Sunday, July 02, 2006


They are young, gifted at sport and trained to the peak of physical fitness, but do they believe they can win?

Watching this year’s Wimbledon competitors slug it out, John McEnroe, a former champion and the BBC’s best informed tennis commentator, has been talking daily about the vital role belief plays in victory.

You could see the power of it in under dog Andy Murray’s steady dismantling of top dog Andy Roddick yesterday.

But I doubt if anyone in the England football team or even the most loyal and devoted supporter actually believed England would win the World Cup.

Instead they hoped. Mightily.

But, though easily confused, faith and hope are entirely different facets of the human personality, as different from each other as nerves are from muscles, bones from skin.

Faith springs from utter conviction and certainty in the heart that what is wanted and needed is or will be. It is very hard to overcome the hurdles of doubt and achieve it and the loss of faith can be devastating.

Hope is the daily bread which gives us the strength to carry on and see the brighter side, especially when life seems bleakest. It is the source of optimism which can pull us out of despair — a comfort for the mind which springs up as naturally as breathing, fresh and new, even when it has been dashed.

A big problem with hope is the idea that if someone adopts a mantra for what they want and repeats it again and again they can, like an ancient alchemist attempting to turn base metal into gold, convert it into faith. And get what they want.

This notion has spawned decades of books on the benefits of positive thinking and it has only recently been recognised that such thinking can often create blindness to real problems.

Apart from the fact that most candidates in this year’s BBC2 series The Apprentice bristled with ego and ambition whilst being short on talent, intelligence and even commonsense, the most striking thing was the parrot fashion in which they repeated that they were the best.

Even as they spoke, it was clear their words lacked conviction and they were trying to convince themselves as much as Sir Alan Sugar, who was holding out a £100,000 a year job for the winner.

This was desperate hope, imitation faith as taught in positive thinking books and seminars.
The post mortem blame game for England’s World Cup failure is only just beginning and will go on for weeks and months, if not for the next four years.
But I bet no one will even whisper that just perhaps lack of any real faith came into it.
This week John McEnroe said several times that he would be interested, on a part time basis, in joining a team to support and develop Andy Murray’s great potential.
Maybe England should get in first and hire him — fast!
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2006. All Rights Reserved