“No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamt existed.”
Roger Bannister on breaking the 4-minute mile
On 6 May 1954 during a track meet watched by about 3,000 spectators in England, Roger Bannister accomplished what many at the time considered impossible when he ran a mile in under 4 minutes. Imagine if you were one of the 3,000 who witnessed this historic event. The Stadium announcer for the race would later publish and edit the Guinness Book of Records. His name was Norris McWhirter, and according to Bannister’s own account of the race, he intentionally held the crowd in suspense by delaying the announcement of the actual time as long as possible. Over the loud speakers he announced:
“Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event 9, the one mile: 1st, No. 41, R.G. Bannister, Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, Oxford, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which – subject to ratification – will be a new English Native, British National, All-Comers, European, British Empire and World Record. The time was 3…”
The roar of the crowd drowned out the rest of the announcement. Bannister’s time was 3 min 59.4 sec.
Just 6 weeks later, that record was broken by another man named Landy, followed by another, and then another, and another… Now the mile is being run in the low 3:40’s.
You and I do not behave in accordance with what we can do, but rather in accordance with what we believe we can do. How is it that our beliefs can have such great power? We are constantly subconsciously recording what we think about. Realize, when we perceive our surroundings, we do not record what is actually happening, rather we record what we think is happening. Some doctors had gone on record saying that if someone were to run a four minute mile it would do real damage to their heart, and might even kill them. Many believed that humans were not built to run a mile in under four minutes. Obviously in hindsight we know this belief was not a reflection of reality. In your life there will be those who think you are smart, those who think you are dumb, others who think you are attractive, and still others who will find you repulsive. Even the most enlightened people hold opinions. The opinions of others have no effect on us however, until we adopt them as our own. Once we believe we are a certain way, we will act accordingly, regardless of the truth.
When we do adopt a belief, we give orders to the subconscious to continually find evidence to support this belief. Our subconscious has many responsibilities, and one of those is to keep us from going insane. It does this by filtering through all of the stimuli we encounter on a daily basis, and only allow important information to enter our conscious awareness. Information or evidence that does not support our beliefs is deemed unimportant, and does not enter our conscious mind. So once we have an established belief, we lock into that and use it to filter information. We cannot have conflicting evidence competing for our conscious attention without anxiety, so we use our existing belief to defend against conflicting evidence. Whatever the belief may be, we will find or create ample evidence to support it.
Why do some people struggle visualizing success? Why can others visualize the success, but only create it for others? It all goes back to your image of yourself and your image of reality. If you cannot identify with the visualization exercises, you will either ignore them subconsciously, or find a way to reconcile them with your established beliefs, probably by rationalizing it away to success for another. “Other people can have this lifestyle, but not me, I don’t think I could ever do that…” Again this has nothing to do with reality, only beliefs.
Meanwhile, people with winning self-images can have setback after setback, but never accept that as their fate. They will find themselves saying things like “that’s not like me” or “I wonder why that happened;” but never “things never work out for me, that’s just the way I am….”
Starting today, you can play around with your self-talk. This exercise will help you become far more aware of what your beliefs are. That awareness empowers you. What I want you to do is, whenever you are about to complain, stop yourself before you vocalize the complaint. Then use these small language tricks to adjust your image of yourself and your surroundings.
Instead of saying “I have a problem” say “I have an opportunity”
“I have to…” becomes “I get to”
“I have a setback” becomes “I have a challenge”
“I feel pain” becomes “I feel a signal, this signal is unpleasant, but it is designed to teach me, so I will listen and learn…”
“a tormentor” becomes “a teacher”
“enemy” becomes “friend”
and finally, “you did this” shall be changed to “I created…”
I’m sure you can think of many others. Try this out for a few days, and when you discover how empowering it is, continue doing it until it becomes natural for you. Congratulations, you are becoming more aware. That awareness is your most valuable asset right now.
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