In the 1968 Olympics Bob Beamon astonished the world by beating the long jump record by nearly 2ft (55cm). The impact on other competitors was telling. Britain’s defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies was demoralised. He came only ninth after saying to Beamon, “How can you beat a man who has gone into orbit. You have destroyed the event”. There was an opposite attitudinal response when Beamon’s record was passed 23 years later. In the 1991 World Championships Carl Lewis became the first man to jump further…. and he won the silver medal. Mike Powell was the next man to jump, and he went further again!
In May 1954 Roger Bannister ran the first sub-4 minute mile. In June John Landy ran a mile 2 seconds faster! In July the first three runners in a mile race in London ran under 4 minutes. Something other than new running shoes and supplements was going on, and that was the impact of belief.
Henry Ford said “whether we believe we can or believe we cannot we are right….” Whilst I understand the sentiment it is the sort of statement that fuels scepticism about the power of belief and attitude because it is palpably not true. Physical laws and time take their toll and put some things beyond us regardless of our frame of mind. If I step off a tall building I cannot think myself safely to the ground.
On the other hand, how did I complete a fire walk some 20 years ago under the guidance of Anthony Robbins? Six steps, bare-foot across coals at 1800 degrees. There are three strange things about it. Firstly, I felt no heat. I felt the coals crunching between my toes, but no heat. Stranger than that, my feet did not burn. Flesh chars instantly at well below that temperature. Strangest of all though is that somebody got me to do it… and the ONLY way was to work on my belief. Stood next in line, with the heat blasting my face I had to be certain I could do it or I would not have taken the first step.
I am convinced that attitude is more important than ability because our attitude determines what we get from our talents, skills and knowledge, and it determines what we will put in to acquire new talents, skills and knowledge. The positive thinkers quoting Ford win ready support when they are preaching to the converted, but they will not convert the sceptic. I prefer this quote from philosopher and psychologist William James.
It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.
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