Lots of people know the story of Roger Bannister, who, in 1954 became the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes. Bannister has been quoted as saying “However ordinary each of us may seem, we are all in some way special, and can do things that are extraordinary, perhaps until then…even thought impossible.”
Roll forward to 2019 and Eliud Kipchoge has very recently run a marathon in under 2 hours. On being interviewed about his win, Kipchoge said, “This shows no-one is limited. Now I've done it, I am expecting more people to do it after me."
What’s common to both men is that they had tremendous self-belief. It doesn’t mean that they never had moments of doubt and uncertainty, but they were able to overcome these or put them aside to achieve their goals.
What people may be less aware of is what happened prior to these record-breaking moments.
Before his 1954 run, Roger Bannister finished in fourth place in the 1500 metres final at the 1952 Olympics. While for you or me that might seem like a wonderful achievement and Bannister broke the British record in the process, he regarded it as a relative failure. Instead of wallowing in defeat however, it spurred him on to do better.
Although he was selected for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Eliud Kipchoge failed to be selected for the 2012 Olympics in his chosen event, the 10,000 metres. But he didn’t allow this to define him. Instead, he took up marathon running, and the rest is now in the history books.
These are men who didn’t accept the limitations that others might have placed on them, nor did they place limitations on themselves. And the thing is, once Roger Bannister broke the mile record, others went on to do the same, because seeing him achieve success changed their mindset. His record lasted for only 46 days.
And now Eliud Kipchoge expects the same to happen with his marathon record.
And it will.
You might think that it takes extraordinary men and women to achieve extraordinary feats. But that’s not the case. Roger Bannister wasn’t necessarily the fastest mile runner at the time, but he had the right mental model to accomplish what he planned to do. He didn’t set himself any mental limits. He believed he could do it. As did Eliud Kipchoge.
And it’s not a case of humans suddenly evolving physically and becoming fitter. Yes, with each passing generation we become more knowledgeable about fitness, training and nutrition, but the truth is, the single biggest factor in records being broken is mindset.
That also means the single biggest factor in failure to achieve our own goals is down to our mindset and the limits and barriers that exist in our mind. These can be about the type of person we think we are, what we think we’re capable of and what we think other people think about us. The important word here is “think”. All of these limits are based on thoughts and not necessarily on reality.
A Different Type Of Record
So, where do these limiting thoughts come from?
Many develop in childhood, from things we’re told by our parents, our relations, teachers and friends. “You’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re so clumsy.” “You’re lazy.” “You’re not good enough to..” These are examples of things that might be said to us that then become seeds in our unconscious, spreading roots and taking firm hold. Often, we don’t know we have these thoughts until we hear ourselves repeating them, in our head or out loud, using them to describe our personality.
A great number of these thoughts can then be reinforced by the media, by history and by cultural and societal expectations and norms. Fiction becomes truth. Myth becomes legend. Stories become pillars of stone. Traditions and unfounded beliefs become the shackles that bind us.
They bind us because limiting beliefs lead us into thought and behaviour patterns that repeat like a broken record, stuck in the same loop, unable to move forward beyond the barriers we’ve hit.
You know, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Firstly, it’s important to note that no-one should feel guilt or shame about holding limiting beliefs. We all pick some up on our life’s journey and we’ve all made decisions based on them. The key is to become more conscious of the thoughts that we have and start to recognise limiting beliefs for what they are. Then we have a choice about what to do about them.
Because you see, we can let limiting beliefs hold us back and keep us small, or we can push ourselves beyond them.
The first path can bring anxiety, fear, a lack of confidence, low self-esteem and self-worth and a feeling of a life half-lived with unrealised potential. The second leads us to try new things, challenge ourselves, to achieve our potential and to life a full life.
Which one sounds better?
Ordinary People Achieving Extraordinary Things
If you’re reading this and thinking that the second path is only for sports people, big businessmen and women, celebrities or rich people, that’s a limiting belief! The second path is for everyone who wants to take that step.
We know plenty of stories of sporting triumph from the media. Andy Murray’s return to fitness after it looked like his career was over. Steve Redgrave winning gold medals at 5 consecutive Olympic games despite being diabetic. Kelly Holmes winning gold medals after previous defeats.
Yet every day there are ordinary women, men and children conquering limiting beliefs to overcome big challenges.
It might be someone learning to walk and talk again after a stroke. Or the person who turned their life around after coming from an abusive home and living homeless for a period. Or the person who learned to swim after overcoming a fear of water.
People like this have become tired of hitting barriers, of living a life full of fear and anxiety and repeating the same patterns. They take the narrative that’s been carved out for them by their limiting beliefs and push beyond it to a limitless world view.
Some people determinedly forge their way and do this on their own. For others engaging the help of an NLP coach or therapist can accelerate the process and ease the journey. Sports people have coaches. Leaders have coaches. This is because they realise that the journey can be tougher and longer to make on their own.
A coach will help you to erase the thinking and behaviour patterns that are limiting you, to remove the barriers that are in your way and transform your thinking, behaviour and your results for good.
Remember the quote from Roger Bannister. “We are all in some way special and can do extraordinary things.”
I wonder, what extraordinary things you could really realise that you can do?