For years people believed it was impossible. It was impossible that a man could run a mile in under four minutes. Doctors and Scientists said that the human body could not possibly achieve such a feat; some suggested that the body would break apart before such a speed could be reached. Everyone agreed: the four minute mile was not possible.
Well, not quite everyone. After breaking the 1500m record (the mile is 1600m) Roger Bannister started to believe. He started to believe that the four minute mile could be broken. And that belief made all the difference. It led to increased training and an all out effort to break the barrier.
Then on May 6, 1954 this happened:
Roger Bannister had done it. He had broken the four minute mile; a barrier thought impossible. Now he had proven that it could be done. Other people now had the evidence that the four minute mile could be broken. Other people had the belief.
In the days and years that followed, that belief turned into results:
- Just 46 days later Jim Landry of Australia broke the record again.
- Less than two months after that both Landry and Bannister both broke four minutes in the same race
- Since then thousands of people have run the mile in under four minutes
- In the next 30 years the record was broken 16 more times
- The record now stands at 3 minutes and 43 seconds
- Even high school students have broken the four minute mile
- In 1997 Daniel Komen of Kenya double the feet running TWO miles in LESS THAN EIGHT minutes.
Each of these feats took Roger Bannister breaking the record to show the way. To show them that it was possible. To break the barrier that others had put up. Once the barrier was broken by Bannister, everyone else followed suit.
What is your “Four Minute Mile”?
What is the thing in your life that everyone thinks is impossible? What is the thing that you keep hearing can’t be done? Maybe you even believe it. Perhaps it is a goal you have given up on, or a sales target you think can’t be achieved. It might be the next step to success in your field.
Your four minute mile might even be something that others have accomplished. It just might seem impossible to you. You need to treat this goal as a four minute mile, and know you can do it, that you can break your four minute mile.
“Every time I ran the mile I was aware of my own weakness, there was some opponent who could give me a hell of a fight, so I never went into a race with a sense of invincibility. I always had that feeling of fragility and nerves which made me run faster.” – Roger Bannister.
Lessons From Bannister’s Four Minute Mile
1. You need support
Bannister didn’t do it by himself. As you see when you watch the video, he had teammates to help pace him. They went out and set the early pace for Roger to follow. Behind the scenes he had coaches, training partners, and a support system. To break your four minute mile you need support. Bring the right people around you that can help push and encourage you towards success.
2. Facing criticism
Bannister faced significant criticism as he worked towards his goal. First, he faced criticism that came from having a goal that everyone though was impossible. He was wasting his time. Pursing an impossible goal is a waste! He also faced criticism about his unorthodox training methods. People had an understanding about how to best train for these kinds of races, and Bannister wasn’t following those methods. Roger faced this criticism and went right past it. He didn’t let the criticism affect his belief and the way that he saw his goal.
3. Push through the pain
Reaching any worthwhile goal requires pain and discomfort. In athletics that is often a physical pain, but your pain might be emotional or mental stress. Pushing through the pain and getting out of your comfort zone is vital to success. Bannister said:
“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.”
4. Barriers are often mental not physical
Scientists believe that the barrier to reaching the four minute mile was a physical barrier. It was not. It was a mental barrier. No one broke the four minute mile, in part because no one thought it was possible. Certainly it wasn’t easy, but it was possible. The same is often true for our goals. What we think we can’t achieve is really only a mental barrier, not a physical barrier. If you believe in your abilities you can achieve far more than you imagine.
What is your four minute mile? It is likely something that you think you can’t do. A goal you think you can’t reach. It is mental. To break through and beat your four minute mile you need to start by believing. Believe that it is possible. Once you have that belief you will still need to work hard. You will need to train, face criticism and push through the pain. But by surrounding yourself with a support team and persevering, you can break your four minute mile.
I’ll leave you with this inspirational video that helps apply Bannister’s four minute mile to life:
Danny Gamache – The Success Professor
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