Greater than any opponent or real physical challenge most athletes’ biggest adversary is his or her own limiting beliefs of what they’re capable of or what they’re able to accomplish. This psychological barrier inhibits their performance and, in many instances, prevents them from ever reaching their full potential. The four-minute mile is a perfect example of how this imaginary hurdle exists and how it can be overcome.
Before Roger Bannister made history, runners were consistently achieving distance times just over four minutes in length. As close as they would seemingly come, no one could break that magic number. This led to the common belief that running the mile in anything less than four minutes was physically impossible. That is, until…on May 6th, 1954 Roger Bannister became the first runner to log a mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. The mythical barrier was shattered. Not only did Bannister dispel a huge fixed belief in beating a four minute mile, within eighteen months of that record-breaking achievement, sixteen more athletes managed to do the same thing. Nothing changed. Tracks didn’t get shorter. Training methods didn’t improve. What happened is that all of the other runners could finally see that it was achievable. They were no longer limited by a psychological barrier. These barriers exist in all sports, in any type of competition, in all athletes in one form or another, but what separates one fighter from the next is what separated Roger Bannister from his contemporaries. He had conviction. In other words, he had belief that he followed up with action.
Conviction is your internal navigational system. It is at the core of WHAT YOU KNOW. It is your conviction that determines where you go, how far you go and how long it will take you to get there. It guides your thoughts, your actions and your endurance, both physical and mental. Your conviction drives you in the gym. It determines whether you make professional choices and lead a disciplined life outside of the gym. It most definitely dictates what you are willing to endure in the ring. Conviction is what and who you know you are when all is said and done. Conviction is what led Roger Bannister to do what no one else had done before. It is also what allowed Buster Douglas, a 100-1 underdog, to orchestrate the fight of his life and beat the previously invisible Mike Tyson. Regardless of which Mike Tyson showed up that night or how unprepared he was, Buster Douglas did the unthinkable, because he knew what he was capable of. When you know what is possible, with 100 percent conviction, facts don’t count, odds don’t
matter and the so-called experts become irrelevant.
As a fighter, you may not be fighting against the clock, but you are in a race to constantly be at your personal best, stay one punch ahead of the competition and achieve a level of mental toughness to endure almost anything in the ring. So, as you prepare yourself and perform, what do you believe, at the core of your being, that you can achieve? Not what story do you tell yourself to stay in the gym, to give yourself a goal in life or bragging rights that you’re a professional fighter, but what do you really believe? Do you have conviction to be the most physically fit athlete in the gym, the best local fighter or a world champion? These are tough questions for most people to answer and fighters are no exception. Don’t wait until you’re tested or bested to be real with your inner-most beliefs. When the day is through and your own personal demons are quiet, what do you know about yourself and what are you willing to do to accomplish what you want?
In reality, it is normal to experience feelings of doubt, moments of discouragement or lack of self-confidence….almost all athletes or fighters do at some point. So don’t confuse belief and commitment with feelings or thoughts. Feelings and thoughts are fleeting emotions that you can control. Belief and commitment are controlled by something greater and more powerful than where you let your mind wander to from time to time. For instance, even in Banister’s case, reportedly after finishing in fourth place at the 1952 Olympics, his belief wavered. He spent the next two months debating on whether to give up running entirely. Instead, he set a new goal to be the first man to run a mile under four minutes. He set his mind to it, fortified his training and enhanced his preparations with intense intervals. He overcame doubt, applied his efforts and set forth on his goal with a newfound conviction and he succeeded. What are you capable of overcoming? What barriers can you break?
Knowing what you’re capable of as a fighter and doing what you’re capable of can be elusive, but it all comes back to belief and preparation. You cannot have one without the other, but together they lead to undying conviction. This is the one common denominator in all great fighters. You can’t see conviction. You don’t even know when a fighter has it. You don’t know when it’s going to spell the difference and turn an even-money fight into a landslide victory. What makes it real and an ever-present part of the sport is you. Conviction helps create a magical combination of unpredictability with personal drama and that is what makes boxing a sport like no other.