Tuesday, December 22, 2009

If you think you can, you can!

Have you heard of Roger Bannister? He was the first athlete to run the mile in less than four minutes. And in doing so, he not only broke the four-minute barrier, but also taught all of us a valuable lesson.

Back in the 1950’s, it was considered impossible for anyone to run the mile in less than four minutes. The world record – 4 minutes 1.4 seconds - was held by Sweden’s Ginder Haegg. He did that in 1945, and the record stood for several years. Athletes, experts and the world at large were convinced that it was impossible to run a mile in less than four minutes. In fact, some even argued that the human body was biologically incapable of running the mile in less than four minutes!

And then, on 6th May, 1954, Roger Bannister did the impossible. He finished the race in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. The four minute barrier was broken!

His rival – Charles Landy – had thrice run the mile in less than 4 minutes 2 seconds without breaching the 4 minute mark. After one such run, Landy had said the four minute barrier was “like a wall”. But guess what? Just 56 days after Roger Bannister’s feat, Landy broke his own mental wall, and ran the mile in 3 minutes 57.9 seconds. And that’s not all. By 1957, sixteen athletes around the world ran the mile in under four minutes. The four minute barrier was well and truly shattered!

So what really happened? Did coaches get smarter and teach the athletes new techniques? Did running shoes get more sophisticated? Did bodies suddenly get stronger? No. The four minute barrier it turned out was not a physiological one, but just a mental thing. As Roger Bannister explained later, to him it seemed illogical that you could run a mile in 4 minutes and a bit, but not break 4 minutes. His mind refused to accept that barrier. And that made all the difference. Once that belief – that mental barrier – got broken by Bannister, everyone else too believed it could be done! And once the belief changed, the rest was easy.

We are all like that. We all have our beliefs about what we can achieve - and what we can't. It’s important to understand that our achievements in life are limited not by what we can do, but by what we think we can do. More than ability, it’s our attitude that makes the difference. As Henry Ford said “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you are right.”

You will probably find your mind constantly grappling with two competing thoughts: “I can’t!” and “I can!” How do you ensure the “I can’s” win? How can we break our mental barrier of “I can’t”? Simple, as the following story shows.

There was a man in Alaska who had a black dog and a white dog, and his dog-fights attracted large crowds. Every week people would bet on which dog would win. Sometimes the black dog would win, and sometimes the white one. One lady noticed that no matter which dog won each week, the owner always bet on the right dog, and won each week. Several years later, when the man retired the two dogs, the lady went up to him and asked him the secret.

“Simple,” said the man. “I always bet on the dog I had been feeding all week.”

So whether “I can’t” wins in your mind or “I can”, depends on which thought you are feeding!

Feed the “I Can” dog in your mind. What you feed, grows! Focus on your strengths, and they will grow. Or keep thinking of your weaknesses and your fears. And they’ll grow too.

Unfortunately, you won’t always find a Roger Bannister to break your mental barrier. You need to do it yourself. Once you do that, and start feeding the “I can” thought, you will achieve more than you ever thought was possible!

(This was first published in Careers 360. For more, check out www.careers360.com)

5 comments:

Avijit said...

Great to have you back on the blog!!

Most of the times a battle is lost even before it starts. It is for us to decide whether to loose it before it starts or to give it our best shot. Most often than not we would be surprised by our own capabilities.

As rightly mentioned, most of us decide the result even before we make an attempt. Huddles on the way to achievement are as big as we think it to be. Failure is something that we want to avoid and in trying to do so we loose huge opportunities to success. Failure as rightly said is another name of experience as failure teaches us more than what success can teach us.
Effort in the right direction is half the battle won!

Anonymous said...

Some people are scared of good ideas, ideas that make a difference or contribute in some way. Good ideas bring change, that's frightening.
But many people are horrified of bad ideas, which make us look stupid or waste time. The problem is that one cannot have good ideas unless he/she is willing to generate a lot of bad ones.
Musicians, painters, entrepreneurs, writers, accountants-- all fail far more than they accomplish something. We fail at closing a sale or playing a note. We fail at an idea for a series of paintings or the theme for a trade show booth. But we succeed far more often than people who have no ideas at all.
Isn't it?

Sudhanva Jategaonkar said...

Inspiring as always.

Ananth said...

This Blog gives a great advice to all of us.
I remember during school, college days we used to face the hurdle of the exams and would often get nervous and pschologically it was a harrowing time to be bold and enter the exam hall.
That is when we were always advised by our parents that we can do it.
It is the thought "yes i can" which makes a big difference and gives us strength to overcome imaginary hurdles.

rohit said...

this is an amazing piece of inspiration for all those who are waiting for someone else to do there work or the needed work. but they should read it and i'm happy i have read it. i'll now try not think so much that in my thinking i lose.