It's all about mind over matter
When you decide to do something new, challenging or even a bit scary, half the battle is BELIEVING you can do it. I mean really believing, with your whole person. For instance, I told my girlfriend Allison that I would never be a good rock climbing partner for her. I know this because I will never believe I can do it. (She actually sleeps on the side of the rock -- overnight -- in a little bed dangling from a rock wall) But with most other challenges in my life, if I believe I can do it, then -- even with a few butterflies -- I do it.
My coach from age 10-17 used this knowledge and peppered some psychology into it. He used to give me a very difficult set and then follow it up with, "You probably can't do it, but give it a try." That would make me so mad that I would have coughed up a lung before failing. I gave it everything I had and felt damn good when I was done, handing a kind of "in your face" to my coach. His tactics worked.
My coach at Stanford, Richard Quick, had an amazing way of making you believe you could achieve the impossible. In fact, we aimed for times so low that I never actually met one. Together we set my final goal times about 4 seconds faster than the world record, believing, without a doubt, that I could actually swim that fast. I guess I figured that if he truly thought I could do it, then I could. He would look at you with such conviction, not a question in his mind that you could achieve anything you set your mind to.
Which leads me to my original coach and hero, my mom. Every night before I closed my eyes and just as I was easing my head into my pillow, she would gently whisper, "You can do anything you want to as long as you put your mind to it." What that meant to me was discipline, dedication, fun and belief! With that sweet sentence, she put me in the drivers seat -- gave me the power. I found that really exciting. If you are gearing up for a big race, big meeting, big moment in life, just remember, the mind is a very powerful thing. Believe in yourself!