I was at the gym the other day and noticed a woman wearing bright green shirt with white lettering on the back.
If you don’t believe, you don’t belong.
There I was, running atop the treadmill for an hour-long sweat fest to escape the icy, cold, dark roads outdoors. The gym was about 212 degrees (the point at which Elizabeth starts to boil), no amount of television or music or people watching was distracting enough and that is when I noticed her shirt. And I realized she was right.
Because believe is the only thing that is going to get me through this winter just like many before. In fact, the idea of ‘believe’ couldn’t come at a better time. Here we are in the midst of the holiday season magically built upon the theme of believe. No matter which holiday you celebrate or how old you are its hard not to believe that the season’s spirit is one of joy, hope, and gratitude. All it takes is for you to believe.
And how appropriate for an athlete’s season too. Here we sit on the edge of a new year. A new season of hope that we will achieve something bigger and better than before. We have started forming our plans, big plans of races near and faraway. Our goals are lofty but strong. Whether your goal is to earn a personal best, win your age group or cross the finish line there is one thing in common – to achieve these goals you are going to have to believe.
Just like an older sibling telling you that Santa is not for real, many will tell you to believe is nonsense. Forget the touchy feely I believe in myself hocus pocus load. Just do the workouts week after week, get lost in the numbers of your Garmin, follow a plan and you’ll find your way. But it takes more than that. It takes a power and that power is believe. When you open yourself up to believe in what you can possibly achieve, anything becomes possible. It is just a matter of how far you want to go.
Each season, I sit down at the start and think through where I want to go. What do I want to achieve? I choose my races and set my goals. And I will confess to one thing (it is actually something I heard a long time ago) – I don’t go to races knowing that I will achieve but I go knowing in my heart that I can. I put winning or whatever my goal is to achieve within the realm of possibility. I take limits away from myself.
And why not. Because if you don’t believe in it why should it happen to you? Because you did the workouts? Because you rode in the rain? Because you wrote it down? So what. The majority of us do the training. We have paid the physical price. What then separates the peak performers and goal achievers from everyone else is that they truly believed. They woke up on race morning saying what they had been saying all along – I can be a world champion today, I can break 10 hours today, I can do this because I believe I can.
But they don’t just believe it in their head or repeat phrases silently to themselves. They believe, and feel it, in their heart. I bring the heart into this for more than just exercise physiology reasons. It is symbolic of things that happen to us for reasons beyond the tangible. There are intangible feelings in our heart about ourselves and our goals that we cannot ignore. It takes more than doing the workouts, more than just following a plan. At some point, in the deepest place in your heart you have to believe. You have to know that you can. And you have to yearn for its achievement and feel it like only the heart can.
That is why reading this shirt I realize indeed if you do not believe you do not belong. I sit on the edge of next year thinking through my goals and plans I realize they are big. Perhaps in a place where I do not belong. And maybe you are in this same place too making a giant leap in what you hope to achieve. But I believe I can, I believe we can. I have written down my goals and each time I see them I think to myself, I say to myself, I believe. I’m willing to take the chance on myself. Win or lose, try or fail, I believe in the possibility of my goals. And for that I know the goals, and myself, belong.
Beliefs give rise to reality. In athletics or even in this season of the year. Surround yourself with children right now and you realize a simple belief in Santa is all you need to make the magic of the holidays come alive. This belief is all you need for proof that indeed it is a season of hope, joy, and gratitude. And that’s really what we are looking for next year in sports, too. Hope that we will meet our goals, the joy of doing something we love, gratitude for our health, family, and friends.
So ask yourself now – do you believe?