For many years it was widely believed to be impossible for a human being to run a mile in under four minutes. The record for the mile had sat at 4 minutes 1.4 seconds for 10 years, and many experts and elite mile runners proclaimed that human performance had reached saturation point, and it was impossible for human beings to break the four minute barrier.
And yet, on a windy spring day in May 1954, Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.
Then, 56 days later John Landy ran the four minute mile in 3 minutes and 57.9 seconds. Within twelve months five other runners had run sub four minute miles. Within three years sixteen other runners had also cracked the four minute mile barrier. Today over 1500 people have run a sub four minute mile, with the world record the record sitting at 3 minutes 43.13 seconds.
So what happened in 1954? Was there a sudden leap in human evolution? Performance enhancing drugs? Or was it the change in thinking that made the difference?
The only barrier to the sub four minute mile was the belief in people’s minds that it was impossible to run a sub four minute mile. Our beliefs have power over us because we treat them as though they are true. Our beliefs either limit or expand our world as they influence what we attempt to do, what we don’t attempt to do, how we react to situations, and what’s possible [or impossible] for us.
Bannister had shown that breaking the four minute mile was possible. If he had accepted that the four minute mile was a physical limitation, he would never had tried to break it. In the same way, many of the barriers that hold us back from possibility exist only in our minds.
What’s the four minute mile barrier in your life?