Shattering the Four-Minute Mile: Lessons on Breaking Your Own Mental Barriers

  Until 1954, no one could imagine running a mile (about 1,600 meters) in four minutes, and no one had achieved such a result. At the time, it was generally believed that running a mile in four minutes was beyond human limits. British distance runner Roger Bannister said: “Running a mile in four minutes is a goal that athletes and sports enthusiasts have talked about and dreamed about for many years.” Bannister wrote that everyone is “used to thinking that it is absolutely impossible. It is beyond the reach of human beings.” However, this is not consistent with the facts. As sailors once believed, water would fall like a waterfall at the end of the earth, but this was just an illusion.
  In May 1954, Bannister broke this limit on the track at Oxford University, running a mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. Two months later in Finland, Bannister’s “magic mile” was broken again by Australian player John Landy, who achieved a time of 3 minutes and 58 seconds. Over the next three years, 16 more players broke this record.
  What happened in 1954? Is it a mutation in human genes, or is there some technological breakthrough? None, but the limit of “it is impossible for humans to run a mile in 4 minutes” has been completely broken! New ways of thinking liberated them. Once people realize that something is possible, the next thing is just a matter of technology and time.
  So how did Bannister remove the barriers to his own thinking?
  First, he was convinced that it was possible to run a mile in four minutes. Secondly, as a medical student at Oxford University and subsequently a neurologist, he adopted a scientific approach to his training. During training, when he shortened his running time to 61 seconds per quarter mile (about 400 meters) and kept stagnating, he realized the obstacle in his mental model. He went hiking and rock climbing for a few days and changed his mental “framework”. After returning, his training score exceeded 60 seconds.
  Note that I am not saying that the world can be changed at will. If I said, “You can run four miles in a minute if you want to,” that would be crazy. There is a limit to human physical ability, but this limit is far higher than we imagine. Therefore, we must find the softest and changeable part of our inner world, and then reshape the world we like more through thinking and observation.
  Like the runners back then, do you have the limits of your own world in your mind? Are there things that you thought were impossible, but have happened to others admirably? How are the limits of those people’s inner worlds different from yours? Have you ever thought that what really limits us is the invisible wall in our thinking?

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