Roger’s Lesson: The Four-Minute Mile and Breaking Your Own Mental Barriers

In the spring of 1954, a young medical student at Oxford University entered a shoe shop in Wimbledon, near London. He asked the cobbler to make him a very special pair of running shoes. He wanted them light and strong enough to last just twelve laps. The cobbler provided such a shoe, and the young man improved them further by fitting them with special graphite spikes. This allowed him to achieve better traction because they slipped more easily in and out of the cinder track on which he ran.

As with any successful endeavor, this young man knew preparation and planning were key elements in reaching his goal. They were, however, only partial ingredients in what was later to be known as the “Miracle Mile.” The hardest part of reaching his goal, as indeed it is with many other goals, was conquering the six-inch space between his ears.

When Roger Banister finally broke the four-minute mile on May 6th, 1954, people had been trying to run a mile in under four minutes for almost 2000 years. Since the time of the ancient games at the foot of Mount Olympus, runners had tried to reach that seemingly impossible goal. Athletes ran in the Olympics, in international championships, and around the world; yet no one, even at the highest level with gold medals and world records on the line, had ever run a mile in less than four minutes. Many of the coaches of the day actually believed a successful attempt could well result in the death of the runner. They simply believed the physical limits of human endurance had been reached. If God had wanted man to be faster, he would have given him four legs instead of two.

Despite this fact, within just a few weeks of Banister’s record-breaking run, several others ran a mile in less than four minutes. How is that possible? Did the human race suddenly get faster in the summer of 1954?

No, of course not. The answer is much easier to explain, and it is an answer that will be the first key to living your life to your full potential. The answer, pure and simple, was a mental limitation on the part of the runners. Because no one had ever done it, the world’s greatest athletes either consciously or subconsciously did not believe it could be done. In their minds, they reasoned that man had simply met the limits of speed and endurance a few seconds short of the four-minute mile. Once this fact had been proven to be wrong, runners across the globe decided if Roger Banister could run a mile in four minutes, well, so could they.

If Roger Banister had looked at the record books or spoken to all those others who had tried before him and believed the fastest speed had been achieved, he would have simply given up his quest instead of reaching his goal. He did not let other people’s views or the cold hard facts in the record books influence his resolve to succeed. He shed all limitations and went after his goal with a single-minded purpose that made him famous. In fact, his picture even graced the cover of the very first issue of Sports Illustrated.

I am sure you have experienced the very same phenomenon in one small way or another. Picture for a moment some of your own mental barriers — the defeated ones. Think back right now. What are some of the things you have done that at one time just didn’t seem possible?

Have you lost weight or stopped smoking?

Earned a degree or started your own business?

Moved to another part of the country or another country?

Think of the mental barriers you have conquered, no matter how small, and put that power to work in your life to help you remove the bigger mental barriers you feel are standing in your way. Break out of all your mind’s limitations. If you feel you are lacking in some of the skills you may need to achieve your goals, you can pick them up as you go along. You can do it!

Author & Marketing Legend with over 40 books: Life Well Lived, Fame, 48 Laws of Business Success, Legendary Advice, Marketing Bibles

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