“No human is limited. It’s not about the legs. It’s about the heart and mind. With a strong heart and good mind you can do it. If you don’t rule your mind it can rule you.” – Eliud Kipchoge
On Saturday, Olympic marathon champion, Eliud Kipchoge went where no human had ever been before. Aiming to be the first person to ever run a marathon in under two hours, he fell agonisingly short, by just 25 seconds. He did, however, smash the previous marathon world- record (although it wasn’t official).
This epic event, planned & run (pardon the pun) by Nike, was three years in the making and was designed to push the human mind & body to the absolute limits and test what is possible.
Kipchoge was one of three athletes selected for the record-breaking attempt after numerous physiological & mental tests over the past 2 years. Before the race started, the scientists were confident they had 3 guys capable of breaking 2 hours as the data from testing showed it was possible. As it turned out, the task was too much for the other two athletes as Kipchoge was the only one who got close to breaking the 2-hour mark.
Throughout the race, the commentators and the clips of the scientists involved in the project kept referring to the fact that Kipchoge deeply believed that he was going to run under 2 hours while they often referred to the ‘potential’ of the other two athletes.
While Kipchoge didn’t achieve his goal of breaking 2 hours, it was his belief that it was possible that got him so close. Although some would say he failed to achieve his goal, he did much better than anyone has ever done before and showed what is possible in the future.
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill
THE MIND CONTROLS THE BODY
A marathon is seen as an incredible test of a person’s mind and body. You’re likely to hear anyone who has run a marathon say that it’s one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. While the body goes through incredible pain throughout the 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles), it’s the mindset and mental battles that keeps a person going, no matter how much they are hurting. The body will never give up until the mind does!
Breaking down previously perceived barriers starts with your mindset and the belief that it’s possible. If you don’t believe you can do something or that you’re not good enough, then you won’t be. As Mahatma Gandhi once said:
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I shall have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
BELIEF VS HOPE
The opposite of belief is hope. Those that don’t believe in themselves hope that they are good enough.
‘I hope I get runs today.’ ‘I hope I bowl well.’ ‘I hope I nail that job interview.’
While hope can be seen as optimism (I’m all about being positive so I’d much rather people be optimistic than pessimistic) the best athletes, artists, musicians, business people etc. don’t rely on hope but instead get their preparation right and have a deep belief in themselves! It’s the belief that it’s possible that allows ordinary humans to achieve extraordinary things.
Eliud Kipchoge crossing the finish line after running the fastest marathon ever!
THE WORLD’S BEST
Whether it’s Kipchoge smashing previous human limitations, Sachin Tendulkar scoring the first ODI double-hundred, Shoaib Akhtar breaking 160km/h for the first time or Shane Warne’s ‘Gatting ball’, nothing extraordinary has ever been achieved by fluke or chance.
They set goals, make a plan, then take action to execute the plan. And most importantly they believe that they can achieve it. When their time comes to perform, they feel ready and trust their preparation. When David Warner was battling for runs in the recent Test series in India he was asked by the media about his struggles:
“The runs aren’t coming for me at the moment. That will come, it will turn around. I just have to keep being disciplined and making sure that my preparation is still the same.”
Note that he didn’t mention that he ‘hopes he gets runs’. And he did mention “it will turn around.” Although he wasn’t getting the results he would have wanted, he still had deep belief that the runs would come and was more focused on what he could control – getting his preparation right, as opposed to the outcome.
At the time of writing this article, Warner has turned his form around and is currently the leading run-scorer in the IPL. While in the past Warner has been accused of being ‘arrogant’, his belief in himself is undeniable and is one of the reasons he’s so successful!
As the old saying goes, ‘form is temporary, class is permanent.’ And class starts with your mindset and believing that you’re class.
CONFIDENCE COMES FROM BELIEF
Confidence is something that is spoken about all the time, in all walks of life.
‘She seems confident.’ ‘I don’t feel confident.’ ‘I’m gaining in confidence.’
These are common phrases that convey a feeling that someone possesses or is perceived to possess. According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of confidence is:
‘The feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.’
To feel confident you need to BELIEVE in YOURSELF.
CONFIDENCE IN CRICKET
I’m regularly contacted by cricketers who are going through a rough patch and as a result, are lacking confidence. When you’re not performing at your best, it can quickly become a very negative, lonely place as you get down on yourself. Negative self-talk takes over and even though you’ve performed well just a short time ago, you start to question whether you are any good at all (this extends far further than just the cricket field).
Losing confidence doesn’t just happen to amateurs, it also restricts top-class professionals. Tim Paine was one of Australia’s best young players before a number of broken fingers affected his results which shattered his belief and confidence in himself:
“Obviously I lost a lot of confidence in the last two years, so it’s just about reinforcing the fact that I’m still quite a good player, and if I believe that, I’ll produce more often than not.”
While it took time to build that belief again, he has bounced back in the last 12 months to regain a spot in the Australian team (he played T20’s for Australia in February). His struggles certainly weren’t through a lack of trying but instead a lack of belief.
While short-term confidence can be improved or some might say faked, ultimately it comes back to belief. I always try to help improve the mindset of the players that I mentor and stress that they need to believe they are good enough, in any situation, against any opposition or they will always struggle for confidence when things aren’t going well.
HOW DO YOU IMPROVE YOUR BELIEF?
The best way to believe in yourself is by getting it done. Some progress has to occur for you to believe in yourself otherwise you’re just a narcissist who loves themselves but has nothing to back it up. You’re never going to truly believe that you’re good enough to succeed against the fastest bowler in the competition if you first can’t handle the fastest bowler in your team. By mastering the fastest bowler in your team, it builds the belief that you CAN handle the fastest bowler in the competition. Creating the deep belief is a gradual process that takes time and is achieved through constant action and improvements.
Cricketers ride a huge roller-coaster of emotions with some weeks being amazing and others being terrible and we often have more bad days than good days. One belief building exercise that I encourage the players I mentor to do is remind themselves of their good performances. It’s about shifting their energy & attention from the negative performances that they generally stew on to the positive ones. I’m currently working with a number of talented players who have some excellent results behind them yet they still don’t understand or believe how good they are, which holds them back. It’s a fine line between having a strong belief in yourself and being the cocky or arrogant cowboy that no one likes but I believe that remembering your previous success (big or small) allows you to 1. overcome doubts and 2. move on quickly from short-term failures.
I also believe that regularly using positive self-talk (affirmations) is one technique that builds belief but only if used in conjunction with ‘getting it done’. If you’re doing the work, improving and getting some results then affirmations can help you deeply believe that you’re good enough for the levels above you that you’re striving for.
Muhammed Ali was known for his bravado and confidence but it was a deep belief within himself that he gained from affirmations that gave him the confidence to do and say what he did:
“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
Personally, I try to listen (I’ve recorded them on my phone) to my affirmations every morning. If it’s good enough for one of the world’s best ever athletes, then it’s good enough for me. And I believe that it makes a difference. So it does.
YOUR SUCCESS STARTS IN YOUR MIND
Belief (mindset) + Action (constant practise) = Success
If one of these two is missing then it’s a lot harder to be as successful as you want to be. Build deep belief in yourself and any short term failures won’t affect you.
Kipchoge believed deeply inside himself that he could run a marathon in under 2 hours…which is what allowed his body to come so close. His record-breaking run is a lesson to every person that anything is possible if you have the right mindset and truly, deeply believe it.
So, what is your sub two-hour marathon? Go after it…
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha
Tom Scollay batting for Middlesex
About the writer: I founded Cricket Mentoring as I believe there isn’t enough emphasis put on understanding the mental side of the game. Our articles aim to help cricketers from anywhere in the world learn more about what’s required to become your best – in cricket and life in general. As a former professional cricketer with Middlesex CCC (2010-2012) I’ve played with and against some of the world’s best players and worked with some elite coaches. I’m a Cricket Australia Level 2 coach and through my own personal experiences, practice and a hunger to always learn, I’ve developed and continue to refine my principles and philosophies on the great game.