What’s something you believe to be absolutely 100% true? Think of one thing right now that you believe to be irrefutably true about the world, your surroundings or perhaps someone you’re familiar with.
How about you? What do you believe to be absolutely true about you?
Now let me ask you this: what is the basis of that belief? Where did it come from? How did it develop? Why do you believe it’s true? Is it a positive, empowering belief or a disempowering one?
In other words, does it help you achieve greatness and get sh*t done or does it inhibit action?
It was once believed that the world was flat, that the sun orbited the earth and that a human being was physically incapable of running a mile in less than four minutes. For countless years and millions of people, these beliefs formed the basis of their actions, inactions and daily habits.
No one dared to sail beyond the horizon for fear that they would plummet off the edge of the Earth to their death. Those who dared challenge that belief were often never seen again.
Men had been exiled, imprisoned, even sentenced to death for challenging the doctrine that the earth and its inhabitants, mankind, were at the center of the universe.
The mere idea that the four-minute mile barrier could be broken by a human being was considered preposterous and met with laughter and even ridicule.
It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that your beliefs may be the very thing that’s keeping you, metaphorically, from breaking your four-minute mile barrier, sailing beyond the comfort of your self-imposed horizon or taking the focus of you as the center of the universe. The more deeply ingrained those beliefs, the greater their unconscious influence on your actions, your habits and ultimately your results.
Breaking the Barrier
When the relatively unknown Oxford medical student Roger Bannister began his quest to be the first man in recorded history to run a sub-four-minute mile, he was empowered with something most of his competition lacked—the absolute and unyielding belief that it was possible and that he could do it.
Up until that point it was widely believed by the “informed” running community (and the world) that human beings were simply not designed to run a sub-four-minute mile. The previous world record of 4:01.4 minutes had held for almost a decade. Not a single attempt after almost 10 years had been able to break through that barrier.
As it turns out, the actual barrier had very little to do with what we humans are physically capable of.
When Roger Bannister cracked the code and set a new standard in what has been called “the single greatest individual athletic achievement of all time” by running a mile in 3:59.4 seconds, he also shattered a universal limiting belief.
“There was a mystique, a belief that it couldn’t be done, but I think it was more of a psychological barrier than a physical barrier.” ~ Roger Bannister
How else do we explain why, just a few short weeks after Bannister’s successful record, the four-minute barrier was broken again and again by several other runners? Australian John Landy had tried and failed six previous times but on his 7th attempt, which took place less than one month after Bannister’s success, he also succeeded, as did several others, each shaving additional time off Bannister’s record.
Bannister was successful for two primary reasons:
- He was in the habit of diligent and rigorous training.
- He was also in the habit of healthy empowered thinking.
Positive thoughts —“this is possible and I can and will do it”— give birth to positive and empowering emotions, influence empowering goal-oriented action and daily habits, and ultimately lead to positive outcomes.
Of course, the opposite is also true. Negative and disempowering thoughts —“this is impossible… I can’t do this”— spawn negative and disempowering emotions, lead to negative actions and habits, and ultimately piss-poor results.
Want a sure-fire way of identifying your underlying beliefs and whether they support your efforts or sabotage your success? Become aware of the consistent thoughts you entertain and make a close inspection of your daily habits.
Both will go a long way in revealing the direction you are headed, whether you like it or not.