If you doubt the power of belief – even for just one moment – you are forsaking your most powerful ally: your brain. If you doubt that changing a few beliefs can dramatically alter the trajectory of your career, then your career may fall far short of its true potential.

I recently read a research study, Placebo Sleep Affects Cognitive Functioning, in which researchers made up an elaborate ruse to convince people who got a bad night’s sleep that they actually got a good night’s sleep. Here’s a bit of what the researchers told their test subjects…

(Participants were) informed of a new technique whereby the previous night’s percentage of REM sleep could be determined by measuring the lingering biological measurements of heart rate, pulse, and brainwave frequency the next day.

P.S. This is all nonsense; the researchers made it up.

Sure enough, sleep-deprived subjects who were told they slept soundly actually performed better on the PASAT test of auditory attention and speed of processing.

This, of course, is yet another instance of the placebo effect. Researchers Christina Draganich and Kristi Erdal point out that while the placebo effect is commonly thought of in the context of drugs, it can also extend to many elements of everyday life:

  • Intoxication
  • Weight loss
  • Rash reaction to fake poison ivy
  • Altered neurochemical activity in Parkinson’s disease

When it comes to the placebo effect, the details matter, in ways that are difficult to anticipate. One study, for example, found that test subjects only demonstrated an increase in mental acuity when they paid full price for an energy drink they believed would improve their mental acuity. Those who paid a discounted price saw no benefit (Shiv, Carmon, and Ariely, 2005).

In short, you don’t need more training to be qualified for a promotion. You don’t need caffeine to wake up. You don’t need a good night’s sleep to feel rested. It just takes a credible researcher in a professional setting to tell you that you have what you need.

You have to believe that good things are headed your way. There are many ways to accomplish this that don’t require a white-coated researcher, including meditation, affirmations, and positive thinking (see more ideas below).

Never underestimate the power of belief. It works both ways. If you constantly tell yourself you are not capable enough to get promoted or to get a raise, you won’t get either. If you believe you will fail, you will fail. If you fear sickness, you may well fall ill. If you feel your career is headed nowhere, it will probably head nowhere.

The first step to health, success, achievement and progress is to believe. But don’t take on this challenge by yourself. Surround yourself with credible evidence that good things are headed your way. Spend time in the company of positive, supportive people. Research techniques that you believe will work for you. Do whatever it takes to build a strong belief in your mind that success is in your future.

Bruce Kasanoff is a ghostwriter for entrepreneurs… in his “spare” time, he speaks to groups about bringing out the best in others. Learn more at Kasanoff.com. He is the author of How to Self-Promote without Being a Jerk.

Image: Singing With Light/Flickr