3 Things You Can Learn From Record-Breaker Roger Bannister

3 Things You Can Learn From Record-Breaker Roger Bannister


On May 6, 1945, Roger Bannister, then a medical student from London, made headlines around the world after breaking the four-minute mile at Oxford University’s Iffley Road Stadium. He ran a mile in 3:59.4. Experts and observers thought this was not humanly possible and possibly deadly. Sports Illustrated compared it to climbing the Mt. Everest. [1]

Once the four-minute mile became possible, new opportunities in achievement opened up and in less than a year after Bannister’s record-breaking achievement, another person ran a mile in under four minutes. Fast forward to 2018, the four-minute mile has become relatively common. Even high schoolers now routinely break it.


Three Lessons from Roger Bannister


1. Don’t just accept without examination what is labelled as “impossible.”

In our own lives, we are constantly exposed to people like Roger Bannister. In an almost miraculous way, we come to know people who have done things that seemed impossible to us.  You probably know people that have achieved health goals that you would like to achieve. The problem is there is often a little voice inside us that constantly makes excuses. We can say things like "but, I am not like them" or "but, they have this advantage."    

There are two main reasons why we make excuses:

  1. We use excuses as a defense mechanism.
  2. We use excuses to relieve uncomfortable emotions. [2]

What excuses are you making about your health? To get the results you want, you need to stop making those excuses. It is a conscious decision that you need to make every day. Break down your big health goal into small, less intimidating tasks that you can achieve. That’s the way to face your fears—hold yourself accountable, make the right decision about your health, and start taking action. Please read my other post about making better decisions for your health.


2. There is no time like the present! 

Others choose to procrastinate for fear of failure. Psychologists associate procrastination with self-handicapping. Carleton University Associate Professor of Psychology Timothy A. Pychyl Ph.D. says “if you self-handicap and you fail, you protect your sense of competence, because you can externalize the blame to alcohol or procrastination.” [3]

If procrastination has become a habit, the next time you find yourself procrastinating, reflect and ask yourself why. If you find yourself making excuses, remember that the best course of action is to take that first small step now. Start small.   Sometimes when I feel procrastination coming on, I just jump into action before my mind can start playing its games.


3. We need to stop our thoughts from limiting us.

The number one lesson from Roger Bannister’s athletic achievement is that limits are only created by our minds.

We are our own worst enemies.  We often identify with the thoughts roaming around our heads that self-sabotage us.  This is just something that mind does, it is not who you are. We need to stop labelling our spontaneous thoughts as who we are.  

I know if you have never heard that before, it may sound strange, but every major religious tradition in the world has guided people to avoid identifying themselves with those spontaneous, unhelpful ,and sometimes kooky (for lack of a better term) thoughts that jump into our heads all of the time.  That is a side of effect of having a brain, it is not who you are. You don’t need to suppress those thoughts, just watch them come up and watch them go away, stay on track, keep moving in the direction you want to go.

In our Weight Loss Awakening Friendship group on Facebook, we have members like Patti Johnson and others whom I have spoken to privately on the phone who have done what for some of you seems impossible. We all have perceived limits in our lives that are fake, false, and lies, like the 4 minute-mile impossibility in the minds of experts during Roger Bannister’s time.

If you have health goals, you probably already know that there are people out there who have done what you want to accomplish with your health.

Recognize that little voice for what it is, realize that the limit is a lie, and follow in the footsteps of people who have done what you want to do. It's possible and it's been done. Now step up, make the change so you can become a Roger Bannister for yourself and the people around you. Roger Bannister did more for other people than he did for himself by breaking that limit.

And if you ever wanted to know whether something is worthwhile, moral, and positive, one thing is certain: if by achieving something for yourself you end up doing more good for others, you can be assured that the path is the right one.

1 Epstein, D., Rollins, K., & Associated Press. (n.d.). Roger Bannister Showed Limits Only Exist in Our Minds. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/track-and-field/2018/03/04/roger-bannister-death-mile-record-england

2 Morin, A. (2015, April 21). The Key To Long-Term Success: Explore Explanations Without Creating Excuses. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/10/24/the-key-to-long-term-success-explore-explanations-without-creating-excuses/#56d7ad99a8aa

3 Delay as a Self-handicapping Strategy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/dont-delay/200805/delay-self-handicapping-strategy

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