Belief can take you far in life. I refrain from saying it can take you 'everywhere', but without it, you will never achieve all that you possibly could. One of the first aspects of an athlete's mental skills I work on - is confidence. Without a basic belief in your own potential, you will find it extremely difficult to pick yourself up for a hard training session, let alone for the challenge of a lifetime.
I encourage all athletes to set 5-10 year goals that will really push the boundaries of their human endeavour. The goals must be ludicrous enough for acquaintances to think you are barking mad, but plausible enough that those who are close to you - know that you are deadly serious about achieving this great feat. Very rarely will I have to reign in an athlete's desire with a dose of reality. On almost every instance, I need to coax more ambition out of them and set their sights on a dream far higher.
Once a long term ambition is in place, I encourage the athlete to engrain this target within their soul - bury it deep - and ignite it at the start of every single training day. It is this burning desire that will get them through wet and windy VO2max workouts. It is this seemingly impossible dream that will see them complete over-under sessions on the turbo trainer. It is this unstoppable belief that will enable them to continue putting one foot infront of the other, mile after mile, day after day, year after year.
From the long term goal, I work backwards to the present day, mapping out the route that can make this dream a reality. The length of time this journey could take is changeable and dependent upon the progress made each year, but the basic framework is put in place and the stepping stones to success are laid down in front of them. Each stepping stone becomes a short term goal, with each preceding goal more easily attainable than the one that follows it. The stepping stone that is closest to the present day, becomes the primary focus for the season ahead.
When an athlete sees the structured framework in front off them, it soon becomes clear how attainable their previously impossible dream now seems. What initially appeared to be an ocean away, now only seems like a river crossing. With a new found confidence and burning desire - the athlete fully commits to the season ahead.
It is not uncommon for long term goals to be reassessed, amended slightly or sometimes altered completely. This flexibility to goal setting is essential for general wellbeing as well as athletic endeavours. Provided there is always a deep rooted passion still burning away, there is no reason why we should ever give up, ever lose hope - or lack confidence in our own abilities.