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Achieving goals: the four-minute mile

3 August 2016

In the 1950’s, it was widely believed that no-one could run a mile in less than four minutes; despite this Roger Bannister and his competitor John Landy were both attempting to do so.

In the 1950’s, it was widely believed that no-one could run a mile in less than four minutes; despite this Roger Bannister and his competitor John Landy were both attempting to do so.

Landy’s running times always came in just over 4.00, and he developed the belief that it was truly impossible, calling the four-minute mark ‘a brick wall’.

Roger Bannister made several attempts, organising runs with pacemakers to try and beat this milestone, a record set by a Swedish runner at 4.01, which had stood unbroken for nine years, however Bannister kept failing. This was until 1954, in Oxford, when he achieved the 'impossible': becoming the first man to run the four-minute mile with a time of 3.59.4.

However, less than two months after Bannister achieved this, Landy became the second man to do so, despite his previous belief that it was impossible. He set a new record; shaving nearly a second and a half off Bannister’s time. Looking back, it became clear to Landy that it was his own belief that stopped him from achieving – this is known as a ‘self-limiting belief’.

On the other hand, when Bannister later discussed his winning run, he explains how his coach believed Bannister could run it in an ambitious 3.56. The record-breaker claims that this idea stuck in his head, evidently giving him confidence that it could be done.  

While most of us won’t go on to run a four-minute mile – this story goes to show that if you don’t believe that you can do something, then you won't achieve it. We all have goals which we think may be just out of reach, but if we believe they are impossible, that becomes a bigger barrier than the goal itself.

If you are struggling with achieving your goals at work then check out our top tips:

1.Reframe your goal

Bannister succeeded because he no longer focused on the four-minute mark which had gained a reputation of being impossible. Instead he chose to see it as reducing a 240 second run to a 239 second run – a much smaller and less imposing margin.

2.Make use of coaching

It was the support of Bannister’s coach which helped him to achieve his goal. Whether you seek a coach or choose to use coaching techniques yourself, this is an important aspect of questioning your own attitudes, beliefs and aims in order to push yourself further towards achieving your goals.

3.Use benchmarks for real time feedback on your performance

Bannister used two pacemakers to check his own performance – and you can do this in business too. Whether it is analytics or personal feedback, finding a benchmark to check your progress will help to improve your performance and strive towards your goal, rather than seeing it after you have already failed. 

 

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