Self-belief alone is not going to win you a Wimbledon title. You can’t fake it until you make it in professional tennis. Instead, you can fake it until you get your butt kicked repeatedly and be reduced to a whimpering heap.
But if you are like Simona Halep, and have the right amount of talent and ability to achieve something, then self-belief may be what you need to get what you want. In Halep’s case, it was beating Serena Williams soundly, 6-2, 6-2, to win the 2019 Wimbledon title.
Halep’s situation going into Saturday’s final may be analogous to many situations that you may face in life, whether it is trying to lose weight, improve your fitness, get a job promotion, sing in a musical, find a partner whom you deserve, successfully finish a project, win a tennis match against George from accounting, or floss every day, the dental cleaning procedure and not the dance. You or others may not really believe that you can achieve that goal. And if you don’t believe, you will not achieve.
Indeed, many thought that Halep would never be able to do what she did yesterday, dominate Williams at Wimbeldon. She was a significant underdog to Williams because Serena Williams is Serena Williams. If you haven’t heard, Williams is really good at tennis. Williams had won Wimbledon seven times and Grand Slam titles 23 times and had beaten Halep nine out of the ten times that they had faced each other prior to yesterday. Moreover, the final was on grass, which historically has not been Halep’s most comfortable surface. But as this post-match interview showed, things have changed for Halep:
As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” If Halep hadn’t believed that she could have won, she might as well have called in saying that she was going to take a “personal day” during the Wimbledon final.
Self-belief is important for all sorts of performance not just athletic performance. It is also key to mental toughness and mental health. Here are some things that having self-belief can do to help you achieve your goals:
- It can promote an appropriate amount of risk taking. Taking risks can be like farting. You can never completely avoid doing it and have to know when to do it. You also have to be confident that you can bounce back should it come out wrong in the end.
- It can help you bounce back from failure. Every success comes after some degree of failure. If you expect to win every point of every tennis match, you are an idiot. Success depends on your ability to remain persistent and reasonably composed in the face of failure.
- It can make you work harder. Self-belief is not the same as arrogance, cockiness, or a feeling of inevitability. Believing that something can occur doesn’t mean that you think that it will occur automatically. Instead, self-belief means that you have enough belief that you can get something that you are willing to try. Every day, you don’t bothering trying things just because you don’t think that they are possible. For example, you don’t message Justin Bieber about having lunch because you don’t believe that this will happen.
- It can remove distractions. Self-doubt can be like listening to the song “Call Me Maybe,” there’s a lot of noise and in the end, you still don’t know what to do. Instead, when you believe that something is possible, you may be more likely to stay focused.
- It can send a message to others. Both your allies and your opponents can sense whether you actually believe in yourself.
Here’s is Halep’s interview right after the victory:
How then do you get belief that you can do something? Here are some of the things that Halep did:
- Achieve smaller victories. In the interview, Halep mentioned several steps that led to her belief that she could win Wimbledon. She already had one a major, the 2018 French Open. She had beaten Williams once before 6-0, 6-2 in Singapore in 2014. It was only once and it was at a less prominent tournament. But one is better than none. Finally, she indicated that she really started to trust her play on grass after defeating Victoria Azarenka in the third round of this year’s Wimbledon. Similarly, instead of trying to achieve something all at once, try achieving parts or smaller versions of it first. For example, if you want to lose weight, work on incremental changes first, like changing some habits.
- Work hard and practice, practice, practice. Halep said that she spent a half-hour practicing nothing but service returns to get ready for Williams’ wicked serves.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you. As you can see in the above post-match interview, Halep credits her supporters. While you don’t want to surround yourself with yes-people because a proper amount of criticism can help you get better, you don’t want to be around people who don’t believe that you can succeed.
- Have the proper amount of focus. Lack of focus can be bad for selfies and goal achievement. Note that focus doesn’t mean that you can’t do multiple things. Rather, it means that you should focus on accomplishing one thing at a time.
- Have real substance. Halep is an outstanding tennis player. She is a premier athlete with great speed and footwork, armed with terrific shot-making. Certainly she has natural talent, but a lot of this is due to hard work as well.
- Keep the proper perspective and simplify things. According to the Yorkshire Post, before the final, Halep said, “It’s just a tennis match, a big challenge, a great match. So I will try just to give my best.”
- Don’t spend too much time thinking about your opponent. A lot of the talk before the final was about Williams, how she could equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam championships and become the oldest player to win a major championship, surpassing, you guessed it, Williams, who had won the Australian Open in 2017 at 35 years of age. At 37 years, 291 days old, Williams was already the oldest woman to make the finals of a major.
- Stay healthy. Halep had been plagued with some back issues. But she has been healthy recently.
Halep’s win at Wimbledon was a breakthrough, giving her a second major title. As they say, once can be an accident, but twice is either an accident a second time or the start of a trend. Success can breed further success, so you gotta believe that Halep can win any title going forward. Do you believe what self-belief can do for you?