Over the past 25 years, I have witnessed amazing transformations in my clients. Sometimes the best education is to be inspired by the stories of others. I have repeated this true story many times to inspire others to believe in themselves. To protect the privacy of my clients, I will use the name Samantha.

Samantha had never considered herself particularly athletic. Growing up, she would hear stories of runners achieving the unbelievable feat of completing marathons, and she would silently label them as “superhumans.” To her, the idea of running 26.2 miles in one stretch was not only daunting but borderline absurd. “That’s not for people like me,” she would often think to herself.

The root of Samantha’s belief wasn’t merely an estimation of her physical capability but rather a deeply ingrained self-perception. From her early days in school PE classes, where she would always finish last in sprints, to her adult years, where she felt winded climbing a flight of stairs, Samantha had built an identity around the belief that she was not made for endurance sports.

This is a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When someone truly believes they cannot achieve something, they unwittingly make choices that ensure that outcome. In Samantha’s case, she never attempted to jog, let alone train for a marathon, because she was convinced it was beyond her. Thus, she never got the training or experience that might have proved her belief wrong.

As the years went by, Samantha’s belief seemed to solidify. Every time she heard about a friend or acquaintance training for a marathon, she would dismiss the possibility for herself. However, a turning point arrived when her close friend, Alex, signed up for a marathon. Alex wasn’t the “typical” marathoner. He had struggled with his weight and had similar endurance issues, but unlike Samantha, he refused to be defined by them. His determination was palpable.

Inspired by Alex’s audacity, Samantha decided to challenge her deep-seated beliefs. Here’s how she did it:

1. Educate and Debunk

Samantha started reading about beginners who took on marathon challenges. She realized that many runners were not born athletes; they were made through dedication.

2. Baby Steps

Instead of overwhelming herself, Samantha began with brisk walks, then short jogs, increasing her distance bit by bit.

3. Find a Community

Samantha joined a local running club. Surrounding herself with both novice and experienced runners provided motivation and practical tips.

4. Visualize Success

Samantha began to practice visualization, imagining herself crossing the marathon finish line. This mental shift began changing her self-perception.

5. Celebrate Small Wins

Every milestone, whether it was running her first mile without stopping or completing a 5K, was celebrated.

6. Acceptance of Setbacks

Not every day was a win. Samantha had days where she felt like giving up. Instead of seeing setbacks as confirmation of her initial beliefs, she reframed them as part of the growth process.

A year later, with sweat, perseverance, and countless miles behind her, Samantha achieved the “impossible” by completing her first marathon. It wasn’t about the race itself, but about shattering the self-imposed limits she had believed in for years.

Samantha’s journey serves as a testament to the power of belief. Our beliefs shape our actions, which in turn dictate our outcomes. By confronting and challenging these beliefs, we unlock the potential we never knew existed.