The Power of Belief Unlocks The Road to Personal Mastery

By Dr. Roddy Carter

Mary sat wide-eyed, staring at me nervously. She looked tiny, swallowed up by the big leather chair. Her eyes travelled furtively across the landscape of my office, stopping briefly to take in the collection of mementos I have gathered on my bookshelves, each one a gift from a champion.

I wasn’t sure that she was there entirely on her own volition. She was about to leave high school for college, and was terrified. Her parents had asked me to help her. They knew I was a performance coach, and had prepared elite athletes for Olympic competition. Their trust was not mirrored in Mary’s eyes.

I knew her fear. I recognized it immediately. It was the same fear that grabs us all from time-to-time. It starts deep within, and drives voices in our head that terrorize us, sometimes to the point of paralysis.

Mother Nature has gifted humans with the most advanced of brains. She has built them sequentially, layering on improvements that have conferred selective advantage as we have evolved. The primitive core of our brain is responsible for our most basic functions. We sometimes refer to this as our reptilian brain, for good reason. Charged with our survival, our primitive brains are constantly on the lookout for danger. Their currency is fear, and in response to a perceived threat, they drive us to fight, run away or hide. 

When I first met Mary, the voice of her primal brain was booming warnings of imminent danger. Each time she contemplated the big changes ahead of her, she froze. The path forward appeared littered with hazards, and so she took refuge deep within.

We had work to do.

First, Mary had to understand that she was not alone. She needed to appreciate that we’re all vulnerable to the strident voice of our reptilian brains. In fact, without it we probably wouldn’t survive. We would succumb to terminal recklessness – a terrible way to go!

Next, she had to learn that Mother Nature had improved on her original design with two big steps. The second of these colossal leaps had equipped us with our cognitive brains, the giant cerebral cortex that empowers us with thought and reason, and differentiates us from all other life forms. More than this, Mary had to learn about the exquisite beauty of our neurological construct, in which our brain centers are hierarchically stacked. Our cognitive brains are hard-wired to dominate the other centers, including our primitive reptilian brains.

Mary needed to understand that our cognitive brain is the only part of our command center under our voluntary control. She needed to appreciate that in the absence of deliberate action her reptilian brain would always take control, doing its job perfectly. She would stay safe, but afraid.

Having grasped this fundamental truth, Mary needed to know that she could influence the voice of her cognitive brain. She learnt strategies to challenge the negative voice, to divert its attention. She learnt tricks to overwhelm it with positive suggestion. She learnt to lead with her powerful cognitive brain.

Finally, like all of the champions that had preceded her, Mary learnt that she must practice. She understood that she would have good days, and bad days, but that every day was a new day.

Mary comes back to visit me often. Today, she leans forward in the big brown leather chair. She radiates confidence and hope. She reminds me that transitions need not be scary. She reminds me that we always have a choice. She reminds me that each of us can unlock the power of belief, and that success is not an accident. She reminds me that personal mastery involves insight, courage and persistence, but that our natural design is on our side. She reminds me that we can each write our own stories, and choose the ending.

You will find Mary too if you look for her. She stands atop the winner’s podium in all spheres of life. Most importantly, she’s inside of you.

Roddy Carter, MD helps his clients achieve peak performance through personal mastery and natural leadership. He is the author of BodyWHealth; Journey to Abundance, which explains the science of health, happiness and prosperity, and outlines a simple road to achieve them. His clients include Olympic athletes, senior executives and WHealth Seekers of all ages. He can be reached through his website,