There is a lot of talk about how important mindset and/or confidence is to your poker results, and here was a decent amount of debate on the topic on twitter recently after I posted what I thought to be a rather innocent tweet:
"I win at poker because I believe I can. That may sound absurdly simple and silly, but at the core, that's really the reason I'm able to win."
I found it fascinating how many people misunderstood the meaning of what I wrote. Some really smart poker players saw the words I wrote, but their minds read something I didn't say at all. By no means do I think someone can just decide to believe that they will win at poker, and will win regardless of whatever work they put in. The key part of this tweet was the part where I said "at the core." Can a core exist without surrounding matter? A core implies that its at the center of something.
The discussion ended up going off on all sorts of tangents, but all the tweet really says is that at the core, the reason I win is because I believe I can. If I didn't believe I could be a professional poker player, well, then I wouldn't have ever taken on the journey!
Before any life goal is achieved, it first starts with a thought. Before Brad Pitt became a movie star, it started with a thought about becoming a movie star. Once the thought entered his head, the next step was a belief. Can I become a movie star or not? How Brad Pitt, or any of us answers this question honestly, will play a big role in how successful we become at whatever goal we are working towards achieving.
Once this vision of being a movie star became his focus, and then he also had the belief that he could achieve that goal, the next step was the journey, or the hard work if you prefer. I assert that if Brad Pitt didn't believe he could be a movie star, that he wouldn't have put in the work necessary to make that a reality.
So essentially what I'm saying is that any dreams that you have start with a thought, a belief, and then action. Let's say for example I had a thought that I could jump 10 feet in the air. The next step would be my belief. Can I do this? I'd answer that by saying no, I don't believe I can. So how much effort do you think I'd now put in to achieve this goal if I didn't believe I could do it? None. I wouldn't bother!
The assumption a lot of people were making is that I was suggesting that anything you believe you can achieve, you will achieve. I'm not suggesting that in the least. What I would suggest, is that belief plays a significant role in the likelihood of you achieving any goal that you set.
At several points in my career there was self doubt. My first few trips to Las Vegas had me questioning whether or not I'd be able to make a career out of this game. Deep down, though, beyond the self doubt was a belief that I was capable of succeeding, and it's what helped me push past that self doubt and drove me to work harder, dig deeper, and focus more intently on the end goal. I truly believed that if I worked hard I could become a great poker player.
I see lots of my peers say things like, "I suck at poker. I never win." They are often mostly kidding, but the words we choose to speak hold power and often confirm a self limiting belief we may be unaware of. None of this is rocket science. Our thoughts become our reality, for better or worse. I'm not talking about positive versus negative thinking, I'm simply asserting that our perception shapes our reality. What you THINK affects what you SEE and ultimately how you CHOOSE to react.
"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right."
-- Henry Ford
Daniel Negreanu is a member of Team PokerStars Pro