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What if you believed it was possible?

Explore the impact of self-belief on achieving success

What if you believed it was possible?


What does 3:59.4 mean to you?

Anything spring to mind?


What if I add a date, 6th May, 1954?

And, take a look at the runner in the image?


The date and the time 3:59.4, mark a moment in history.


Up until 1954 most people thought running a sub four minute mile was impossible. The world record of 4.01 had stood for 14 years.

It was thought that the human body couldn’t go that fast. That it would collapse under the pressure. Even some doctors and scientists said it was physically impossible. Not just hard, or dangerous, but impossible. You’d be crazy to even try!

That was until Roger Bannister stepped up. Training in his own way, he believed that he could do it.

And on the 6th May, 1954 Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4. He’d done it!

He’d broken the world record. Done what so many believed was impossible. He made history.

So, what does this tell us?

It’s a great example of how your levels of self-belief can help or hinder you in achieving what you want.

Bannister believed he could do it. He was focused on achieving it. On 2 May 1953, Bannister ran 4:03.6, and said "This race made me realise that the four-minute mile was not out of reach". He believed it could be done.

However, earlier on the day of the race in 1954 he was having some doubts. At the previous Olympics in Helsinki the wind had slowed him down. And the 6th May, 1954 was a very windy day. This caused his self-belief to drop. He’s said, “I was feeling I would be wasting my efforts to run in those circumstances, with the time having to be the equivalent of 3:56, I wasn’t sure I could do 3:56.”

But, coincidently when travelling to the race his coach, Frank Stampfl was on the same train. Later Bannister recalled him saying, “I think you can do 3:56 and if you had this potential chance and you didn’t take it you’d never forgive yourself, maybe for the rest of your life.” Bannister said,” And I think that idea stuck in my mind.” Someone, else had given him a reason to believe he could do it. Rather than recalling the unhelpful memories of Helsinki, he has something more helpful to focus on. He had a reason why for giving it a go.

In his book, ‘Twin Tracks’ he writes about how his thinking influenced him during the race, saying,There was a moment of mixed excitement and anguish when my mind took over. It raced well ahead of my body and drew me compellingly forward. There was no pain, only a great unity of movement and aim. Time seemed to stand still. The only reality was the next 200 yards of track under my feet. I felt at that moment that it was my chance to do one thing supremely well.

What’s also interesting, is the impact of this achievement on the self-belief of others. Bannister later said that he believed that Landy, his closest competitor had lost heart. That the four-minute mark had become a barrier for him. And yet just 46 days after Bannister broke the record, Landy beat his time. Nothing was different. Just that the record had been broken, showing it could be done. This increased the self-belief of others. They now believed that they had the ability to do it as well.

Over the next few years, more and more people ran the mile in under four minutes. Once Banister proved it was possible, suddenly everyone could do it.


So, thinking about this for yourself:

What do you believe is impossible?

What if you believed it was possible?

What could you possibly achieve?


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