The power of self belief, and other strategies to improve performance.




A client approached me recently, nervous about a challenge she was facing. She had just secured an interview for a job that had had over 350 applicants and was keen to learn some strategies to help manage her stress and help ace the process ahead. What I offered amounted to the (not so) secret weapons of science!

In the 1950's it was believed that the 4 minute mile was impossible. Couldn't be done said the medical men! This limiting belief was a self-fulfilling prophecy for the running athletes of the day except for one - Roger Bannister.  I am sure many of you know the story.

Roger firmly believed in his own ability and that he could and would run a mile in under 4 minutes. He was ridiculed for his beliefs but he persisted and eventually that’s exactly what he did.  It was believed to be medically impossible for a man to achieve such a feat, yet once Roger had shown that it could be done a multitude of others broke through the barrier.

What happened?

Roger was no different from us mere mortals except that he had incredible self-belief. He relentlessly visualised himself achieving his goal in order to create a sense of certainty in his body and mind.

Tal Ben-Shahar speaks about self-belief and about our brain’s dislike for inconsistency between the reality of our lives and what we see and create in our mind and in our beliefs. There has been a lot of research in the past to support positive visualisation, but Tal points not only to visualising what we want but actually seeing the process and creating and connecting to the journey.

So what does that mean?

When my client spoke to me about her interview I asked her what outcome she wanted and she told me it was to secure the role (obviously).  I then asked her how she planned to do that and she gave me a list of steps she would take to prepare.  Her list was as follows:

  1. Print out and read the selection criteria and get a solid grasp of the key requirements for the role and how I meet them

  2. Prepare possible interview questions and answers

  3. Research the company

  4. Prepare questions to ask

    So this is pretty standard interview preparation so far…

Ok I said, that's great, but now what I would like you to do is take things a few steps further and visualise your process, not just the outcome.

Here is what I suggested:

  • Print out and read the selection criteria and get a solid grasp of the key requirements for the role and how you meet them

  • Prepare possible interview questions and answers

  • Research the company

  • Prepare questions to ask

  • Visualise yourself actually doing all those things.

  • Visualise yourself printing out those documents and reading them

  • Visualise yourself preparing the questions and answers

  • Visualise yourself learning the selection criteria and meeting the requirements

  • See yourself researching and learning about the company and preparing the interview questions you would like to answer

  • Picture yourself getting ready for the interview

  • Think about what you will wear, the perfume you will put on, which shoes

  • See yourself driving to the interview

  • Visualise meeting the interviewer(s)

  • See yourself as confident and comfortable throughout the interview process

  • And then see the outcome. See yourself receiving the phone call to congratulate you for being the successful applicant. 

WOW!  The truth is that our brain will help us to find congruency between what we see, what we believe and what the reality of our life is currently when we fully connect ourselves, not just to the outcome but to the process and path to get there.









The second thing I suggested, related to research on body language conducted by Amy Cuddy.  I recommended that she perform what has commonly become known as the Wonder Woman pose. I love the Wonder Woman pose!  Just two minutes will prepare and help your brain to perform better in stressful situations such as interviews. The research found that the power pose releases small amounts of testosterone and cortisol which is found to reduce stress and potentially increase performance.  In one study one group of people were told to go over their resume before an interview and another group were told to practice a power pose. Of the two groups, only people who had performed the power pose had been offered a job. They were all equally qualified and capable but the findings showed that positive body language is powerful as it not only improves how others see us, but more importantly how we see ourselves.

The third suggestion and one of my all time favourites, was to dance. Yes, dance! I am a firm believer in the power of positive experience and the upward spiral of positive emotions that is created when you move your body to improve your mood and energy. When we increase our experience of positive emotions we are more open to the opportunities that present to us.  I suggested that she put on some uplifting tunes and sing and dance with abandon, to push any stress and any pent up emotions through her body

So my strategies to improve her performance were:

  1. Visualise yourself in the journey not just the outcome
  2. Wonder Woman power pose
  3. Dance, sing and move your body to create an experience of positive emotion.


So what am I saying in all this?  Is she guaranteed to get that job? Is it all plain sailing from here?  Well, not exactly.

What I am saying though, is that by attaching to and visualising herself working towards her desired outcome, by actively engaging with her beliefs and visualising herself in the process of attaining them, by positively engaging with her journey, by actively managing her stress and improving her image and belief in herself, the chances of a successful outcome will be greater. If not today, then most certainly in the future.

My client contacted me after her interview to tell me that this had been one of the most incredible and enjoyable interview processes that she had ever been through.  She said she felt confident, empowered, positive, present and engaged and no matter what the outcome she had a clear and focussed strategy for achieving her vision. She told me it was the process and not the outcome that was important.

A wonderful and rewarding moment for any coach to have been a part of!

To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides. David Viscott