Before the 1950s, athletes and medical experts shared the consensus that running a mile in less than four minutes was a biological impossibility. Many physiologists even maintained the belief that to do so would pose a severe risk to the athlete’s health, and cautioned against any attempt to complete the feat.
However, in 1954, that all changed. On May 6th, 25 year-old Roger Bannister took to the track in Oxford, England and ran a mile in 3:59:4. Just over a month later, Australian runner John Landy broke the record set by Bannister as he completed the distance in 3:58. In the years to come, countless other athletes followed in the footsteps of Bannister as they too completed the feat that was once thought impossible. To this day, the four-minute mile has become a standard in middle-distance running, with many high school students joining the ranks of Bannister and Landy.
Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done” and this was very much the case for Roger Bannister, and indeed the athletes that came next. The narrative that the four-minute mile was impossible imposed limitations on the minds of runners but when Bannister thoroughly disproved this story, other athletes began to rethink their own capabilities. They were able to remove this psychological block, which, ultimately, was the only thing that stood between themselves and the four-minute mile. Once Bannister smashed the record, the narrative changed forever, and subsequently, an enormous amount of human potential was unlocked.
As humans, we all too readily believe the stories we tell ourselves. Internalising negative beliefs about our abilities or our potential can imprison a person within their own negative mindset. This will invariably stop their business from taking off. Having said that, if we make a conscious effort to block out narratives of negativity and focus instead on unlocking our unlimited potential, we can change our mindset. Rebel entrepreneurs will always question the rules and beliefs to see if there is a better way to achieve our goals – just as Bannister did. When we shift the narrative, we free ourselves from self-imposed limitations.