophecies. 

What should we do?

We can use the power of belief in a way that helps our kids. Instead of saying restless, say active. Instead of saying rebellious, say independent thinker. The power of perception should be used by all of us caring for children. The fact is that as a teacher or a parent, telling our children that they can do something makes it far more likely that they will do it. 

We all have the power to reinvent who we are with the power of belief. Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon and human psychology enthusiast, in his book, ‘Psycho Cybernetics’ concluded that our self-image or belief is the cornerstone of our mental state and therefore the bedrock of all the successes and failures that happen in our lives. 

So, imagine the difference between having a judgemental negative parent or teacher or a positive uplifting one. The huge challenge is that once a child adopts a negative belief, it becomes a limitation for the child for all future decisions about who they are and what they are capable of. 

As parents and teachers, we can change our children’s negative beliefs by creating reference points that enable new empowering beliefs, which propel them forward. 

I did this as an experiment as a teacher in Australia. A child in my English class was not doing well and came to me as a ‘D’ grade student. I arbitrarily gave her the first C+ she had ever got even though her paper warranted a ‘D’. Her next submission came in as a ‘C’ and I gave her a ‘B’. She eventually became an ‘A’ student in my class. When people experience enough failure at something like this girl at English, they perceive their efforts as futile and develop a sort of learned helplessness. The moment she had a glimmer of hope that her ‘D’ grade was not permanent, her belief patterns began to shift. This success in English transferred to a lifting of her grades in all other subjects as well. 

In most cases, achieving or even encouraging success requires just a sense of belief. Our mind has the power to manifest what we believe we are capable of. So, for children, all it takes is a little inspiration and a positive perspective to enable a life-long journey of purpose and meaningful success.

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